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Cruise Season Still Cancelled in Alaska

In 2019, almost 1.4 million passengers visited Alaska on nearly 600 scenic cruises, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. They generated over $1.6 billion in revenue for businesses in Alaska. They made up over 60 percent of all Alaskan tourism. Many small communities up and down the 46,600 miles of Alaskan coastline rely entirely on the cruise season and the business it brings.

“My heart breaks for Alaska and its wonderful people as we face a potential second year of zero cruise operations during the all-important summer tourism season, bringing yet another blow to Alaska’s tourism economy. Alaska is one of our guests’ most popular cruise destinations and we are doing everything in our power to safely resume operations in the U.S. which will provide much needed relief to the families, communities and small businesses who rely on cruise tourism for their livelihoods,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

As 2021 progresses with no cruise season in sight, Alaska estimates that the two lost seasons will cost the state and estimated $3.3 billion and cost more than 22,000 jobs.

On Wednesday, May 4th, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) announced that it will be donating $10 million in cash to six Alaska coastal communities which have been devastated by the suspension of cruise lines. The money will go directly to the port communities of Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Hoonah, Seward, and Sitka. It’s in these towns and cities that the majority of tourism-based jobs have been lost.

“We want to thank Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings for the generous $10 million of support it is providing to our coastal port communities who have been severely affected by the ongoing cruise suspension which is expected to have a devastating $3.3 billion impact to the Alaskan economy,” said Gov. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska. “Thousands of small businesses and Alaskans relying on the summer tourism season to make their living cannot afford another canceled cruise season. We are ready to partner with the cruise lines, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Biden-Harris administration and the Canadian authorities to bring cruising back to Alaska safely this summer.”

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Patagonia Makes Call to Action for Voting Rights

Patagonia intends to stand for more than warm coats and good socks.

In March, the state of Georgia passed a bill into law packed with measures to restrict voting access. It limits early voting for those who cannot adjust their work schedules, absentee voting for those who cannot reach a polling place, and removes nearly half of the drop-box locations in the state. It also applies very strict new standards to voter identification which violate voter privacy, and gives the historically-Republican state legislature the power to reject voting results. Most notoriously, it makes it a crime to distribute food or water to those waiting in long lines to vote.

Many have criticized the new law as being an intentional effort to suppress marginalized voters. President Biden compared it to Jim Crow laws, calling it “un-American” and “sick.”

Many companies and organizations have raised their voices to condemn the bill. Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, the two largest employers in the state, made statements. Major League Baseball is boycotting Georgia over it by removing their All-Star Game from the state.

Patagonia, the outdoor-outfitter company, is expressing their disapproval, and calling for other companies to join them in a three-fold plan.

“First: Fund the activists working to challenge the recently passed laws in Georgia, and support voting registration efforts,” wrote CEO Ryan Gellert. Patagonia will be donating $1 million to be split between the Black Votes Matter Fund and the New Georgia Project, two voting-rights organizations.

Second, he called for companies to speak up, to contact senators in states where they do business and demand they support voting rights.

Third, he called for businesses to demand action from their business partners, and to not support other businesses which sided against voting rights.

“Opting to stay silent while the constitutional rights of voters in Georgia and across our country are being threatened is tantamount to supporting these unjust laws,” Gellert said in his statement. “Our colleagues, clients and customers won’t forget what we do in this moment.”

Image: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

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Ex-offender Roger Bruesewitz Leaves Legacy of Escape

For most of his early adult life, Roger Bruesewitz was in and out of the Wisconsin state prison system. The ex-offender served time for dealing heroin, robbery, illegal gambling, and assault. It was while he was in prison that Bruesewitz started to dream of a way out of that cycle. He joined a study release program and graduated with a degree in 1975, several years before his final term in jail.

“Somewhere there was a seed that he wanted to have a different life,” said Mary Rouse of Bruesewitz. Rouse was his friend for decades, after they met during his time as a student.

After Bruesewitz served his time, he genuinely made good. He worked as a copy editor for UW-Madison, where he’d attended classes. He bought a waterfront house, and his family grew to call him a ‘straight shooter.’ And according to Rouse, he wanted to give that opportunity to other people caught in the cycle of crime and prison.

Bruesewitz left everything to Rouse, for a purpose. Since his passing in 2019, she has doled out the estate in donations to organizations that support any other ex-offender or veteran seeking to move forward, as well as journalists. That amount was not staggering, but it was substantial.

“I have given away all of his money,” Rouse said. “In my mind, he left his estate to me not for me personally to buy a better car or anything, but … to see that it would do some good. I feel that I’ve been able to honor his memory and what he was all about.”

Of the approximately $160,000 Rouse was left to disburse, $25,000 has been put into a scholarship for ex-offenders. Over a quarter of all ex-offenders have no diploma or degree at all, and less than half have anything more than a high school diploma or GED. Only 4 percent have any college degree, and their unemployment rate is 5 times that of the general public. The goal of the scholarship is to offer them the same chance Roger Bruesewitz had, to move past their criminal record, so often a barrier to many.

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The Weeknd Donates $1 Million to Ethiopia

The world’s journalists haven’t been allowed into Tigray, a large region in the north of Ethiopia, in years. Most of the world wouldn’t recognize the name. But the area has been under siege by Ethiopia’s military. There have been reports that since a spat of fighting in November between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the military under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, no farming or imports of food have been allowed, stores have been destroyed, and access to water and medical supplies has been denied.

In March, a graphic video surfaced. While the contents are officially unverified, many have identified the area as Mahibere Dego, a town in the mountainous heart of Tigray. In the video, armed soldiers round up a large group of young unarmed men on a rocky ledge, execute them with gunfire, and then fling them off the hillside. The soldiers can be heard laughing at their grim duty and cheering each other on. It is just one of several reported massacres in the area, though verification is rare.

Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, the Canadian songwriter, record producer, and son of Ethiopian parents–known most widely as The Weeknd– announced on Sunday, April 4, that he would be donating $1 million toward relief efforts for the Tigray region.

“My heart breaks for my people of Ethiopia,” he posted on Instagram, “as innocent civilians ranging from small children to the elderly are being senselessly murdered and entire villages are displaced out of fear and destruction. I will be donating $1 million to provide 2 million meals through the United Nations World Food Programme and encourage those who can to please give as well.”

The Weeknd is no stranger to philanthropy. Since March 2020, he has also donated $1 million to COVID-19 relief, $500,000 to Black Lives Matter, and $300,000 to Global Aid for Lebanon after the explosion in Beirut.

Editorial credit: Phil Pasquini / Shutterstock.com

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Xiao Zhen Xie: Don’t Submit to Racism

On March 17, while waiting for a traffic light on foot, Xiao Zhen Xie was punched in the face by Steven Jenkins in San Francisco. It was Jenkin’s second assault on an Asian senior citizen in a matter of minutes – first, he punched 83-year-old Ngoc Pham, then 75-year-old Xie. She was badly hurt, but she managed to grab a board and smack her attacker in the mouth, who was then restrained by security guards until the police arrived.

Xiao Zhen Xie, who is a grandmother, a diabetic, and a cancer survivor, was left with two black eyes that swelled shut and a facial wound that bled uncontrollably. Her grandson, John Chen, opened a fundraiser to cover her medical expenses. When news of the attack and Xie’s fighting back went viral, the GoFundMe surged past its $50k goal, raising nearly a million dollars in a matter of days. Tens of thousands of people donated. In a separate fundraiser, 9,400 people donated just over $280,000 to Pham, whose injuries may require surgery.

Xie, however, refuses to keep the money. Instead, she’ll be donating it to organizations that will help defuse racism against the Asian American community.

“She insists on making this decision saying this issue is bigger than her,” said Chen, adding that she insists people not “submit” to racism.

The attack on Xiao Zhen Xie and Ngoc Pham came less than a full day after six women of Asian descent were murdered in a spree killing in Atlanta, Georgia. Advocates attribute the increase in violence against Asians to the racist rhetoric surrounding COVID-19 that was a strong part of former President Trump’s response to the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition tracking violence and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said they’ve received nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents since March 2020.

According to Xie’s daughter, Dong-Mei Li, her mother is “traditional and hardworking” and resistant to the idea that “a fuss” should be made about her.

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“Game Changer” Sold for Health Charities

In May 2020, a black and white painting of a young boy sitting on the floor swooping a toy around, the action figure of a nurse in a superhero cape, appeared on the wall of Southampton General Hospital. The only spot of color is the archetypal red cross on her shirt. Nearby, in a waste basket, Batman and Spider-Man toys have been obviously cast aside for a greater hero.

Unlike most Banksy art, or most of what we think of as Bansky art, this painting, titled “Game Changer,” isn’t graffiti and it wasn’t a guerrilla effort. The framed painting was instead hung with the collaboration of managers of the hospital. But the secretive artist did leave a note.

“Thanks for all you’re doing,” the note that accompanied “Game Changer” read, addressed to all hospital workers. “I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if its only in black and white.”

Nearly a year later, being called a hero has taken a bitter taste in the mouth of most health workers. It was only ever lip service, as was proved whenever these heroes asked for more staff, for danger pay, or for more support. But the painting stayed up, and it did brighten people’s days. And hopefully now it can do more.

On Tuesday March 23rd, “Game Changer” sold at auction in Christie’s of London for 16.8 million pounds ($23.2 million), a record for Banksy’s art. According to the auction house, proceeds from the sale and “a significant portion” of Christie’s cut will be donated to fund health charities across the United Kingdom.

The sale, which was planned from the first donation of the painting, came on the one-year-anniversary of Britain’s first national lockdown. It also doesn’t leave the staff at Southampton empty-handed – a reproduction of the painting continues to hang in the same spot, complete with the original note.

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Ben Navarro Donates $1.25 Million to the College of Charleston

Ben Navarro turned a well-connected family and a bachelor’s degree in finance into a $3 billion nest egg in just over 30 years. Formerly a vice president of Citigroup, he left the investment bank to found his own, Sherman Financial Group, which currently owns Credit One Bank. Ben Navarro also owns two tennis clubs, and tried to purchase the Carolina Panthers, North Carolina’s NFL team, but lost it in auction. Today, he and his family live in Charleston, South Carolina.

As a philanthropist, Navarro’s priorities are plain – healthy, well-educated minds. In recent years, he has founded a small string of private schools, a scholarship fund for low-income Charleston County high school students, and a mental health wellness center targeting anxiety and depression.

On March 15, College of Charleston President Andrew Hsu announced that a large donation from Navarro was being given to the college’s teacher education program for the purpose of educating more teachers to work in underserved communities.

“The gift really recognizes our commitment to excellence in public education at all levels,” Hsu said. “It will help us create and support a national signature program.

“As a public institution, we have the responsibility of helping the state to narrow the educational gap,” he continued. “It is our duty to help the underserved communities, or help prepare teachers for the underserved communities.”

South Carolina is currently weathering a heavy teacher shortage, one exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. As of February, five months into the school year, the state was still short more than 500 teachers in all grades. The College of Charleston is working on a plan to attract more students passionate about education, and Ben Navarro’s generous donation will help them recruit those students.

“We already have a lot of strength in terms of faculty and programmatic offerings around teacher education for students coming from underrepresented populations,” said Suzanne Austin, provost and executive vice president of student affairs. “So we already do that work but we’re excited about doing more.”

Editorial credit: Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

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Jack Harlow Donates $500k Won in Open Run Competition

On Saturday, March 6, rapper Jack Harlow and hip hop artist Quavo faced off against rappers 2 Chainz and Lil Baby in a two-on-two game of basketball. First team to 21 wins. The prize? A literal duffle-bag full of cash, a cool half a million dollars.

The contest was the Bleacher Report’s Open Run 2-on-2 competition, kicking off the NBA All-Star Weekend. Harlow and Quavo beat 2 Chainz and Lil Baby handily, with a final score of 21 to 7. The Bleacher Report tweeted a photo of Harlow hugging an open duffle bag, visibly full of hundred dollar bills, under the caption “@QuavoStuntin and @jackharlow are ready to spend this $500k”

Harlow immediately tweeted back with his plans.

“I”ll be donating $500k to Kentucky State University and Simmons College of Kentucky.” The tweet ended in four violet hearts.

Harlow was born and raised on a farm in Louisville, Kentucky, which is where Simmons College is. By the morning of Sunday, March 7, both historically black colleges had been informed of the unrestricted donations, $250,000 each.

“Donations like this are very vital to institutions like Simmons College of Kentucky,” said Krystal Goodner Spratt, Director of Communications at Simmons. “For other institutions, it might seem like it’s a drop in the bucket, but, for us, it is truly a lifeline.”

“Insignificant attention, so far, has been given to the role and the history of HBCUs, creating the Black middle class and workforce of Kentucky,” said Dr. M.C. Brown, president of Kentucky State University. “So, I hope this donation will spark future conversations to make sure we keep continuing to provide the workers to keep Kentucky strong.”

Harlow describes his career as a white rapper as being “the guest inside a house of a culture that isn’t mine.” These generous donations make plain the debt he feels he owes his hosts in that house.

Image: Jamie Lamor Thompson / Shutterstock.com

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Donation News The Power of Giving

Eric Schwam Honors Le Chambon-sur-Lignon’s History of Generosity

In 1943, Eric Schwam, his parents, and his grandmother arrived in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a very small town in south-east France, as refugees.

Originally from Vienna, the Jewish family were removed from Austria by the Nazis and held in an internment camp in Rivesaltes until 1942. They, along with hundreds of other Jewish refugees, were sheltered by the town’s citizens through the rest of WWII, hidden in the village’s school. Only 11 when he arrived, Schwam left the village after the war as an adult—though he remained in France, married, became a doctor, and lived the rest of his life in Lyon.

Schwam passed away on Christmas Day 2020, at the age of 90. In early January, a notary contacted Le Chambon-sur-Lignon with surprising news: Schwam’s estate included an exceptionally large bequest to the town. The number is being held in confidence until things are final, but it is at least $2.4 million.

“He was a very discreet gentleman and he didn’t want a lot of publicity about his gesture,” said Denise Vallat, culture and communication assistant at Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.

Jean-Michel Eyraud, Mayor of the village, said that the money will be used to fund youth initiatives and education. Hopefully, it will keep people aware and proud of the massive generosity that is at the heart of the town.

WWII was not the first time Le Chambon-sur-Lignon has opened its gates to those fleeing lethal persecution. In the 17th century, the town sheltered Huguenots (Protestants) from laws requiring their execution. In WWII, it was two Protestant pastors—the spiritual descendants of those refugees—who organized the citizens to shelter between 3000 and 5000 Jewish refugees, transporting many across the border to Switzerland and safety. And today, the village shelters refugees from war zones in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

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Donation News The Power of Giving

Anonymous Edmonton ‘Santa’ Gives Out Poem and $250 Gift Card

It’s become trite and overplayed to point out that 2020 was hard on everyone, but it was. It was catastrophically hard on many, whether they lost lives close to them or the livelihoods that support their families. When Christmas came, many found the holiday more burden than celebration.

Edmonton, Alberta in December was looking at nearly 12 percent unemployment, after losing between 11,000 and 21,000 jobs per month from March onwards, making it one of the hardest-hit cities, economically, in Canada. So many felt very far distanced from the season of giving.

For almost 400 families, though, Santa Claus visited in the night over Christmas. Scores of households woke up to an envelope on their doorsteps. Inside was a poem, and a $250 gift card to Walmart.

“the whole world ain’t as dark as it sometimes seems / there’s light if you look for it, if you know what I mean,” says the poem, and it ends with a message exhorting that the generosity continue. “don’t need this? Please pass the baton / for that is the way, hope carries on.”

The poem were unsigned, though an email address was included. So far, the owner has not reached back to any attempts at contact, except to answer a query about why:

“I decided to do it because I know that lots of people have had a really touch year and I had the means to help out,” “Santa” answered CBC news. “I hope the gifts give people a sense that the world is good and there is a brighter future not far ahead.”

There can’t be many people capable of casually donating $100,000 to their fellow citizens. And fewer who would do so. 

“To have something like this, I mean, that’s a month of groceries for us,” said Elisha Tennant, one recipient of an envelope. Tennant was laid off in 2020 due to the pandemic. “It was just very heartwarming and touching that someone would do that.”

Source: Good News Network