January 2012

Donations to Charity Up in 2011

Americans were particularly generous to non-profits last year

Given the state of the U.S. economy this past year (and really, the year before that and the year before that), I really thought that Americans wouldn't be giving as much to charity. I am very, very happy to tell you that I was totally wrong.

A new report shows just how wrong I was: In 2011, we not only gave, we gave MORE than we did the year before! That's excellent news for non-profit organizations, though I'm sure more is always needed. Still, it warms the heart to know that even when people are down and financially crunched, they still take the time to give generously.

Ellen DeGeneres Gives Homeless High School Student Scholarship

Samantha Garvey, science wiz, is a true inspiration

With all of the bad news permeating our brains constantly, it's great to stop, take a breath, and share some truly good news. The stories are there, if you look hard enough. I promise. Samantha Garvey's story is one of them.

Garvey is a New York high school senior who is a true science wiz. This 18-year-old is a finalist for the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search. She wants to go to college and eventually become a marine biologist. The problem? Paying for school. Her story caught the attention of Ellen DeGeneres -- and what happens next is heartwarming.

Child Math Prodigy Jake Barnett is Proud of His Autism

13-year-old's abilities and attitude are awe-inspiring

I first read about Jake Barnett of Indianapolis, Indiana, last year. To say that this child is a math prodigy would be a ridiculous understatement. In short: Jake is a 13-year-old autistic boy who doesn't ever forget math problems. And I mean ANY math problem. He can recite pi from memory (just an example) and solve problems that give even the most storied mathemeticians fits. Did I mention he could recite pi from memory...backwards? Jake's abilities involve much more than mere memorization, however. Much, much more.

So imagine my happiness when I learned that Jake was going to be profiled on CBS' 60 Minutes! The interview blew my mind (all over again). The 60 Minutes interview with Jake Barnett originally aired on January 15, 2012. If you missed it:


United Way Helps Alabama Tornado Victims With Donations from Football Fans

Even if you don't have a proverbial dog in tonight's BCS National Championship Game fight between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers tonight, you'll appreciate that this match up could result in major charity contributions to a much-needed cause: tornado relief.

As a Tuscaloosa resident, I can tell you that help is still desperately needed here for survivors of the deadly April 27, 2011, tornado that ripped my town to shreds. The efforts of United Way organizations in both Central Alabama and Southeast Louisiana will go a long way to help residents devastated in the deadly twister get what they need.

Unemployment Hits Three-Year Low

Job growth is actually happening in today's economy


Obama gets a lot of flack for being a socialist, for being weak on the economy, for being at fault for rising gas prices, for whatever negative thing the right can dredge up on any given day. But despite Republican criticism, the president's not doing too badly on paper. It's now been reported that unemployment has hit a three-year low following a period of actual, tangible job growth. More people are working even though we've got a democrat in the oval office.
Following the addition of 1.6 million jobs to the economy last year, the unemployment rate has just hit 8.5 percent, down from 8.7 percent in November. That still seems pretty high compared to the sunny and fruitful pre-Bush decade, but hey--at this point, I'm happy to take what we can get. After all, the jobless rate peaked at 10 percent back in October of 2009. Seeing it go down a whole percent and a half is a good thing. And if it keeps dropping, we might see a nice recovery from the recession we've been plowing through.

Man Speaks After 19 Years

Diane Franklin did not here her son speak for almost 20 years until this holiday season. In 1992, her 18 year old son Simon Ellis was in a horrible car accident because of a drunk driver and he was paralyzed and also suffered brain damage. The doctors concluded that he would never talk again yet he managed to surprise everyone this holiday season.


Heroic Rescue in Utah: Passersby Save Children Trapped in Icy River

The actions of these brave people should be an example to us all

Well, we made it through New Year's and no doubt many of us read stories of terrible tragedy, with wrecks and accidents being all-too-common around the holiday. But for every tragedy comes a story of hope, including an amazing Logan River rescue in Utah on Saturday. This story gives new meaning to the term "hero."
Officials say when Roger Andersen's car went off of a steep embankment and then flipped into the icy waters of the river, he and three children were trapped. Passers-by who saw the accident acted quickly - and their actions saved lives.