This Is Possibly America’s Most Immigrant-Friendly City, Using Burgers to Bring Police and Community Activists Together and More

How an Ohio Town Became a Model for Resettling Syrian Refugees, Vice
Many politicians don’t believe that the U.S. can properly screen refugees from the Middle East. Yet one city in Ohio is welcoming them with open arms. In Toledo, multiple organizations provide Syrian immigrants with much-needed assistance, helping them locate housing, receive English language lessons and more.
Diverse Wichitans Gather for Barbecue with Police, Wichita Eagle
Across the nation, Black Lives Matter protesters and police officers face off against each other in the streets. But in Wichita, Kan., these two groups came together over hamburgers and hot dogs to discuss the importance of community policing, how poverty and lack of education cause racial disparity and why racial bias still exists.
Meet the Dangling Goddess of Street Art at Ozy Fest, Ozy
Low-income students who receive a strong arts education are more successful at challenging coursework than kids whose schooling is light on the arts. Which is why street artist Alice Mizrachi is teaching urban youth how creative expression can fight poverty and racial inequality.
MORE: Why Sleeping in a Former Slave’s Home Will Make You Rethink Race Relations in America

Allergy-Friendly Food Is Expensive. This Pantry Feeds Families That Can’t Afford Special Diets

At just 12 months of age, Emily Brown’s daughter was diagnosed with allergies to peanuts, eggs, dairy, wheat and soy. Because allergy-friendly food can cost two to four times the price of regular food, Brown’s family quickly became overwhelmed by its ever-increasing grocery budget.

Neither the federal nutrition program Women, Infant & Children (WIC) nor a local food pantry provided any financial relief to Brown since few of the available food products were safe for her daughter to eat. After meeting Amy Goode at a food-allergy support group, the two mothers launched the Food Equality Initiative, aiming to make food that’s safe to those with allergies more affordable and accessible to those in need. In 2015, the inspirational duo opened Renewed Health, the country’s very first allergy-friendly food pantry. In just a year, it’s provided assistance to more than 70 clients and has distributed more than 12,350 pounds of allergy-friendly food.

Watch the video above to learn how the pantry provides a safety net to low- and middle-income people with food allergies or Celiac disease.

MORE: One in Five Baltimore Residents Lives in a Food Desert. These Neighbors Are Growing Their Own Produce

The Standout Efforts That Are Getting Americans Back to Work

After four years as an assistant branch manager at Hudson Valley Bank in Bridgeport, Conn., Dora Coriano was laid off in August 2013, when the bank left the state.
Coriano, who’s 58, soon discovered that finding a new job wasn’t as easy as it had been the last time she’d been unemployed, 15 years prior. “In 1998, you could literally grab a stack of resumes and pound the pavement,” she says. “You went from door to door … you left your resume, you got called, and you got the job.”
A year after losing her position at the bank, and submitting more than 75 job applications, Coriano still hasn’t found full-time work. Instead, she has joined the ranks of the long-term unemployed.
“It’s been really disheartening,” Coriano says. “That’s how I feel — like I’m stuck.”
Despite a dropping unemployment rate, which hit 5.8 percent in October, 9 million people nationwide are like Coriano — stuck without a job.
Across the country, people are working to determine the best way to help those jobseekers find employment. Economists, analysts, policy-makers and not-for-profits are all seeking the antidote to unemployment, so they’re trying out different programs that train or retrain the jobless, help them achieve certifications or land internships.
Several approaches are showing promise. From paid apprenticeships to beefed-up community college programs and public-private partnerships, here’s a look at some of the ways people are getting back to work — including Coriano.
Placing Workers in Apprenticeships
Organizations looking to bridge the gap between job training and job placement are increasingly turning to the apprenticeship model. One of the most successful of these is Apprenticeship Carolina, an initiative of the South Carolina technical college system.
While Apprenticeship Carolina’s main focus is to help businesses that want to expand, says Brad Neese, program director, “a really positive byproduct is that these companies are going to hire South Carolinians.”
Funded by the state, Neese and his crew of consultants help companies to establish apprenticeship programs by connecting them with technical colleges around the state. “We meet with them and discuss the needs of the company,” says Neese. “We personalize the process, and it’s all free.”
So far, it’s working. Apprenticeship Carolina started with 90 companies in 2007. Today, it’s working with more than 700 businesses and over the past seven years has placed almost 11,000 apprentices (in fields ranging from manufacturing to health care).
Seeking Out Trained Talent
While training programs are reaching out to potential employers, some successful programs start the other way around.
In St. Louis, the aircraft company Boeing approached the local community college to set up a 10-week program for would-be assembly mechanics. The class is free for students (paid for by Boeing), and the company hires 87 percent of those who complete it, says Becky Epps, program director.
In Newark, N.J., the Ford Motor Co. sponsored an automotive technical program at the New Community Workforce Development Center. In nine months, students are trained and certified and then placed in jobs through established relationships with Ford, Nissan and Toyota, says the program’s director, Rodney Brutton.
“The placement rate is 60 percent, which is great in this line of work,” he says.
The Ford program helped a mechanic named Tom after he was laid off. Although he had 20 years’ experience, he found he couldn’t get another job without new certifications. All he heard was, “Leave your number and we’ll give you a call.” No one called.
After completing the program, Tom ended up getting 10 certifications, updated his resume and “started hearing from the dealerships,” he says.
Now, he says, he’s making over $25 per hour, and he’s no longer one of the country’s 9 million unemployed workers.
Linking Companies and Community Colleges
Community colleges can play a key role in workforce development. Recognizing that fact, the White House in September announced $450 million in grants to the schools, aimed at improving job training programs.
One popular movement in job training programs, according to Lauren Eyster, a researcher at the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank, is to build strong connections with hiring companies, so that trainees can be channeled right into waiting jobs that need their new skills.
Both of these trends are converging at Cape Cod Community College, in West Barnstable, Mass., which won one of the recent federal grants. The school is creating two 12-month programs to train workers to inspect and repair airplanes and airplane engines, in response to the needs of area employers.
“There’s enormous support for this,” says Michael Gross, director of communication. He says the school has letters of support from JetBlue, Delta and Cape Air, which will be looking to hire the first graduates of the program.
Supporting Struggling Students
While community colleges can set people up for new careers, some students have significant obstacles to overcome first, like lack of transportation, child care or money for books.
“The other piece of this is, once you get them into these programs, how do you get them to complete?” says Eyster. “The latest number I saw was only 40 percent of community college students graduate in six years.”
Eyster says some colleges are starting to employ “navigators” to help guide students through school. At the Accelerating Opportunity: Kansas (AO-K) program at Washburn Tech, in Topeka, Kan., students learn technical skills while earning GEDs, with assistance from a navigator provided along the way.
“These students are under-resourced in every way you can imagine,” says Gillian Gabelman, associate dean at Washburn Tech. The navigator helps connect students to social services like child care and veterans benefits.
“The transformation of the students is extraordinary,” Gabelman says. For example, a woman who dropped out of high school to have a baby has been able to go into medicine, and a reformed drug addict went through technical training and is working for a local manufacturer, she says.
Reversing the Snowball of Unemployment
Now Coriano, the unemployed bank worker, may be on a new path to employment, too.
After a year without work, her savings dwindling, Coriano enrolled in a program in Bridgeport called Platform to Employment, aimed specifically at the long-term unemployed, who often face snowballing challenges.
The longer people are out of work, the less attractive they can be to employers and the more discouraged they get. Platform to Employment tries to address both of those challenges with a two-pronged approach.
The first is a full-time five-week course of job preparation classes. “It’s not a job training program,” says Tom Long, vice president of communications and development. “It’s more about taking someone who’s ready to be back at work and helping them improve their confidence and readiness.”
During the course, Coriano and other participants learn how to present their best selves to employers, to develop their “personal brand” and to “conquer their fear about their own limitations,” Long says. They also meet with a behavioral health specialist and learn how to deal with the stress and psychological struggles that come from long-term unemployment.
The second part of the Platform to Employment approach is to place participants in jobs with local employers for a two-month “tryout,” paid for by the program. The try-before-you-buy system allows employers to take a chance on a new employee with no financial risk, since private foundation funding pays for wages.
After a successful pilot program in Bridgeport in 2011, Platform to Employment recently completed a 10-city nationwide expansion. And, with $3.5 million in funding from the Connecticut Legislature, the program is spreading across that state.

The National Movement to End Veteran Homelessness Continues in These Two Cities

Two midwest cities are stepping up and helping out veterans that don’t have homes.
On Sept. 16, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a plan to end homelessness among former service members living in the Windy City by 2015. A $5 million program providing housing and other assistance to veterans will be funded through a federal grant, along with $800,000 from the city’s 2015 budget. Chicago will also donate four acres of land for new housing facilities.
In a press conference, Emanuel said, “By the end of 2015, there will not be a homeless veteran in the city of Chicago.”
Emanuel spoke at Hope Manor I, a supportive housing complex for veterans that provides free places to live for up to 50 homeless veterans and affordable housing for 30 more veterans. On the first floor of the building, veterans and their families can take job-training and employment-readiness classes, learn how to use a computer, attend peer support groups and benefit from counseling and case management services. Residents can also gather in a multi-purpose room designed to foster a sense of community among them.
During the press conference, Emanuel announced that a new center Hope Manor for Families — a facility that will accommodate entire families — will open soon.
Since Hope Manor I opened, two other similar facilities have started welcoming needy vets: Hope Manor II and Veterans New Beginnings. According to Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago took a census of its homeless veterans in January — a “point-in-time count” measuring how many people were out on the streets on one night. The researchers found 721 homeless veterans — 465 lived in shelters and 256 had no place to call home.
The same day that Emanuel announced this program, another Midwestern mayor publicly committed his administration to the cause of ending homelessness among veterans by 2015: Mayor Carl Brewer of Wichita, Kansas. KSN TV reports that Brewer announced at a City Council meeting, “Veteran homelessness is not an intractable social problem that can’t be solved”
“By focusing our resources and renewing our communities’ commitment to this issue, we can end veteran homelessness in our city and our country. I’m proud to join mayors across the country as we work toward the important goal of honoring the service of our veterans by making sure all of them have a home to call their own,” said Brewer.
According to KSN TV, since 2010 when the federal government launched Opening Doors (a comprehensive plan to end homelessness) homelessness among veterans in America has decreased by 24 percent.
If the plans of these mayors succeed, Chicago and Wichita could join Phoenix, Los Angeles and other cities who are striving to make homelessness among veterans a thing of the past.
MORE: Giving Homeless Vets A Helping Hand — And A New Uniform

The Surprisingly Simple Actions Helping Veterans Visit the Memorials That Honor Their Service

Collecting cans and recycling them for cash can yield a person quite a large amount of money. For one man, however, this bounty doesn’t go into his pocket; it goes towards helping out veterans.
Each week, Warren Vincent of Hutchinson, Kan. straps a towering pile of garbage bags bulging with cans to the back of his pickup with an elaborate web of bungees and cables and drives them to Midwest Iron and Metal Inc., where he usually receives a couple hundred dollars.
Every cent Vincent raises from his can-hauling missions goes to his program Cans 4 Kansas Honor Flights, which helps fund Kansas Honor Flight, an organization that flies veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War to Washington D.C. to visit war memorials.
Each vet’s trip costs $700, and Vincent keeps that amount in mind as he travels around the town collecting cans wherever he sees them and picking them up from two drop-off stations he’s set up in McPherson County, Kan., including one at the NCRA Refinery, where employees have been especially generous with their leftover soda cans.
Since May 2013, he’s raised nearly $10,000 — enough to send 14 veterans on an unforgettable trip.
Vincent told Katy Hanks of the Hutchinson News as he drove her in his can-crammed truck that he could haul even more if he had a trailer. Later that day, some good news came through. “The workers at NCRA are going to buy me a trailer,” Vincent tells Hanks. “That’s the best news of the entire four years I have been doing this.”
Vincent’s efforts to help veterans are remarkable, and he’s not the only Kansan providing assistance to our former service members. According to Hanks, there’s a group of youngsters — made up of Kristin and Rikkie Estus and Connor and Katherine Nilson — that have raised $550 for Kansas Honor Flight by running a lemonade stand for the past three years. Thirteen-year-old Kristin Estus tells Hanks, “The best part of having the annual lemonade stand is hearing the veterans’ stories.”
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Despite a Major Setback, This Young Woman Continues to Fight for At-Risk Youth

It’s tough running a small business, especially for a 24-year-old.
But one Kansas native refuses to lose when it comes to achieving her dream of running a boxing gym. At only 5-foot, 3-inches, E-Lisa Moreno may be small in stature but she knows how to pack a punch.
Moreno first launched her gym, RNE Boxing, three years ago in the Kansas City suburb of Merriam, Kansas. After realizing her passion for boxing and teaching youth, Moreno convinced her father to help her open shop.
“I love seeing a kid who people saw as ‘bad’ become someone who has accomplished something,” she told the National Journal. More than 10 of RNE Boxing’s members are at-risk youth.
As a teenager, Moreno found her love for sparring while passing time at a gym where her two younger brothers took boxing classes. A coach allowed the 17-year-old to slip on a pair of gloves that would eventually lead to her destiny. After just a few months, Moreno dropped almost 50 pounds, and soon, she began spending more time at the gym while her father assumed the role of her coach, traveling with her to compete throughout Kansas.
Her hard work paid off. Moreno took second place in her weight category at the 2010 National Women’s Golden Gloves tournament in Florida. While attending community college on a scholarship from the Kansas City Golden Gloves, Moreno pursued her professional boxing career and coached children as well.
But it was her belief in a 13-year-old girl that inspired Moreno to open a gym. After coaching the tween to three national championship titles, her student passed away in a traffic accident. Instead of returning to the gym where she trained the girl, Moreno decided it was time to open her own place to coach.
In memoriam of the young girl, Moreno named the gym after her student’s initials, RNE. Business was booming when they first opened. Just six months after RNE Boxing opened its doors, the gym boasted around 500 members.
But within a year, local regulations for a sprinkler in case of a fire led Moreno and her father to downsize. The building owner refused to pay for the upgrade, and the Morenos had no choice.

“The cheapest estimate we got was $20,000,” Moreno said. “So we started looking for another place.”

Now, RNE Boxing is run out of a smaller building that can only hold around 60 people, which led to members abandoning the once spacious gym. But that hasn’t stopped this twenty-something from chasing her dream of working with troubled teens.

Moreno now works a day job as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant while her father has also taken a day job. When she thinks about whether she should have made another career choice, she remembers, “It’s all about the kids,” she said. “It’s always been about them.”

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For the Good of the Community and the Environment, This Kansas Startup Looks to Make Hitchhiking Popular Again

If you live in an urban area, chances are, you probably use mass transit and don’t even give it a second thought. But 45 percent of Americans don’t have the option of hopping on a train or bus to get somewhere since they have no access to public transportation, Jennifer O’Brien writes for Shareable.
The concepts of the citizen-taxi apps Lyft and Uber and the carpooling app Carma appealed to O’Brien, but since she lives in Lawrence, which is located rural northeast Kansas (instead of downtown San Francisco, where public transit options abound), there are not enough participants to make these services run smoothly. So she decided to create her own system — founding the nonprofit Lawrence OnBoard.
Inspired by a podcast she heard about how hitchhiking isn’t as dangerous as its reputation would have it, and that in many countries it’s the primary mode of transportation, she decided to give the concept a contemporary update. Using Lawrence OnBoard, people can sign up to be drivers (at no cost) or as riders for a monthly membership fee.
Each person receives a background check, a photo ID, and a dry erase board on which they write their destination to display while they stand by the road waiting for a fellow Lawrence OnBoard member or any other driver to give them a lift. Once the rider has been picked up, he or she logs the trip by texting the driver’s member number or license plate to Lawrence OnBoard; O’Brien believes this kind of tracking will help ensure safety. (Although she does caution people against using the ride-sharing service at night or when traveling with young children.)
Last year, O’Brien began field-testing her idea. She sent 23 volunteers out on 121 test rides and found that 95 percent of the time, they scored a lift in less than 30 minutes. Now, Lawrence OnBoard is working to find the best locations for ride-seekers to stand, ensuring that all ethnicities, ages, and genders have equal ease of finding a ride.
And so far, the local government approves of O’Brien’s plan. In fact, city commissioners approved changes to the traffic code this month to allow Lawrence OnBoard to continue legally.
O’Brien writes, “I personally used my dry erase board to commute to town for most of the summer and I found that it was safe, easy, and reliable and saved a lot of gas. But even better, I met more of my neighbors, learned what was happening in the neighborhood and even made a couple of business deals. Building community like this is the big strength of the sharing economy and it’s something we are sadly missing when we all drive alone.”
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Cheer On These Inspiring Wounded Navy SEALs as They Reach for the Sky

Leave it to former Navy SEALs to decide that the best way to get their lives back on track following a series of health crises is to scale Africa’s highest peak: Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Twenty-six year old Will Cannon, of Houston, Texas, is one such climber. Cannon was a sergeant in the Army serving in Afghanistan when he lost his right leg (and his best friend) in an explosion. Unfortunately, his bad luck didn’t end there. After leaving the Army, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent radiation.
During the cancer treatments, Cannon’s spirits sank. But now that he’s in remission, he’s hoping to rejuvenate himself and others by joining a team of wounded veterans who plan to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Cannon will be on hand to help two Navy SEALs who lost both of their legs in service — Bo Reichenbach and Dan Cnossen — complete the difficult ascent. (Cnossen, a Topeka, Kansas native, recently competed at the Paralympics in Sochi, Russia in Nordic skiing.)
Cannon told Roberta MacGinnis of the Houston Chronicle that it’s especially difficult for a Navy SEAL to cope with physical disability. “We are, in our minds, 10 feet tall and bullet proof. We are men. So whenever one of us gets hurt — loses his legs for instance — and we come home, you know, and what do we do? What are we supposed to do? At one point I was leading men into battle, and now I can’t even walk.”
The mountain climbing expedition is part of the Phoenix Patriot Foundation’s mission to bring together small groups of veterans to foster the military bond they miss when their service is over. Jared Ogden, a former Navy SEAL, founded the nonprofit and asked Cannon to join the expedition. The foundation has raised over $15,000 toward its goal of $50,000 to fund the expedition.
Reichenbach and Cnossen will use robotic prosthetics during the week-long climb, which is scheduled for this summer. Reichenbach told MacGinnis, “I’m proving to myself that I’m still capable of doing things that most people can’t do, even though I’m missing both legs from above my knees.”
Which just goes to show that even after injury, Navy SEALS are tougher than most of us will ever be.
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How a Tornado-Stricken Town Became a Model of American Sustainability

Imagine that one day your town exists. Then, the next day, it doesn’t. That was the terrifying reality for residents of a small town located on the great plains of Kansas.
In May 2007, a devastating category EF5 tornado effectively destroyed Greensberg, Kansas. The storm flattened about 95 percent of the town’s homes and businesses and left 11 people dead and more than 60 injured. Like many communities devastated by natural disasters, Greensberg residents were determined to rebuild. But instead of just recreating the rural farm town that existed just days prior, they decided instead to look toward the future. In the process, this small rural farm town of around 777 people has become a model of sustainability.
MORE: Meet John Fease. He’s Rebuilding a Downtrodden Texas Town, One House at a Time
At the first meeting after disaster struck, town-resident-turned-community-organizer Daniel Wallach proposed rebuilding the town as a “model green community,” according to USA Today. Then-mayor Lonnie McCollum and then-governor Kathleen Sebelius (current U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services) agreed, and before long most of the town’s citizens were on board. Eight short months after the tornado leveled the town, the Greensburg City Council adopted a resolution stating that all large public buildings must meet LEED-platinum standards and utilize renewable energy sources. Everything from the new City Hall to the Kiowa Memorial Hospital to the local John Deere dealership were redesigned and built as the sustainable ideal. But that was just the beginning.
The wind that always blows through Greensburg now powers the town, as turbines can be found on farms, in residential neighborhoods and throughout the business community — even at the aforementioned John Deere dealership. Also, a large wind farm sits just outside of town. Inspiringly, the town creates more than enough energy to power the community, and as such, sells its surplus back to the grid. The streetlamps that line the streets are all LED—reducing energy costs even more. And local businesses have thought up innovative ways to be even more sustainable — from Centerea Bank, which absorbs stormwater with its own bioswale (a landscape element) to the John Deere dealership, which stores waste oil to heat the business in the winter.
Greensburg is not only a model for sustainability, but it also serves as a resource,too: Officials consult with other towns that have been ravaged by disaster to help them consider greener ways to rebuild, as well as cities that are just looking for a more sustainable future.
In this situation, Greensburg discovered that the grass really is greener on the other side.
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