ORANGE PARK, Fla. - When it comes to making a difference in the lives of others, we each have a calling. For Rodney Smith, of Huntsville, Alabama, a healthy yard and a good cut go a long way.
“I’ve met so many veterans, and so many of them tell me they love a freshly mowed lawn,” Smith said. “Many of them are not physically able to do it anymore. So when I can come work for them, it means a lot to them.”
Since founding Raising Men Lawn Care Service in 2015, Smith has traveled to all 50 states several times over. He has mowed more than 2,600 lawns along the way. This week, he made his way to Clay County.
Donice Johnson served in the United States Army for more than 20 years, including two years in the Persian Gulf War. She now lives in Orange Park and received a free lawn mow Thursday morning. You could say fate had a hand in bringing them together.
“Actually, almost everyone on my street is a veteran. I had nominated someone else, and in return, I am now getting my yard done,” Johnson said. “So it’s a great, awesome opportunity. I had the pleasure of not only meeting him but supporting him in this journey that he’s doing.”
It’s a journey that doesn’t end with veterans. Smith has mowed lawns for the elderly, single mothers and the disabled free of charge. And the mission is not limited to the United States. It’s gone global.
Smith also aims to inspire younger generations. Through his group, he created the 50 Yard Challenge, where kids from all over mow 50 lawns for people in those groups, including veterans. Right now, more than 300 kids worldwide are working toward that challenge. More than 40 in the U.S. have completed it.
For those who have served, this seemingly small gesture is anything but. Johnson fought back tears as she shared her gratitude at Smith’s kindness.
“It’s just a big deal for veterans to be acknowledged for what they’ve been through,” Johnson said. “I just appreciate, especially when he’s dealing with the world war veterans and the Vietnam veterans … those who really didn’t get the appreciation they deserved when they came home.”
While Smith has found his own way to serve others, he hopes to inspire us all to give back.
“If you see a veteran outside paying for their gas, pay for their gas. If they’re buying food, say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ and buy their food,” Smith said. “Let’s appreciate them while they’re here.”
To nominate someone for a free lawn service, or if your child is interested in accepting the 50 Yard Challenge, you can find more information at weareraisingmen.com, on the group's Facebook page or on the group's Instagram page.
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