Husband-wife pastor team built a network of support across Houston
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.


Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor

"I saw a woman walking toward me in a hesitant fashion. I called out to her and admired her Juneteenth t-shirt," Thibaudeau said. Glenda asked her for directions, and they struck up a conversation. After finding out that she was in need, Thibaudeau sprang into action and began making phone calls. A few minutes later, two of her co-workers rounded the corner of St. John's church with a box of household goods, courtesy of Bread of Life.

As they loaded up Glenda's car with essentials, Thibaudeau asked questions and listened intently before inviting her to take a walk together.

"As [we] walked, she sobbed and shared that she isn't any more deserving than anyone else and she was so grateful for our kindness. I told her that this is what we do and reminded her that she is not alone. Once you find all of us, you have found the Houston Love!" said Thibaudeau. "I put my arm around her and asked, 'What's your name?' We laughed at realizing that we hadn't exchanged names yet. 'Glenda,' she answered. 'I'm Eva and we got you.'"

This kind of empathy and boundless love is what fuels the work of Pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus. By practicing what they preach—literally—they've created a Houston-based network of nonprofit organizations to cover almost every need imaginable.

The couple, who have been married for 36 years, light up recalling an event that transformed and refined their mission to serve. Shortly after they first took over the congregation at St. John's, they arrived at the church to find a homeless man sleeping on the front stoop. Rather than shooing him away, they invited him inside. That, in sum, is what they've been doing ever since: using what they have to help those in need.

"We have an amazing team of compassionate people who really work together to make good happen, and that's what we've been doing for almost 30 years," said Pastor Rudy. "Eva's story is a perfect example of that."

Bread of Life received an outpouring of support from across the U.S. after Welcometoterranova published their story in June 2020, enabling them to begin offering free weekly COVID-19 testing to the residents of downtown Houston. During a time when access to testing was problematic for many Americans, this service undeniably saved a number of lives. Bread of Life serves a primarily homeless population, people with disabilities and no insurance, with a primary goal of reducing homelessness and food insecurity.

Recently, they've shifted their volunteer efforts to the herculean task of contact tracing and case management, offering yet another invaluable service. They now have an official Mobile COVID Testing Unit, offering completely contact free, mobile testing (note the arm holes in the side)!

Photo courtesy of Rudy Rasmus

Additionally, Bread of Life's partnership with Matthew:25 Ministries and the Houston Food Bank means that people who are sick and quarantined at home can now have food delivered. They've also added fresh, frozen meat to their weekly contactless distribution line downtown.

"Meat days are crazy," said Pastor Rudy. "Because people who are experiencing food insufficiency don't have many opportunities to get meat." He calls it "small scale pandemonium."

According to Feeding America, an additional 17.1 million Americans will experience food insecurity this year due to impacts from COVID-19, and they need our support now more than ever. In response to this growing problem, Feeding America® and Procter & Gamble have joined forces to bring food and household items to communities hit hardest by the pandemic. Across the U.S., P&G is donating products and personal care kits for distribution through the Feeding America network of food banks.

What Pastors Rudy and Juanita have accomplished in Houston is a direct result of ordinary people who are willing to do extraordinary things. And you can make a difference too by simply joining P&G Good Everyday. By taking action through the website, you can earn rewards by buying products you already know and love. And the best part? P&G will donate to a cause you care about so you can turn your everyday actions into acts of good.
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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.