Features Kindness in Action

Volunteers to the Rescue

Ray Preziosi is a cinematographer in the motion picture industry. But when a house is on fire in his town of Rosendale, New York, he exchanges his light meter for a firehose. Preziosi is a volunteer firefighter.

Bill Malone is an administrator and adjunct science and math professor at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. But when one of his neighbors in the Long Island village of Malverne, New York, is having a heart attack, he swaps his calculator for a defibrillator. Malone is a volunteer emergency medical technician (EMT).

In both cases, the operative word is “volunteer.”

While big cities have full-time, career first responders who are paid with tax dollars, most suburban and rural communities rely completely on unpaid personnel for both fire and ambulance services. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 67 percent of first responders in the United States are volunteers.

Preziosi has been one for 46 years. Even as a child, he gravitated toward fire service. He tricked out his bicycle by attaching a shampoo bottle to act as a fire extinguisher and a garden hose to act as a fire hose. When his father dropped a cigarette butt on the ground, Preziosi would “respond” to the “fire” by hopping on his bike in the garage, rushing to the spigot, connecting the hose, and putting out the cigarette butt.

Preziosi joined the North Massapequa Fire Department on Long Island at age 22 and served for 22 years, until he relocated to Southern California in 1997. During his four years there, there was no volunteer department for him to join. Preziosi recalled watching the fire department in Arcadia, California, screeching through an intersection, doing what he’s done countless times. “I practically burst into tears,” he said.

Malone is in his 45th year of volunteer service. While most departments combine fire and ambulance, Malverne has two separate units. He decided to join the ambulance corps at age 18, in 1976. He was inspired to join (in part) because “Emergency!,” a popular television series at the time, glorified first responders.

45-year-veteran-volunteer Bill Malone. (Dave Paone)

Volunteer fire departments on Long Island have been around for 100 years. Almost the entire time, they’ve been one big boys’ club. That’s changing. Kelli Maher and Kiara Santos, both college students, recently joined the one in South Hempstead, New York. Maher is a full-fledged EMT and a firefighter-in-training, called a “probie.” A short time ago, female volunteer firefighters on Long Island didn’t exist.

Santos and Maher have known each other since they were toddlers. Both their fathers are firefighters, and they played with the other children of volunteers at department picnics and Christmas parties when they were little.

For Santos, who’s also an EMT and a firefighter probie, volunteering is a true family affair. She’s the third generation to do so, as her grandfather was a member of the Valley Stream, New York, Fire Department, and her brother is a member of the South Hempstead one as well. It’s pretty much the same thing for Maher. Her younger brother joined South Hempstead this summer, her father is a life member and fire commissioner of the district, and she’s dating the department’s lieutenant.

The recurring theme among young volunteers is that their fathers set an example. “Ever since I was little, my dad’s always instilled in me and my brothers—and even friends that we brought around—always do the right thing, to help people, see-something-do-something type stuff, and I just thought the fire department was a great example of that,” said Maher.

Every volunteer understands that service is a solid commitment. That means if they sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, and a call comes in, they have to drop what they’re doing and go. They understand this, as do their spouses. Only once in Malone’s 40 years of marriage did he receive a call while being intimate with his wife.

As a first responder, there’s the emotional toll of the job. Malone uses a defense mechanism to distance himself from the pain and suffering that’s literally in his hands.

“I kind of look at them as they’re patients, they’re a task at hand, that I have to take care of, and then I move on from there,” he said. “As cold and heartless as that sounds, that’s the way you have to do it.” Malone said there were times “I came home and I cried myself to sleep,” but that number is very small. (As of July 11, Malone has been on 7,479 calls since his first day.)

Then there’s the physical toll. Malone has had seven herniated discs over the years from lifting (often overweight) patients onto stretchers.

Sometimes, volunteer service leads to a paid career. Chad Ayotte volunteered as a firefighter in Palm Desert, California, at age 18. He was about to graduate high school and knew college wasn’t for him. He was raised by his single mom, and not having a father led him to be a wild child.

Ayotte describes his captain at the time as “militaristic, […] demand[ing] a lot out of his volunteers”—which was precisely the discipline Ayotte needed in order to return to the straight and narrow. He volunteered for four years. He knew this was the job for him and is currently in his ninth year of service as a paid employee. At the time, the Palm Desert fire department had the rare combination of both volunteer and paid members, so he made the transition within the same department.

The number of volunteers in the country is dwindling. For decades, Malverne had EMTs on call 24-seven. Malone said that when he started in 1976, there were 60 or 70 active volunteers. He said now, that number is eight or nine, so when there’s no one available to respond, the village relies on a nearby medical center. At this rate, the number will fall to zero, at least in Malverne.

“That time, I think, is kind of fast approaching,” said Malone with a sigh. Americans can take comfort in knowing that there are hundreds of thousands of volunteers who will respond in their time of need.

At least for now.

Dave Paone is a Long Island-based reporter and photographer who has won journalism awards for articles, photographs, and headlines. When he’s not writing and photographing, he’s catering to every demand of his cat, Gigi.

Features Generation to Generation Giving Back Kindness in Action Small Farms

Building Beautiful Friendships, One Cup at a Time

Tea has always been a part of the Stowe family. What initially started as a traveling tearoom in 2011, bringing tea and baked goods to families all over Middle Tennessee and parts of Alabama, has transformed into what is now a physical tearoom on a 68-acre farm in Campbellsville, Tennessee. Three Sisters Tearoom is run by Jennifer Stowe and her three daughters, Julia, Andrea, and Meredith.

The Stowes would drive in the family car and set up base at various sites, including local senior centers, nursing homes, and libraries, to bring tea and cookies to local communities. The family would organize discussions about the history of tea, teach patrons about the different kinds of tea, and offer tea tastings.

The girls enjoying a cup of tea outside their Airstream camper trailer in 2011. (Courtesy of the Stowes)

Three Sisters Tearoom

After the family’s barn burned down in 2014, they had the idea of rebuilding and transforming the place into a physical tearoom. “We just thought maybe we didn’t need to travel so much bringing tea to people—we could have them come to us,” said Jennifer, mother to the three girls. Despite sitting on a large farm, the tearoom itself is tiny, with maximum indoor seating accommodating up to 20 guests at any one time. Weather permitting, there are an additional eight seats outdoors. “Six years on, that little tearoom has been home to all of our events and gave our traveling tearoom a home,” said Julia.

The three sisters: Andrea, Julia, and Meredith. (Courtesy of the Stowes)

All three sisters have a role in the tearoom, from greeting guests, to baking the numerous sweet treats on offer, to washing dishes after a long day of entertaining guests. “Meredith was only six when the tearoom first opened. She was our greeter and just hugged everybody! And a lot of our clients are seniors, some of them widowed, so it meant a lot to them, getting a hug from a little girl,” Jennifer told me.

Jennifer’s second daughter, Andrea, is responsible for the analytical and organizational aspects of the family business, like filling out the spreadsheets, scheduling, sending newsletters, and other administrative duties. Julia oversees the baking. “She has mastered the scones. We have our signature lavender white chocolate scones, which she makes so well with lemon curd,” said Andrea. The youngest sister, Meredith, still greets all the clients, even at the age of 13. She also irons all the tablecloths.

Julia’s famous lavender white chocolate scones. (Courtesy of the Stowes)

Operating a family business has its advantages. Jennifer said if she didn’t have the chance to run the tearoom with her daughters, she probably wouldn’t run one at all. “For me, it’s really the best situation. I get to do something that I love, express creativity, extend hospitality, and work with my most favorite people in the world.” The tearoom simply serves as an extension of the Stowe family home, and this translates into the domestic comfort and warmth it provides to its patrons.

The most important part of running a tearoom is building a community, Julia told me. “It’s very much a place to build friendships, and seeing people through the years who were strangers now become very dear friends, both with us and each other, is a treasured aspect of having a tearoom.”

A Place of Deep Friendship and Community

The tearoom served an important role to the local community after the pandemic lockdown restrictions were lifted. “Mom brought a lot of joy into their lives,” said Meredith. “It was just a time for them to come and enjoy peace, and spend time with people after being home for so long.”

Jennifer explained that a lot of women who visit her tearoom have suffered many heartbreaks and tragedies, whether that be losing their husbands, jobs, or other family members. However, the tearoom offers them much-needed solace and friendship.

One of the most touching aspects is the uniting of patrons, regardless of age or experience. “When you see a senior and young adult who just find similar passions and can converse about it, that, to me, is just amazing,” said Meredith.

Three Sisters Tearoom patrons share many smiles around the tea table. (Courtesy of the Stowes)

The tearoom also offers events, one of their popular ones being their Afternoon Tea Flight, which involves learning about a different country each month. “We enjoy tea the way they would have it, and we eat their food,” said Jennifer. The owners provide a small presentation on the origin of the tea, along with cultural aspects like music, food, and even the use of incense. The tea flight starts from China, continuing all the way through Europe, and eventually landing in the United States. Each attendee receives a little passport and gets a stamp for every Tea Flight attended. Jennifer said it offers customers the opportunity to experience different cultures, something they may never have gotten the chance to encounter coming from a small town.

They have even featured yak butter tea, a popular beverage in the Himalayas of Central Asia, particularly in Tibet. This drink was traditionally drunk by the Tibetan people of the North to provide energy and to keep warm in the harsh winters.

Literary tea events are another community favorite, where, according to their website, ladies of all ages are invited to join book discussions over delicious cream teas. The event features a perfectly curated, themed menu that reflects the essence of the book.

Fresh Produce Straight From the Farm

Three Sisters Tearoom uses locally produced ingredients in all the items on its menu, including eggs, greens, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, rhubarb, peppers, and even fruit. The family grows just about everything on its 68-acre farm.

Andrea tending to her tomato plants on the family farm. (Courtesy of the Stowes)

The family also owns many animals, including chickens (for meat and eggs), ducks, and a small herd of Highland cattle (for milk and meat), as well as a few dogs and cats.

The tearoom is sometimes closed for a week or two during the height of summer, when the garden is bursting with fresh produce. This allows the family to finish canning and processing the food and to get ready to open again the following week.

Looking to the Future

Over the years, the Stowes have brought much joy to the lives of everyone they have encountered. They grew from a simple traveling tearoom to building a beautiful paradise for the local community to visit and relax in. But their journey doesn’t end here. The family has plenty of exciting plans for the future, from organizing tea talks on the road to taking their love for tea into classrooms, libraries, and historic homes in the form of educational classes and lectures.

Jennifer has also written many titles and tea-themed books, like “Book of Days: An Artful Guide to Life-Long Learning,” “Afternoon Tea: Rhymes for Children,” “Infused: Tea Time in Fine Art,” and “Wee Bites and Nibbles: Manners and Menus for the Tiniest Tea Drinkers.” Her daughter, Julia, is a graphic designer and frequently aids in the artistic production of the books.

The family’s old barn was repurposed into a tearoom. (Courtesy of the Stowes)

Other short-term plans involve planting more perennials to liven up the grounds, building a courtyard garden, and building an outdoor room where they can serve tea and host more people.

Outside of the tearoom, the girls share their admiration for tea with their friends in college and while traveling. “It draws people and builds relationships, even outside of the tearoom business,” commented Andrea.

“Our tearoom is certainly very dear to my heart,” said Julia. “And whatever different paths it may take in the future, it will still be part of our lives in some way.”

Entrepreneurs Features Giving Back Kindness in Action

‘Don’t Forget the Poor’

Children play outside their house in Colonia de Carton in Piedras Negras, Mexico, on July 8, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Sky Cross is a nonprofit, strictly volunteer-led charity organization that operates along the Texas–Mexico border. Its mission is to provide food, clothing, medicine, and first-aid supplies to impoverished children, families, and orphanages. The organization works closely with missionaries of various denominations who offer education to the poor, primarily in Mexico, in substandard villages called colonias, which lack basic living conditions such as running water, sewers, and electricity.

The organization was founded in 1995 by retired U.S. Air Force Col. Terry Bliquez and his wife, Kathy. David Young serves as the current president, having been a board member and mission pilot since 1998. Before that, Young worked for the Civil Air Patrol (part of the U.S. Air Force), another nonprofit organization, which performs search-and-rescue missions.

When Bliquez first discussed Sky Cross’s mission with Young, it sparked a keen interest. Young would often accompany Bliquez on aid missions to the U.S.–Mexico border to deliver clothing, medicine, and nonperishable food to the needy. Together, they flew multiple times to migrant centers and orphanages, such as those in Nuevo Progreso, Mexico, and Matamoros, which is across the river from Brownsville, Texas.

Young said Sky Cross used to dispense secondhand clothing as well, but those deliveries have slowed down exponentially due to the pandemic. The organization has, however, distributed about 15,000 masks and more than 600 gallons of hand sanitizer across the migrant communities it serves.

The Importance of Helping the Needy

David Young, president of Sky Cross, unloads boxes of masks from his aircraft in Eagle Pass, Texas, on July 8, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

“The primary purpose of Sky Cross is to help provide food for the needy people, the poor on the other side of the border—they’re very, very poor. Many of them come up to the border hoping to be able to come across, and they end up being in the colonias on the border, such as the one in Matamoros,” Young said.

Years ago, people in colonias such as Matamoros would dig holes in the ground, scavenge coverings for the holes, and live in the burrows. Young remembers “being over there one time and looking at what they had on a grill that they were cooking outside—it was fish heads that they had scrounged for,” he said. “I was amazed that people could even survive with that type of food.”

Sky Cross delivers nonperishable food in the form of beans, rice, cornflour, noodles, and more. “I feel like God has placed in my heart a love for the poor and for their plight,” Young said, after being asked why the mission at Sky Cross resonated with him so deeply. “It’s such a blessing to me personally to go out and be amongst these people and, with my resources, be able to help them live a better life.”

Young said that when he was growing up, his parents instilled in him a deep desire to dedicate time and effort to helping those in need. “My dad was a homebuilder, and he would donate his time to work around the church. He had me help paint the back end of a church building one time—it demanded stacking scaffolding because it was so tall. He and I donated our time and efforts to that when I was just a 14- or 15-year-old boy. My father enjoyed giving himself to the community, and that carried over to me.”

Making a Difference in the Lives of the Poor

Children play outside their home in Colonia de Carton in Piedras Negras, Mexico, on July 8, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Through donations, Sky Cross also helped the Matamoros colonia develop to a point when residents could build a school. To support efforts like this, the Mexican government will provide water and electricity once a school is built, in turn helping the colonia become a sustainable community.

Many children in poverty-stricken communities such as Matamoros suffer from malnutrition. According to Young, children’s hair will often show signs of this. “Normally it would be black, but they would have red streaks in their hair, which was showing that they were not getting good nutrition. With time, those red streaks went away,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be able to do that and witness that as time goes on.” For Young, results like these are important, highlighting the difference Sky Cross makes in the lives of needy children.

Young said that his time at the organization is completely voluntary. Nobody who works there is a paid staff member, and 100 percent of the donations go straight to helping the poor. Young’s personal assets, including airplanes, fuel, and other equipment, are also put to charitable use for the organization, transporting volunteers to the border.

Aside from filling his role as president at Sky Cross, Young serves as a board member for a school in northwestern Peru that has 200 students. Together with his wife and family, he also helps more than a dozen children at any given time along the Texas–Mexico border. The Youngs provide money each month to keep those children in school rather than out scavenging the dangerous fields in search of food and money.

“We sent a couple on to the university; one of them became a dentist and came back. They are now practicing within one of the colonias there in Mexico,” Young said.

Sky Cross helps upwards of 30,000 people each year. It has supported six orphanages and helped build clinics in several Mexican colonias along the Texas border, providing quick access to medical care for families in need. “We’ve built a school in Nuevo Progreso where they would train the women to sew and work on computers. We have seen the results of that, to where the people will get out of the cycle of poverty and actually begin to have the skills to go out and earn a living,” Young said.

Physically Poor but Spiritually Rich

Through his time volunteering for Sky Cross, Young has learned many important life lessons—especially about how the needy can find happiness in the midst of their poverty. “The children are especially amazing to me. They can take a simple ball and have fun with that and laugh and enjoy life because they don’t want anything else. And what spoke to me is that some of the things we take for granted in our own society are more precious to them,” Young said.

“What I have learned in doing what I do is that the poor will find joy, and have more faith in their poverty than a lot of people that have all the things they would want in life. We in America need to understand that even the poorest of us are probably richer than 95 percent of the world. We place too much emphasis on the material things in life and not enough on the spiritual.”

A Love of Learning Features Giving Back Kindness in Action Reading

‘I Am Here for a Purpose’—Exonerated After 27 Years, John Bunn Gives Back Through Literacy

John Bunn (Samira Bouaou)

Wrongly convicted and incarcerated at the age of 14, John Bunn has endured many struggles from a young age. Born and raised in Brownsville, New York City, to a single mother of three, Bunn had to learn to fend for himself without much guidance. Having lost his father before he was born, he spent the majority of his teenage life without the support of any male figures.

“In the environment I grew up in, the males would come around to exploit, not to come around with love and affection,” he said. 

‘I Grew Up in Prison’

Bunn was forced to spend 17 years of his life behind bars, in an environment devoid of sympathy.

“It was predator-prey. If they [prisoners] felt you got a weakness, they took advantage of you,” he said.

He spent a further 10 years on parole, fighting for his innocence.

Before he was arrested and taken into prison, Bunn struggled with illiteracy; which only escalated while he was incarcerated.

“When they had me on trial, they told me to write down any questions I had. I couldn’t write down anything. I didn’t know how to express myself. That was the most trapped and embarrassing feeling you can ever imagine,” he said, breaking into a sob. 

With the help of teachers, he finally learned how to read and write by the age of 16. It changed the course of his life. 

“It made me stronger. It made me feel like I could fight for my life,” he said. Learning how to read and write is what drove Bunn to later go on to become a facilitator of an anger management program while in prison. From there, he met many other young men struggling with the challenges of illiteracy. “And I would talk to them about my illiteracy issues. And I told them that this was not something to be ashamed of,” he said.

The Unheard

Today, Bunn is the founder of and helps bring positivity into communities, schools, houses, and prisons of New York City.

Meeting other young men struggling with illiteracy was the driving point that led him to found his literacy program after being exonerated.

In 2017, it initially started as a book drive aimed at refurbishing the libraries at Rikers Island and providing under-resourced communities with educational literature, according to the program website.

Today, the program also offers roleplaying activities to at-risk youth where they’re tasked with group interactions. “We put individuals in real-life scenarios and give them the option to put themselves in other people’s shoes. We try to make them think before making decisions. This is what we call consequential thinking,” Bunn said.

Finding His Passion

The program began during Bunn’s nearly 12 years on parole.

“It [parole] put my life in a limbo state. I knew I was innocent. Everybody knew I was innocent. And that’s what I was fighting for,” he said. While still waiting for a final decision to be made on his conviction, Bunn channeled that restlessness into something positive.

“I needed to put my energy into something more progressive,” he said. “A voice for the unheardI don’t even know when it became the whole phrase, but it always represented me and what I felt inside my spirit.” 

After suffering many setbacks and losing out on the prime years of his life while stuck in prison, Bunn refocused his attention on helping others who may be at risk of getting ensnared in the prison system.

“Where I come from,” Bunn said, “we don’t have too many role models. So my message is, if you don’t have anybody to show you the way, you make your own way. Don’t let that be the reason to discourage you from going forward. And that’s what I stand for. And that’s what we stand for.”

John Bunn visiting a school in NYC. (Samira Bouaou)

Making Positivity Cool for Kids

Part of Bunn’s mission is passing his positivity on to others. “The greatest champions have to go through adversities for them to have the empathy to deal with the world from a different perspective,” Bunn said.

“Our main message is about making positivity cool,” he tells me about his organization. He said that in today’s world, children are vulnerable to absorbing harmful messages from the media they consume. A lot of music nowadays romanticizes being tough, drugs, skipping school, and gang culture. But “that’s not real life,” Bunn says. His organization advocates for changing this narrative so that kids begin associating positivity with coolness. 

A Voice 4 the Unheard not only provides prisons and schools with an abundance of literature but also offers numerous resources and networking opportunities to young people and children from underprivileged backgrounds.

“There’s a lack of resources in these communities, and we want to open them up to other resources that they may not know we have available today,” Bunn said. One of the ways the organization is working to bring resources closer to disadvantaged students is by building a network with other nonprofits and educational groups. 

George Garber, who works alongside Bunn as one of the core members of the organization, says, “We’re working on creating a student portal on our website where kids could go and connect with other local nonprofits to fulfill their passions, whether that would be music, poetry, art, or the environment.” 

The team has many future projects in mind, such as building a kids’ center to provide students with a safe physical location to study and access certain educational materials that may not be readily available in their immediate communities.

“A safe place where they can feel like it’s cool to learn at,” Bunn said. 

Features Kindness in Action

Twelve Old Dogs and Hugs for Life

Sally was a Dutch Shepherd dog who arrived at Laurie Dorr’s Finally Home Senior Dog Rescue and Retirement Home in North Yarmouth, Maine, in 2019. Her owner was moving and was unable to keep her. At age 14, Sally would have been destined to live in a cage at a shelter, but the owner found Laurie’s rescue service instead.

Laurie remembers sleeping on the living room couch, with Sally lying on a dog bed next to her, keeping her company for five days until the dog could readjust to her new home. “Sally cried all night because she was away from her owner,” Laurie said. “Sally slept on the floor, right there, and I slept on the couch. I had my arm on her for part of the night. She was very sad.”

Sally passed away a year later, but Laurie helped make her last year a happy one. Finally Home has eight dogs now, most of them between 11  and 14. There are labradors, coonhounds, a diminutive Jack Russel terrier, and even an Australian Shepherd.

Laurie Dorr was raised in Falmouth, Maine, and has had a passionate sympathy for elderly dogs since she was a child. Sometime around the age of 12, she decided that one day she would take care of dogs during the last years of their life—a time when too many of them are abandoned by their owners.

In 2019, she took the leap and started Finally Home from her spacious saltbox house in North Yarmouth. The dogs live in the house and roam freely, from floor to dog bed to couch and then to their fenced-in section of her yard. They even have their own above-ground swimming pool.

Laurie Dorr takes in elderly dogs and gives them a home. (Peter Falkenberg Brown)

Dorr is working hard to raise money to add a new room for the dogs to the house and increase her canine residents to a maximum of 12. She emphasized that she’s not running a typical shelter, where the animals stay in crates most of the time. Finally Home really is their home, and for that reason, she’s limiting the growth of the venture, even though she receives more than 50 requests per year to take in more dogs.

The money that Dorr raises goes entirely to the support of the dogs. She has established a 501(c)3, tax-exempt nonprofit and has gained the support of local banks and individuals. She takes no salary and supports herself as a professional proofreader, with added income from her husband Bob’s position at Bath Iron Works.

Taking care of elderly dogs is an expensive process. Between vet bills, medications, food, and accouterments, Finally Home’s budget is around $12,000 per year. After expanding to 12 dogs, Dorr calculates that expenditures will increase to $20,000 annually. The extra room for the dogs may come at a cost as high as $50,000 due to rising construction costs.

One of her goals is to raise enough money for Finally Home to give grants to owners of elderly dogs so that they can pay for each dog’s medical bills—and allow the owners to keep them. Many dog owners can’t afford the hefty vet bills incurred by older dogs at the end of their lives and are thus forced to take the pets to animal shelters.

In spite of the need for constant fundraising, Dorr is optimistic and intensely grateful for the opportunity to love a dozen old dogs who might otherwise be staring at the inside of a cage. She loves her dogs, and as I watched them greet me at the gate with tails wagging at the sight of the treats in my hand, I could tell that her brood of canines loves her too.

For more information about Finally Home, visit To help build her new dog room, go to

Peter Falkenberg Brown is a writer, author, and public speaker. One of his recent books is titled “Waking Up Dead and Confused Is a Terrible Thing: Stories of Love, Life, Death, and Redemption.” He hosts a video and podcast channel called “Love, Freedom, & the World” at his website

Features Kindness in Action

A Company That Gives Back

When Professional Janitorial Services (PJS) Houston Operations Manager Jamie Flores learned an employee was struggling to fund her aging mother’s root canal and bridge due to a lack of dental insurance coverage, he immediately began to search for resources and landed on El Centro de Corazon (El Centro), which offers low or no cost urgent medical and dental care, ESL classes, and legal services.

“Everybody needs help and it’s okay to ask for help,” Flores said in an interview. “We want to continue to provide our employees with not only a good job that pays a fair wage but also with resources out there that they might not know about. The last I heard was that the mom did go to an appointment at El Centro de Corazon and is waiting to see the specialist.”

Co-founded by Brent Southwell, PJS Houston is a commercial janitorial company that maintains more than 300 accounts in about 40 million square feet of buildings with some 1,400 employees. Last year, PJS Houston donated $10,000 to the non profit, El Centro, which is located in East downtown Houston.

“It’s an organization that PJS not only supports financially but is also involved in their community outreach,” Flores said. “Occasionally, they need a tent, water, or oscillating fans and we can provide that to make sure their events are more successful for them.”

The next El Centro event is a food drive in September for families in need who have kids returning to school.

“We put out ads or we advertise about the event weeks before and place collection booths and containers throughout the city,” Flores said. “We like to partner up with buildings that we clean for and get permission from the property manager to set up not only collection boxes but also the signage. That makes it easier for us to know where the donation stations are, to go pick them up and deliver to Centro de Corazon.”

El Centro is just one charity that PJS Houston is committed to supporting.

Prior to the pandemic, the Houston Area Women’s Center on Waugh Drive, which caters to battered and abused women, hosted a toy drive that PJS Houston assisted with. Although the event was cancelled last year due to COVID-19, the toy drive will resume in October, according to Flores.

“In 2019, we had so much participation internally from our employees who donated toys that we didn’t have to go out and put collection boxes up,” he said.

Last year, Flores was one of 10 PJS Houston employees who participated in the Virtual Lemon Climb, which raised $6,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a financial hub for parents whose children have cancer to assist in securing expense money while they undergo treatment.

“Our involvement in these various organizations stems from us wanting to partner with our employees and not necessarily with a particular organization or cause but just our employees,” Flores said. “When we talk to our employees and learn about their situation, both socially and economically, they often reference their go-to organizations and we try to support those organizations.”

PJS Houston was connected with Alex’s Lemonade Stand through a janitorial customer whose 4-year-old cousin died of cancer lymphoma, “This client actually is a founding member for the Houston chapter of Alex’s Lemonade Stand,” Flores added. “It’s unfortunate that organizations like Alex’s Lemonade Stand exist but it’s also a great thing because it gives people relief in an already stressful situation.”

Juliette Fairley has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, TheStreet, Time magazine, the Chicago City Wire, the Austin-American Statesman, and many other publications across the country.