Congratulations to Jamie Wallace-Griner and Randal Wyatt. Each received $500 to fund their kindness projects.
Once again, we’re able to give out two awards because we have so many wonderful people who support us and believe in our mission. We truly appreciate all of the donations that make this possible.
About our February 2022 winners:
Jamie Wallace-Griner, (Austin, TX), started Safe In Austin, an animal rescue ranch whose mission is to save the lives of animals who come from very hard places: abuse, neglect, and who have deformities. “We then invite families who unfortunately share in those life experiences to come out and visit our animals who show them what true unconditional love is all about,” she said.
While Jamie and her family always had a love of animals, it wasn’t until her son, Jackson, who struggles with Autism, got a failed Service Dog, named Angel that they understood just how miraculous the love of an animal could be.
“When we found her, Angel was deemed untrainable. We’d soon come to find that Angel just needed a family to embrace her true potential to thrive. She would become our son’s Autism Service Dog, the dog who would change our world. She provided protection from his fears, she was a friend to cuddle through the tears, and she gave him newfound confidence. But, most importantly, he now had power over his disabilities.”
Their miraculous relationship showed us the magic that is possible between animals and children, especially extra needs animals and children, and the healing power of unconditional friendship. And so, Safe in Austin was born in 2014 with a run-down ranch to accommodate the ever-growing family of animals in need.
They offer a number of programs, including their Healing Hearts Tours, which are free of charge. The tours are private guided experiences through the Rescue Ranch, offering inclusion, compassion, and animal love magic. They say, if your family has a superstar who has extra needs and is in need of a healing space to relax and meet some rescue animals, you’ve come to the right place.
In addition, anyone who qualifies for the Healing Hearts Tours is also eligible to participate in their Animal Care Program. “We pick particular animals to care for or knock out some ranch tasks that our superpower friends are able to accomplish, and while they are busy having fun and connecting with the animals, healing in a safe place, and continuing our mission!”
They also have programs for middle and high school students to get messy, snuggle some animals, volunteer their time, and learn some of the valuable lessons the animals teach.
I highly recommend you check out their Instagram page, it melted my heart. They have a cow whose legs don’t work. His momma is right there with him, giving him lots of love along with everyone else. Or the boy in the wheelchair who has a tiny piglet in his wheelchair basket, or the dog with the artificial limb, or the goat with no back legs. All getting and giving unconditional love. It’s so beautiful.
So many lives are touched and improved because of Jamie and her Safe In Austin crew. We are truly honored to have them as our latest grant winners and part of our MKRO family.
** More kudos to Jamie, who just told me she was chosen to be on an episode of Queer Eye this season. So be sure to check out Season 6, the episode titled, “Snow White of Central Texas”. How cool is that!
Randal Wyatt, (Portland, OR), founded Taking Ownership PDX in 2020 and has been working tirelessly to raise money, enlist volunteers, and use local resources to provide free repairs to Black-owned homes and small businesses in the Portland metro area. His goal is to help Black homeowners age in place, generate wealth and simultaneously deter predatory investors and realtors to deflect the gentrification process.
Randal said, “My idea was to go out and repair and revive Black-owned homes and businesses, . . . .to raise property values in these very small and dwindling communities that Portland has, because of displacement, gentrification, and redlining.”
He started out collecting the names of residents interested in volunteering for renovation projects, as well as realtors, contractors, and architects who were willing to donate their time. He approached the first homeowner, asking if they’d be interested in free home improvement, found the next few homes, and then everything started blowing up. Word of mouth got out and people wanted to help.
He has 250 local volunteers on call, and the interest continues to build with an average of 10-15 new volunteers each week. The volunteers, who may work alongside homeowners, their children, and grandchildren, are eager to pitch in on the projects whenever they arise and so far, they have helped over 50 Black homeowners across Portland.
Wyatt says senior citizens, people on a fixed income, who make $20,000 a year or less, and single parents get priority. There are currently 120 people on the waitlist for home repair help.
“Wyatt has partnered with other organizations and companies that donate appliances and services so that people waiting can get things they desperately need like new water heaters or air conditioners. After June’s record-breaking heat waves, Taking Ownership sponsored an AC and fan drive and collected nearly 200 fans and air conditioning units in a single day. For some Black Portlanders, like J.C. Wade, it was the first time they had ever had AC. “It was just a small air conditioner and it’s in one room, but it was enough for me and my dogs to make it,” he says.
In addition to the hundreds of volunteers who do yard work, sorting, cleaning, and other tough, non-skilled labor, Wyatt works with four licensed contractors who handle structural projects like decks, windows, and roofs. He also works with two Black-owned landscaping companies, an electrician and a plumbing company, and has, on several occasions, partnered with a Latino-owned roofing company and a green design/build firm called Birdsmouth. All the contractors are paid, unless, like Birdsmouth, they donate some of their labor.
Wyatt hopes to inspire Portlanders to be more compassionate, more community-minded. “As neighborhoods get more affluent, the standard of upkeep changes, and maybe some of the homeowners who have owned their homes for 30 years don’t have the same financial abilities as some of their neighbors to maintain their homes,” he says. “I want people to understand: instead of calling the city, why not go over there and meet your neighbor? Why aren’t they able to keep up on their house? Why not lend a hand?” (Hannah Wallace)
Randal is making an immediate impact in the lives of so many and bringing people together as a community. People who have lived in these homes for decades and raised their families there are turning to Randal and all the amazing volunteers to help them with major and minor repairs that can make their lives so much better. We’re so happy to have Randal as part of our MKRO family.
We’d also like to acknowledge the many people who sent in their fantastic ideas for kindness projects. While we wish we could give our grant to every kindness project submitted, there were so many fantastic ideas, we regret we have only two to give. We want to thank each and every one of you for submitting your ideas and hope you continue to spread kindness everywhere you go
Is there someone who inspires you with their kindness? Nominate them for the Matt Kurtz Kindness Award of $250.
Do you have an act-of-kindness project you want to do but need help funding it? Submit your idea for the Matt Kurtz Kindness Grant of $500 and let us help you spread kindness.