Good news Thursday: Program feeds thousands, Floral Heart Project brings closure to mourners

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New York woman leads food pantry

Sofia Moncayo, who leads a food distribution program through Mosaic West Queens Church in New York, speaks with a donation recipient. Moncayo and dozens of volunteers distribute more than 1,000 boxes of food to families twice a week. (AP Photo/Emily Leshner)

Sofia Moncayo and her group of volunteers start off their days shoveling snow, moving boxes and preparing food. Lines of people wait outside their food distribution center and after hours of preparation they pray and then feed the masses. Moncayo and the volunteers donate 1,000 boxes of food to families twice a week. The inspiration for the product came from her Christian background. Moncayo felt the need to help others was stronger than putting her own efforts first, even after being furloughed from her own job as a Broadway stage manager during the pandemic.

“I think helping others has to do something to your brain chemically because if we had not been doing everything that we’re doing, I think this would have been a much scarier time,” she told the Associated Press. “Being able to dig in and help others, it really gives you perspective and helps you believe that you’re going to be OK too.”

The majority of the food comes from donations from local restaurants and Farmers to Families Food Box Program overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She wanted to take the shame out of food donations, something she experienced as a child. Not only does helping others make her feel good, she hopes this makes others feel that their community cares about them. “One of the things that we wanted to make sure is that we don’t look at people on the pantry line as people that need food, and really focus on, ‘hey, these are our neighbors.’” 

Floral Heart Project expands nationwide

From left, Michelle Pepe, Lisa Post Mazerolle and Jill Federman hold photos of each of their fathers as they mourn. When artist Kristina Libby started the Floral Heart Project to give the survivors of COVID-19 victims places to mourn, she was thinking of people like these three woman who lost their fathers in April 2020 and who were unable to see them in their last moments. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Artist Kristina Libby began the Floral Heart Project early on in the pandemic. Her goal was to allow New Yorkers opportunities to mourn when they could not attend traditional funerals for their loved ones. The large heart shaped floral arrangements would sit on sidewalks across the city in places like Washington Square Park and Central Park so that people could take a moment and reflect. Now her project is expanding across the nation and allowing others to heal as well. 

Michelle Pepe, Lisa Post Mazerolle and Jill Federman all lost their fathers to COVID-19 in April of last year. The hospitals did not allow family visits at the time, so they were left to mourn without saying goodbye. Pepe watched her father’s funeral over a video call as she cared for her mother who was also ill from COVID-19. The three women went together to visit the three memorials set up in the Boston metro area. They held photos of their fathers and placed yellow roses in the arrangements, hugging and finding closure.

For these women and the hundreds of thousands affected by the 500,000 lives lost to COVID-19 in the United States, memorials like the Floral Heart Project have been a way to feel community outreach and unity. “It’s just so precious that Kristina thought to do this … and all of these volunteers, to memorialize our dads,” Pepe told the Associated Press. “They deserve it.”

Cat comes home after 15 years

Brandy, a brown tabby cat, reunited with her owner, Charles, after she went astray for 15 years. The brown tabby was found Sunday in Palmdale, about a half-hour’s drive from where he lives (Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control via AP).

Fifteen years ago Brandy, a brown tabby cat, ran away from her owner Charles. Charles, who only gave his first name to the Associated Press, lost Brandy in 2005 when she was a kitten and despite signs put up and a chip implanted, she was nowhere to be found. Charles assumed she became a stray or was killed by coyotes. But 15 years later he received a call from the Los Angeles County animal shelter in Palmdale 40 miles from his home in the San Fernando Valley. They notified him that a cat they found had a chip implanted that had Charles’ number. 

Skeptical yet hopeful, Charles visited the animal shelter to find Brandy, now 15 years older, scrawny, malnourished and with nails so long they were wounding her paws. But upon seeing her again, she transformed to the same calm and kind kitten Charles adopted over a decade ago. “I saw her, I picked her up and she started to purr and it was very emotional,” Charles told the Associated Press. “It was nice to have her in my arms again.″ Brandy now lives with Charles’ sister and though she may not be as energetic as she used to be, she is content and purring often.  

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