It wasn't all bad
January 15, 2021

Artist John Deckert has found a way to honor frontline workers, one portrait at a time.

While working from his home in Santa Rosa, California, he started thinking about the essential workers who did not have this same luxury. Deckert got out his paint, brushes, and canvas, and first painted a deliveryman, followed by his mailman and a cashier.

Now, Deckert is focused on painting the nurses at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. He asked emergency room nurse Sheila Smith for photos of her colleagues, which he uses as inspirations for each one of his portraits. Once he is finished with a painting, Deckert gives it to his subject as a gift. Smith told NBC Bay Area her portrait is "one of my most prized possessions now" and is "a bright light in a really hard season of being a nurse."

Deckert said the portraits are an acknowledgment of the hard work and sacrifice shown by frontline workers, and a way for him to say thanks. "You shared what skill you have," he told NBC Bay Area, "and I shared mine." Catherine Garcia

January 15, 2021

A new year brought new life with the birth of an endangered Indian rhinoceros at Poland's Wroclaw Zoo.

The calf, a female, was born Jan. 6 to Maruska, 7, and Manas, 11. "Maruska, a first-time mom, behaves wonderfully," Wroclaw Zoo President Radoslaw Ratajszczak said. "She looks after her daughter, allows her to nurse, and is very delicate, despite weighing more than two tons."

In the 1970s, the species was almost extinct. Thanks to conservation efforts and a protection program, there are now more than 3,600 Indian rhinos, with about 170 living in zoos. The Indian rhinoceros can weigh up to 3 tons, and primarily eats grass, twigs, and leaves. Catherine Garcia

January 14, 2021

They last saw each other 65 years ago, but to Frederick Paul and Florence Harvey, it felt like no time had passed.

During their teens, Paul, 84, and Harvey, 81, courted. In 1955, Paul left their hometown of Wandsworth, Newfoundland, thinking he'd be gone for a short time. He found work in Toronto, though, and when he came back after more than a year, Paul learned that Harvey was now in St. John's, enrolled in a teaching course.

If not for their brothers who live in the same retirement home, Paul and Harvey would have never reconnected decades later. Last February, Harvey was visiting her brother when he slipped her Paul's phone number. She had been married for 57 years before her husband died three years earlier, and Paul had been married to his wife for 60 years until her death in 2019. Harvey knew Paul would be lonely, and gave him a call.

Soon, they were spending hours on the phone with each other nearly every day, reminiscing about their courtship. It turns out Paul lived 10 minutes away from Harvey's son, and in June, she came for a visit. When she arrived, "I knew right away that she had taken my heart back again," Paul told CBC News.

Harvey felt the same way, saying "there was still something there after all those years." Within days, they were discussing marriage, and on Aug. 8, they wed in a small, family-only ceremony. "We told our kids, you know, we're 81 and we're 84, and we don't have all that much time and we know what we want," Paul said. Right before Harvey's visit, Paul was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and he told CBC News he's fighting hard because he has "the incentive of a love in my life." Catherine Garcia

January 13, 2021

The day Marvin walked up her driveway and made himself at home, Meagan Frederick knew it was finally time to realize her dream of owning a goat.

"I kind of took it as a sign that the universe was saying, 'This is your goat,'" Frederick, a New York resident, told Good Morning America. She believes Marvin originally lived at a summer camp, and was then abandoned in the woods. Once he was settled, Frederick and her husband started putting up fencing and building structures in order to open a larger goat sanctuary.

This was seven years ago, and today, the Frederick Farm Goat Rescue and Sanctuary is home to eight goats, lots of chickens, and several dogs. From the start, Marvin enjoyed snuggling with Frederick, and she told GMA he "just loves connection and he loves attention."

The sanctuary is open to the public, although because of the pandemic it is only offering virtual visits and tours to small groups. Frederick said as people watch and play with the goats, they get to see how smart and curious and playful they are, giving them new perspectives on farm animals. "That's a gift that I'm able share them in that way with people," she said. Catherine Garcia

January 12, 2021

Nelson Mendonca wouldn't be where he is today had he not learned to knit.

Mendonca lives in British Columbia, and for two decades he struggled through a cycle of drug addiction and incarceration. While in prison, he joined a knitting program, and learned how to make beanies. The hats were distributed to the homeless, and upon his release last July, Mendonca knew he wanted to continue providing beanies for people in need.

As he learned how to knit, Mendonca realized that he couldn't cut corners — he had to follow every step "one at a time, over and over again," he told CNN. He found the process calming, and being able to create something from scratch to give to someone else "sparked joy in me that I have never felt before in my life," Mendonca said.

He has since started a knitting group at the Phoenix Society, an integrated addiction services center in British Columbia. There are 10 members, and the men have knitted more than 200 beanies to donate to homeless shelters. "Our knitting group has helped me by keeping my mind busy and giving me a sense of community," member Michael Prokopchuk told CNN. "I've connected with everybody in our looming group and have learned some quality life lessons from sharing with the group during my time here." Catherine Garcia

January 11, 2021

Through Community Loaves, home bakers in Seattle are able to keep the shelves of local food banks filled with nutritious and delicious homemade bread.

Katherine Kehrli runs Community Loaves, a network of volunteer bakers. Twice a month, participants whip up batches of the group's signature honey oat bread, with the loaves then given to Hopelink, a nonprofit agency that runs food banks in the Seattle area. Community Loaves started small, with just a few bakers delivering 19 loaves to Hopelink. Today, there are nearly 500 bakers, with the group recently donating 1,300 loaves in one day.

Over the holidays, the bakers branched out, donating thousands of dinner rolls and nearly 4,000 pecan finger cookies. The project has "restored my faith in the collective good that we can actually do," Kehrli told Today. "And it restores my faith that we can be more self-determined even in the face of the pandemic."

Baker Sarah Gannholm found a way to connect with her father while volunteering with Community Loaves. She told Today she bought her dad a stand mixer and bread pans, and instructed him via video conferencing on how to bake the honey oat bread. "It just seemed like a natural thing for us to get on Zoom and do this together, and all of a sudden he's giving back to a community in a way that he's never done in his life," Gannholm said. Catherine Garcia

January 6, 2021

The year 2021 got off to a good start for the workers at Miami Squeeze.

On New Year's Day, a regular customer came into the North Miami Beach juice bar and health food restaurant and placed a $71.84 breakfast order. When she signed her receipt, she left a $2,021 tip plus a note: "Happy New Year!!! Always love coming here."

Kelly Amar, whose parents have owned Miami Squeeze for 35 years, told The Miami Herald this is "the biggest tip we've ever gotten by far. This blows out anything we've ever gotten." The customer requested that the tip be split among everyone who works at Miami Squeeze, which resulted in each employee receiving almost $100. "It was a really special moment," Amar said.

While business is doing better now than it was during the beginning of the pandemic, Miami Squeeze is still a long way from fully recovering, and the customer's generosity made a big difference in the lives of employees. "This was her way of giving back and this really helps us because this has been a really hard year for all of us," Amar said. Catherine Garcia

January 5, 2021

Khiley Braxton celebrated her 10th birthday by launching her own business.

The Long Beach, California, resident and her family were going to take a trip in June for her milestone birthday, but the getaway was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Khiley's mom, Khrystle Braxton, told ABC 7 Los Angeles that after talking with her daughter, she decided to use the vacation money to help Khiley realize her dream of starting a nail polish company.

Khiley is now the owner and CEO of Sissy B. Nails. The company offers 18 different nail polish colors, with Khiley personally naming each one herself. All of the kid-friendly polishes are water-based, as well as scent-free and toxin-free. The nail polishes are sold online, plus at a salon in Long Beach. Khiley told ABC 7 she's a new entrepreneur, but has already learned a very valuable lesson about business: "If you never give up and you don't shut down, you can be very successful." Catherine Garcia

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