11 Good News Stories: In Year Of Coronavirus, Generosity Reigns

ACROSS AMERICA — The congregation at a church in Alsip, Illinois, planned to ring in 2021 with benevolence, by crossing the $500,000 mark in the amount of money the Rev. Dan Willis has handed out to help people get through a pandemic he knew in early March was “going to mess with people’s money.”

“Pastor Dan,” as he is known to the more than 6,000 members of the Lighthouse Church of All Nations, told Patch’s Lorraine Swanson that he brought a “screeching halt” to regular programs and shifted the focus to the effect the pandemic was having on people’s lives.

“Let’s be the church that God wants us to be,” he said.

Willis started by handing out $1,000 gifts to folks randomly selected from congregants taking part in online worship, drive-thru communion and outdoor worship services. Then it was $2,000. Later, in October, 11 people each received $10,000. All the money came from offerings.

“I took a 75 percent salary cut and gave it back to the church during the pandemic,” Willis said. “I have 52 employees, many I didn’t let come on campus for eight months, but they were paid every week. So we kept giving money away after the bills were paid.” By Lorraine Swanson for Alsip-Crestwood Patch

(Photos courtesy of Lighthouse Church of All Nations)

Below, read 10 more uplifting stories from Patch editors across America:

Giving Away Christmas

When Summit, New Jersey, kindergartner Anika Jain (top photo) was visiting her grandparents in India last year and saw a homeless boy selling balloons to earn enough to buy a meal, she bought his inventory. It wasn’t a one-time thing. She knows how fortunate she is. For the past three years, she has donated her Christmas gifts to local and state charities. “We always hear her saying, ‘I have so many toys and clothes; they would be so happy to have some, too,’ ” her mom told Patch of the people and groups to whom her daughter gives. By Caren Lissner for Summit Patch

Tip And Run

A man dining recently at a Waltham, Massachusetts, restaurant asked that he and his dinner companion be given a running start to avoid being confronted when their server opened a red envelope he’d left on the table. Inside was a nice surprise: five $100 bills and instructions to divide it among the waitstaff, hostess, cooks, dishwashers and bartender. By Jenna Fisher for Waltham Patch

Passing The Torch

Many of the volunteers who keep things going at the Dorothy Day Hospitality House in Ridgefield, Connecticut, are retirees who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus, so younger volunteers are taking on more responsibility. One of them, Rachel Quinn, saw an opportunity to pass the torch to a new generation of volunteers — her three daughters. “I just wanted to give my girls a sense of empowerment,” Quinn told Patch. “I wanted them to know that they can help, too. Little hands can help make a difference.” By Rich Kirby for Ridgefield Patch

(Photo courtesy of Rachel Quinn)

A Lifeline For Restaurants

When the group of foodies organized on Facebook last year, they had grand plans to spotlight the restaurants around Vienna, Virginia. They have — but in ways organizers Lydia Russo, Christopher Drinkuth and Katherine Drinkuth never imagined before the pandemic. Russo highlights a different business every day in hopes of attracting new customers, as well as posts about which restaurants remain open and are offering takeout. By Emily Leayman for Vienna Patch

(Photo courtesy of Lydia Russo)

Serving A Restaurant Revival

An Astoria restaurateur who gained viral attention for protesting New York City’s indoor dining ban caught the attention of Dave Portnoy, who founded the digital media company Barstool Sports and is a noted pizza reviewer. He gave Rocco Sacramone, the owner and chef at Trattoria L’Incontro, a $100,000 donation after hearing how he’s trying to stay afloat during the pandemic. “His restaurant went from 40-plus employees to five during this time, and he shared with us that he’s barely keeping the lights on — and the worst thing he had to do was tell 20 of his employees before the holidays that he can’t pay them,” a spokesperson for Portnoy told Patch. “It’s heartbreaking, and I think what a lot of small businesses like Rocco’s I’ve spoken to are saying is that they want a plan to help them survive.” By Maya Kaufman for Astoria-Long Island City Patch

(Photo courtesy of Dave Portnoy/Barstool Sports)

Donations Up During Pandemic

With the pandemic taking such a toll on the economy and people’s lives, Pine2Pink Foundation founder and executive director Keith Fennimore kept his expectations low for the annual October fundraiser for breast cancer patients in five Bucks County, Pennsylvania, towns. He need not have done that. The effort raised $68,000 for local women battling breast cancer. He said support from individuals and businesses was unprecedented. By Peter Blanchard for Doylestown Patch

(Photo courtesy of Gabriel A. Barrantes Photography)

Beauty In Tough Times

The pandemic has inspired many things, but perhaps nothing this exquisite: a three-dimensional Nativity scene created by husband-and-wife artists R. Michael Palan and Karen Loccisano, of Bridgewater, New Jersey. “This year, when we were creating our Nativity, it coincided with the quarantine,” Palan told Patch. “We created it based on the tough times in the 1930s during the Dust Bowl, and we worked on it during tough times, so it was parallel.” By Alexis Tarrazi for Bridgewater Patch

(Photo courtesy of R. Michael Palan)

Mistakes Don’t Define Him

For proof of the merit in New Jersey’s drug court program, have a chat with Landon Hacker. He’s made a lot of mistakes, but they don’t define him. He’s struggled with drug addiction and homeless. He’s been in jail. Sentenced to complete the drug court program, he had one last chance to turn his life around. He recently passed the New Jersey bar exam. He went to law school after graduating from Rutgers University with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. By Eric Kiefer for Newark Patch

Pardon The Pig, Please

Christmas ham? Not on Chans’ life. Chans is the pig rescued from a Homestead, Florida, slaughterhouse and “pardoned” just before Christmas by Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. The pig will live out his days at Aguacate Sanctuary of Love, a vegan eatery, wellness center and animal sanctuary in Miami. By Tiffany Razzano for Miami Patch

(Photo courtesy of Miami-Dade County)

Stars Come Out As Chemo Ends

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jack Black, Gal Gadot, Dave Bautista, Jim O’Heir and others made videos to help celebrate the end of chemotherapy treatments for 6-year-old Liam Anderson of Oak Forest, Illinois. “I had this idea for a year of getting videos together and trying to include any celebrity that I knew Liam loved,” said his mom, Courtney Silha. Getting just one of them would have been great, but the response far exceeded what she had in mind. By Yasmeen Sheikah for Oak Forest Patch

(Photo courtesy of Courtney Silha)

Read A Full Year’s Worth Of Good News

2020 may have been a year of adversity, but the spirits of the people who live in our Patch communities triumphs. Here’s a full year’s worth of good news stories.

Week Beginning Dec. 20
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