There are never enough ways to say thanks to the men and women who put their lives on the line so that our country and people can live peacefully, freely, and happily. Some people give a little, others go all out, but every time, our vets are always appreciative. In this case, injured veterans are getting help with their healing process through smart homes. Read more…
On that special day, the sun shone through an American flag draped over the home in Adams, built for a 101st Airborne Regiment hero whose battlefield wounds required him to use a wheelchair.
Christopher Kurtz, a former Army Sgt. was presented with the keys to his innovative specially modified smart house after getting selected for one of the homes two years ago via the Gary Sinise Foundation.
According to Mike Thirtle, CEO of the Gary Sinise Foundation, everything that goes into the residence is deliberate.
“We assist veterans as well as first responders with their journey to recovery,” Thirtle added. “When Gary asked us to deliver these residences to veterans, he asked us to make them adjustable and optimized for all of them and their families.”
The Kurtzes’ home has counters accessible by wheelchair, drop-down shelves, and other conveniences.
“The residence that is presently in front of you is a little expression of thankfulness and reverence from a proud nation,” Sinise stated in a video produced for the ceremony.
Sinise depicted Lt. Dan Taylor in the film “Forrest Gump,” so the event opened up a world of opportunities for him.
“The Disabled American Veterans Association contacted me shortly after the film’s release and invited me to their national conference, where they proceeded to present me with a medal,” Sinise explained.
“I met hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals who weren’t even actors in a film.”
For over a decade, the Gary Sinise Foundation has provided veterans with mortgage-free houses, restoring their independence.
The house contains a garage filled with welding and handicraft equipment donated by Kurtz’s coworkers at PTL Fabricators. Kurtz told the media he wishes to use the same shop to repay the honor.
“I want to invent things and potentially improve existing ones so that I can help people who are in similar situations,” Kurtz said.
On Thursday, Christopher with his spouse, Heather, marked their tenth wedding anniversary.
Several local firms assisted with the development, notably Southern Roofing, Screaming Eagle Concrete, Heritage Tile, Androws Flooring, A-Team Concrete, ABC Supply, Coffman’s Home Decor, 31W, PTL, and others.
“It’s a little daunting sometimes when you reflect on how much went into (creating the home), how so many individuals lay their hands on it, so it’s extremely humbling,” Kurtz said. “I owe the entire world now.”
The project is expected to benefit scores of injured veterans. What the association anticipates is more business entities and community groups coming onboard.
LA Cougar Makes It Over a Freeway Known for Animal Deaths
The idea of manmade infrastructure to help wildlife continue to propagate and create new generations has always been a Grand Canyon challenge for conservationists. The cost is usually prohibitive and hard to justify for animals, but the provisioning of the features makes sense as it allows wildlife displaced by development alternative paths and means to re-connect and continue to live. As development continues to spread, most often with highways first, these modern transportation corridors end up being death lines for animals who try to cross but have no idea what the dangers are.
The 101 Freeway that cuts through the Agoura Hills of California is a particularly specific example of a death-line for wildlife. It has repeatedly been a problem, killing animals by impact with cars as they try to forage for food or connect with others for mating. Instead, however, an idea was launched a decade ago to build a safety corridor that animals could use to get across safely. Essentially, the corridor was to be a bridge over the highway, natural in appearance to wildlife but functional and structural to span the highway and keep them away from cars when crossing.
A decade later, on Earth Day 2022, the 101 Freeway Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing was initiated. The idea is not a new one; Europeans have been creating wildlife corridors over or under their highways for years. However, for the U.S. and California, the Annenberg Crossing is one of the first to be created by a municipality over a major traffic conduit.
Additionally, one very distinct wildlife participant will likely have a very strong interest in using the crossing. Mountain lions are extremely long-range roaming animals, directly impacted by highways and infrastructure that makes it too dangerous for them to cross. Along with hundreds of species that will likely use the cross to connect with others of their kind, mountain lions are sure to find the crossing advantageous, particularly at night when they do most of their traveling.
Safety corridors are a game-changer in the conservation world. They allow wildlife to adapt to development and live safely around it versus become blocked and eventually die off from a lack of gene diversity in breeding. They also push society to incorporate conservation impact planning into infrastructure development for the future as well. The Annenberg Crossing will be completed as a partnership between conservancies, charity, non-profit activism and California government.
Spanning over 200 feet long, the Annenberg Crossing will provide local wildlife plenty of room to maneuver across. The width measures at least 165 feet from side to side, will be a natural surface environment, and it will be high enough to keep wildlife entirely safe from passing vehicles below. It will also provide direct land connection for mountain lions who currently survive with small populations in the area and were cut off previously by the freeway.
Ollie the Gold Hunting Dog Finds Treasure!
If your dog found a pot of gold, you would probably agree the canine earned his keep for the rest of his dog years. That was the case with Ollie, who got the lucky adventure of being able to go with his master, Adam Clark, to a park one day. The scruffy puppy had a natural inclination for digging, a habit Adam’s daughter Alicia was constantly having to tell the dog not to do. As it turned out, Ollie’s tendency turned into good fortune.
Ollie, as it turned out, was a lagotto Romagnolo, a type of dog breed trained for its keen nose and ability to find truffles, giving pigs a run for their money in the same game. Ollie, however, was busy digging for other stuff. As Ollie was exploring fields in the area near where Adam and Alicia lived, having one of his first days out and about as a puppy, he caught a scent that immediately triggered the dog to investigate. Sticking his nose to the ground, Ollie found the source and started digging furiously to get at it. By the time Adam and Alicia got to the dog, he had managed to find the source of the smell and was digging further to see if there was anything else to find. What was discovered was completely useless to the dog, but to his masters it was priceless.
Ollie had managed to not only find but fully excavate 15 gold sovereign coins from a local field. The coins themselves were dated to somewhere in the 19th century. Knowing immediately they had a find on their hands, Adam collected all the coins and safely transported them to an appraiser expert he knew from his own profession working property. Once the coins were examined by Chards, Adams was notified that the discovery was worth almost a whopping £6,000. The actual figure was slightly less, but the bonus was welcomed by Adam’s family nonetheless.
As for the coins themselves, they were liquidated, but Ollie gained immediate recognition for his skill and is taken on regular walks ever since, just in case his nose happens to pick up something else. For Adam, however, the real gem is how his daughter has bonded with the dog. Alicia was flabbergasted when she received the dog as her first pet, and she was insistent they had to go for walks as soon as possible. It was a good thing too.
Ollie didn’t fuss much about looking for things either. When it came to the gold, he had been roving and scanning the area where they happened to be, but as soon as he picked up a scent, he started digging nonstop. It was just a matter of seconds before the first gold coin was unsurfaced by the dog’s persistent ripping of the earth. No surprise, Ollie is being scheduled for more walks whenever possible. While the odds of finding another gold stash are slim, with a dog that can work better than a metal detector, Adam has his hopes up for another surprise.
9-Year-Old Singlehandedly Boosts Human Society’s Fund Drive
What’s the first business everyone tries their hand at as an entrepreneur? If you said a childhood lemonade stand, then you win the prize. That simple but effective business model has been practiced for generations by kids who are now grandparents and parents and kids yet to grow up to be parents as well. However, one 9-year-old decided to do a lot more than just raise money for candy or toys. Instead, he managed to raise $2,000 for a local humane society to help animals that need medical care, rescue and adoption.
Ben Miller is like any typical pre-teen in Idaho. He likes the outdoors, being social, and getting involved with animals and similar. In fact, he likes animals so much, he felt the need to provide some real help to the local Idaho Human Society to do some real positive work for rescued animals. And, sure enough, he used the classic lemonade stand to raise the money for the effort.
After spending weeks selling his products and hawking his cold drinks on the sidewalk, Ben Miller was able to proudly walk in to the Human Society’s office and hand them a bag, not a check, a bag full of coins and cash from his lemonade selling earnings. Every dollar, quarter, nickel and dime collected was carefully stored and then delivered to the non-profit by a beaming 9-year-old.
The last delivery of cash totaled over $1,150 and Ben Miller’s family was their to watch the fruit of his work be realized by the recipient. In terms of Ben’s wishes, he wanted the funds to be used for animal food and medical care. The Human Society staff were glad to oblige.
Young Ben wasn’t that good of a lemonade seller, however. It took him a few years to build up the full amount. The first donation run to the Human Society was small compared to his later deposits, only $200. However, the next was $600, and then came the big last one, over $1,100. It helped that Ben diversified his offerings, giving customers the option to have bottled water or dog treats as they passed by on their walks near Ben’s lemonade stand.
Normally the Idaho Humane Society gets its donations from adults, particularly those who are already pet owners themselves. While kids are welcome, they rarely want to be involved with the work of the Society. Ben Miller is clearly a positive exception, and it does help that he loves cats. And Ben has proven he can use marketing very effectively as well; leveraging social media drove a big crowd his way for lots of lemonade for a good cause.
The Homeless Teen and His Dog – A Touching Reunion
When homeless people are taken back into a protective service, they end up having to give up a lot of the very things that are the last resources or attachments they have. Women and children frequently have to separate from their husbands and fathers to gain protection from shelters. Homeless people also regularly have to give up their street pets, usually dogs they have adopted or been lucky enough to get as a puppy. That was the case for one teenager who had been on the streets and then had to hand over his dog to a shelter in Mississippi.
A teenager had been living for weeks under a bridge in a tent. Finally, trying to improve his situation, he had been looking for a job. To keep his dog, he tried to restrain the animal in his tent, but the dog managed to get out. Realizing he was never going to be able to get a job and protect the dog at the same time, the teen went to the local animal shelter and gave up the dog for its survival. It was the worst thing for him at the time, but the best for the dog. The teen admitted he had no way to care for the dog anymore and couldn’t feed it anymore. The shelter agreed to take the dog, knowing the teen needed everything he had to get a job and to get off the street permanently. The dog was left with the shelter and its last bag of food.
The teen likely thought he was never going to see his dog again. And, when the paperwork was signed and he left, that probably seemed like the case. The teen left, but the issue was reported to the local police department. Knowing they were dealing with a minor living on the streets, the Senatobia Police Department started working through channels to find the individual and help him with public resources. Eventually, they were able to locate the teen and get him to a shelter for minors his age. More importantly, however, the teen was also able to recover his dog as well. The temporary placement allowed the young man to also have his dog with him as well.
This was a huge recovery for the teen. He was reunited with his dog in an emotional get-together at the shelter and was able to take his dog home knowing both had a safe place to live. The local community also started kicking in by providing resources and help to keep him off the street and in ongoing recovery. That included coordinated help from the First United Methodist Church in Senatobia. The whole effort was a surprise and organic movement as there are no dedicated homeless shelters in the area.
An “Extinct” Woodpecker Comes Back to Life
When a species goes extinct, it’s supposed to stay dead. As some foresters note, dead trees don’t come back to life. However, in the case of the ivory-billed woodpecker, the U.S. may very well have what seems to be a frequent issue in biology, a dead species seemingly coming back from the dead.
Another Casualty During World War II
The ivory-billed woodpecker was a frequent site in the 19th century, but it’s last documented visual was in 1944. Located in the South as its home region, generally around areas where swamps and forests meet, the woodpecker had pretty much fallen off the radar after World War II. However, after intrepidly searching for three years, a research team focused on an undetailed part of Louisiana to confirm what seemed to be a returned confirmation of the bird. The research team used drones, unmanned cameras and trigger traps to catch the bird in its natural habitat without being scared off. The bet paid off.
Modern Signs the Bird Is Still Around
There had been hints already that the woodpecker was in the area. Many of the researchers had heard a specific trumpet sound unique to the woodpecker repeatedly. In fact, the team lead and most involved saw the bird himself directly. The markings of the bird gave it away, and the size was dead-on for what the species produced in adult form.
Development and Hunting Almost Killed Off the Woodpecker
Historically, the ivory-billed woodpeckers were a frequent sight in the South. They ranged from the coast of the North and South Carolina area to Texas. They were also easy to spot; the ivory-billed woodpecker was the largest of its bird type in the U.S. However, as development encroached, their habitats began to be impacted and the bird population started falling off. The birds were also hunted for their meat; many of the locales ate the woodpeckers along with a number of other species to fend of starvation due to a lack of income and jobs in the area for the poor.
Finding the ivory-billed woodpecker in Louisiana was a huge win for the biologists involved. Not only did they have confirmation of a bird that was written off some 80 years ago, it was also confirmation that Nature can take a beating and still win. Now the question will be ho
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