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Adorable, Amateur Pet Portraits Go Viral, Raising Thousands for Charity

It was a joke, when Phil Heckels, 38, posted a silly picture of his dog to Facebook with a £299 price tag in the caption. He’d only drawn it because he was trying to get his little boy to draw with him and make a thank you card.

It didn’t sell. “It was pretty crap,” Heckles says of it with self-deprecating humor. But it did make a bunch of his Facebook friends laugh. The marker-drawing of his black lab Narla was unpolished and cartoony, but expressive. By the end of the first day, he had seven commissions from friends wanting pet portraaits. And those requests kept coming in.

Heckels, who has a full time job in commercial real estate, soon gave in to peer pressure and set up a dedicated Facebook page as the artist “Hercule Van Wolfwinkle,” offering goofy pet portraits with googly eyes, giant heads, and Picasso’s grasp of where facial features go.

Then the internet did its strange thing, and his work went viral.

“I’m just having a laugh with it,” Heckels said. “People seem to be enjoying it and I’m certainly enjoying it.” He does his best to take each commission seriously, but not too seriously.

“I genuinely try quite hard to to try and draw them.”

As the commissions backed up and money kept coming in, Heckels decided to do something good with his strange flash of popularity – he set up a fundraiser for Turning Tides, a homelessness charity his family has always supported. With his art as backer’s gifts, the fundraiser has so far raised over £14,000 for the charity, or enough to provide over 280 nights of shelter.

If you want to get your own portrait, go ahead and contact his Facebook page, but there’s bound to be a wait. Acclaimed artist (his words) Hercule Van Wolfwinkle has more than 1000 pets in his queue already. But he’ll get to you as soon as he can.

Source: NBC 2

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Facebook Donates £1M to Save Historic Site of Turing’s First Computer

During WWII, the English country house known as Bletchley Park was a secret site housing the Government Code and Cypher School, keeping their fingers the pulse of Axis Powers intelligence. Most notably, it is the place where Alan Turing and his team of codebreakers (Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander, Bill Tutte, and Stuart Milner-Barry) broke the Enigma and Lorenz ciphers and built Colossus, the world’s first programmable digital electronic computer.

The original Colossus was destroyed in the 1960s to keep it a secret during the Cold War, but a working replica is still there in the same house, the house now known as the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park.

In August, the Bletchley Park Trust, the charity which maintains the site and museum, reported that they were facing a revenue shortage of over £2 million ($2.6m) because of COVID-19 closures and falling visitor numbers once they were allowed to reopen. This amounts to almost 95 percent of their annual income. In light of the near total loss of 2020’s income, the charity was looking at laying off approximately a third of its few paid employees.

Facebook announced that they would be donating £1 million to the Bletchley Park Trust, recognizing the site’s “ongoing legacy as a birthplace of modern computing.”

“The historic achievements of Alan Turing and the Bletchley team have benefited all of us greatly, including Facebook, and we’re thrilled to help preserve this spiratual home of modern computng,” said Steve Hatch in a press statement. Hatch is Facebook’s vice president of Northern Europe, the largest hub of Facebook outside the U.S.

Iain Standen, the CEO of Bletchley Park Trust, made a statement in return, describing the charity as “very grateful to Facebook.” 

“With this significant support,” he said, “the Bletchley Park Trust will be better positioned to operate in the ‘new world’ and keep its doors open for future generations.” There is no comment yet about how many of the threatened jobs will be preserved by the donation.

Source: The Verge

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Angelina Jolie Donates to Kids’ Lemonade Stand Raising Money for Displaced Yemenis

Ayaan Moosa and Mikaeel Ishaaq, two best friends in London, are both six years old. Over the summer, their homes were filled with news of Yemen, and the latest developments of the civil war that has been raging there since 2014. While filtering the news of tens of thousands dead, their parents still made sure they understood at least some of the scope of what the people there are going through, with millions displaced into camps, having lost their homes to airstrikes.

“They have nothing, like, the things you need to survive. They have no water, food, oil. And we have all of those things and that’s why we help them,” said Moosa in a phone interview with NBC News.

To help educate their sons about charity, the two families collaborated on a lemonade stand in August. Together, the two little boys sold fresh-squeezed lemonade for £2 a glass to people passing by their east London home, with a big sign announcing that all proceeds would go to Yemen.

Then one day, a letter came in the mail, with a check.

“Thank you,” the letter read, “for what you and your friends are doing to help children in Yemen. I’m sorry I’m not able to buy a lemonade from you, but I’d still like to make a donation to your stand.”

The letter was signed by Angelina Jolie. The family has not said how large her donation was, except to call it ‘substantial.’ The boys, who are after all only six, didn’t know who the actress is, but their parents did.

Since 2012, Jolie has been appointed by the U.N. as a Special Envoy to displaced populations, using her platform and often her physical presence to raise awareness of refugee situations around the world, including Yemen.

“To get the recognition of somebody who genuinely cares, that really meant a lot to us,” said Shakil Moosa, Ayaan Moosa’s father.

Source: NBC News

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Brontë Museum Receives £20,000 Lifeline Donation from T.S. Eliot Estate

Like many museums, the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, England, the small house dedicated to preserving the artifacts and stories of the famous literary Brontë sisters who once lived there, has been closed for half of 2020. Ordinarily host to over 77,000 guests a year, the sudden stoppage of ticket and gift shop sales has cut deep. In danger of shutting down permanently due to budget shortfalls, they reopened in the first weekend of September to much smaller crowds, while running a crowdfunding campaign to help stay that way.

Without any fanfare or announcement, a 20,000 pound donation appeared on their campaign site on Wednesday night, September 9th 2020.

“Realizing that it was from the T.S. Eliot estate was a very special moment,” said Rebecca Yorke in an interview with the New York Times. Yorke is the head of communications and marketing at the Brontë Society, which manages the museum.

T.S. Eliot, who wrote the poetry which makes up the lyrics of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats, passed away in 1965, but his estate still receives royalties from the musical and the 2019 movie recently made from it. He has a tenuous connection to the Brontë sisters; they both knew Sir James Roberts, a Yorkshire baronet and self-made millionaire. Eliot wrote obliquely about Roberts in his poem The Waste Land, as “a Bradford Millionaire.” And Roberts, who was a close friend of the Brontë family, purchased their home and donated it to the Brontë Society. Yes, the very same Haworth Parsonage.

Whether or not the Eliot Estate made this generous donation because of that faint thread of connection or not, the money, which amounts to over $26,000, will keep the museum going for some time, though their debts continue to mount in this difficult time.

If you wish to help the Brontë Parsonage Museum, please click here for information about donating or volunteering.

Source: Town and Country Magazine

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Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Sells Valuable Guitars for Climate Causes

David Gilmour has been on the world stage since he joined Pink Floyd in 1968, just a few months after they released “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” and made the charts. In ’85, he took over leadership of the band after Roger Waters departed. It’s in no small part to him that as of 2012, Pink Floyd was one of the best-selling bands of all time, with over 250 million sales worldwide. The music world recognized that, inducting him into the U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, the U.K. Music Hall of Fame in 2005, and a CBE in 2003.

Gilmour’s net worth is estimated between 115 and 180 million pounds, and he has poured much of that into various charities over the years, going so far as to sell his own home to English nobility and donate every cent of the proceeds, over 3.6 million pounds, to Crisis, a U.K. charity which supports the homeless with housing, employment, and health care.

In 2019, Gilmour found himself touched by the vehement activism of Greta Thunberg, the young voice for the environment whose message swept the world. And he put his life on the stage to the service of that message, auctioning off several of his most famous guitars for charity.

“The global climate crisis is the greatest challenge that humanity will ever face,” tweeted Gilmour. “We need a civilized world that goes on for all our grandchildren and beyond in which these guitars can be played and songs can be sung.”

He donated the black Fender Stratocaster which he plays in “Dark Side of the Moon,” Pink Floyd’s most legendary album, as well as “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” and also a 12-string Martin he played in “Wish You Were Here.” The black strat sold for nearly $4 million, making it the most expensive guitar ever sold. These two, along with three others he sold, raised $21.5 million, all of which he donated to ClientEarth, an international environmentalist charity which uses its funds to ensure companies are held accountable for their pollution footprint.

Source: Mother Jones

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Dwayne Johnson Donates Water to Essential Workers

In April, the nation was calling its health care workers ‘Essential heroes,’ and applauding as they left for work. But now it’s July and the applause has faded, as a sort of COVID-19 fatigue has set in on us all, and our health workers remain as they were before all of this; underpaid, understaffed, underappreciated, and critically overworked.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, of wrestling and acting fame and Instagram’s highest paid celebrity, partnered recently with VOSS water to do just a little to help ease that. Together, they donated 700,000 bottles of water to health care and front-line workers.

“This message is for some very, very special people out there. I’m talking about our front-line workers, our health care workers, who are working so tirelessly day in and day out for months and months now, and you continue to do so,” said Johnson in a video released on Instagram on Sunday, July 12th.

“We, on our end will continue to be disciplined – wearing masks, being smart, social distancing, etc. We ust do our job. As you all continue to do yours,” he continued in text on the same post. “Keep holding the line and stay strong. You inspire us all.”

Johnson is a big advocate of wearing masks and being cautious, and is outspoken on both topics on his Instagram. He’s even posted a video of washing his hands in time to a song from Disney’s Moana, in which he starred along with Auli’i Cravalho.

Water may seem a small thing, but the recognition is as important as the charity. Johnson and other celebrities continue to speak out about the value of these most essential workers, and to leverage their platforms to speak for higher wages and better schedules. Johnson also hosted a concert in the last week of June which raised $6.9 billion in aid to support the global poor during the pandemic.

Source: Fox News

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Sam Mendes Establishes Fund for Theater Workers with Help from Netflix

On Monday, July 6, the British government announced a £1.5 billion effort to help hard-hit arts organizations in the UK through the pandemic. Art institutions like the National Gallery have only just begun reopening, but performance venues still probably have months to go before they can resume operating at their normal occupancy levels. Several major venues have already announced they’re overrun, and won’t be able to re-open at all. Art lobbyists have stated that they don’t expect things to return to normal until April 2021, at best.

While the government package is encouraging news, the process of dissemination its funds has not yet even begun, and many businesses, and the people they’ve already had to lay off, are in dire straits now. It has been nearly four months since all theaters, venues, and cultural sites were closed.

In light of this, film director Sam Mendes, and the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, has established the Theatre Artists Fund. The new initiative is meant to directly help British arts workers whose livelihoods have been cut off by the pandemic.

Money for the fund has come from Netflix, who announced a £500,000 ($625,000) donation to initiative the fund.

“Playwrights and directors, theatre artits and performers, composers and comedians, are the lifeblood of our industry too and, while Netflix has been more fortunate than many, in the end we are only as strong as the people we work with,” said Anne Mensah in a statement about the donation. Mensah is the vice president of original content at Netflix.

The fund will deliver £1000 grants directly to freelance and laid-off theatre workers who suffer under the ongoing effect of the pandemic.

The money is specifically intended for “theatre workers who find themselves at breaking point, for those unable to put food on the table or to pay bills, or for those considering leaving the profession altogether,” said Mendes in a statement. He hopes that further donations will be forthcoming.

Source: Forbes

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A Man in India is Buying Oxygen Tanks and Giving Them Away

Months into the pandemic’s grasp, Mumbai remains one of the worst-affected cities in India by COVID-19, with over 60,000 current cases overrunning hospitals. Staff and facilities are overwhelmed, their workload far greater than they have supplies, time, space, or stamina for.

Shahnawaz Shaikh is not a doctor or an EMT, just a businessman. But for months, he’s been servicing as a pro-tem ambulance driver, ferrying potential COVID-19 patients in his cherished SUV to hospitals. It has been a selfless act of service – due to the risk of contagion, Shaikh has partitioned his house so that he doesn’t stand a chance of catching the disease from a passenger and passing it on to his wife and young daughter.

On May 28, the sister of Shaikh’s business partner passed away in a cab after being turned away from five overburdened hospitals because they had no beds or ventilators left to tend to the seriously ill. She was six months pregnant, and she drowned in plain air in her husband’s arms.

Doctor friends told Shaikh that the woman could have lived, had she been put on oxygen in time. It made him realize that he could be doing more than simply transporting the poor and ill. A little research showed him that while oxygen canisters were available to the public, high demand had driven up their price and caused a shortage.

“A friend of mine helped me contact a manufacturer directly. They were touched when I told them I wanted to buy cylinders and give them away for free.”

To finance the venture, Shaikh sold his SUV. He bought over 300 refurbished oxygen tanks and the supplies to use them, and enlisted a doctor to help made an instructional video, showing how to use them. So far, he’s provided oxygen kits to over 250 families in the poor districts of the city near him.

Source: Mumbai Mirror

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Magic Johnson’s EquiTrust to Donate $100M to Support Minority-Owned Businesses

When Earvin “Magic” Johnson retired from playing professional basketball in 2000, it was already obvious that he was not the sort of man who would just retire and ride out his substantial fortune for the rest of his days. He’d already tried his hand at coaching, and at hosting a television show, and starting a record label. And he was just getting started.

Today, Johnson runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, a diverse conglomerate company with a net worth over $700 million, which dabbles in dozens of different industries. Briefly, he owned 125 Starbucks locations. At another time, a chain of movie theaters in his name. For a while, he owned part of the L.A. Lakers and a Pepsi bottling plant in Washington. And he continues to own a controlling interest in EquiTrust Life Insurance Company.

Under his direction, EquiTrust is going to donate $100 million in capital to fund federal loans for business owners who have been struck down by the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritizing minorities and children.

The donation, which will be distributed as forgivable loans via lender MBE Capital Partners, will be governed by the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, the small business stimulus plan meant to help small businesses keep their staff on the payroll, giving them a greater chance of weathering the crisis.

“These are incredible businesses, small businesses, that have been the pillar of our community that also employ a lot of black and brown people in our community,” Johnson said on MSNBC on Sunday, May 17. “… We wanted to make sure that minority-owned businesses got small business loans through the PPP program.”

His statement alludes to the concern that minority-owned businesses have been left out, after the PPP stimulus has run out, been renewed, and run out of funds again, with large percentages of the package being snapped up by businesses which are not by any means ‘small.’

Source: CNN

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Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Donates $13.6M to Antibody Testing

In 2015 on the birthday of their daughter, pediatrician Priscilla Chan and her husband, Mark Zuckerberg, set up the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub to fight disease worldwide. In the past 5 years, most of their activities have been towards securing funding beyond the $1 billion in yearly funds coming from Facebook shares, but now they are taking a step forward.

On Wednesday, April 29th, Zuckerberg announced that the Initiative would be donating $13.6 million towards COVID-19 antibody testing in San Franscisco, and coordinating with Stanford University and the University of California to conduct antibody studies in the Bay Area.

There will be two studies, one of which has already begun. The first will test 4,000 Bay Area volunteers monthly for both active COVID-19 and for the antibodies which will indicate they’ve encountered the disease before. That one will run from April into December, and be used to track where new cases emerge, helping to guide a safe return to normal.

The second study will be localized to frontline health care workers. 3,500 doctors, nurses, and EMTs will be tested weekly to determine how heavily and quickly the medical community can be hit. It will also work on determining if prior infection means future immunity, which is so far an unknown factor. Many important things hinge on whether or not you can re-catch the disease, and no one really knows yet.

Both studies are intended to be used as guideposts in reopening business and normal life in and around San Franscisco, but their data will have world-wide applications. The Chan Zuckerberg donation is the largest single share of funding coming into this vital project.

In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg also mentioned combining the data from both studies with the self-report symptom surveys that Facebook has been running for a Carnegie Mellon research group, which could provide even more information.

Source: The Week

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