Jay Reeves/AP
In Huntsville, Ala., a volunteer with Raising Men Lawn Care Service finishes cutting the lawn of an elderly homeowner for free. Founded last year, the service provides free yard care for older residents, those who are disabled, single mothers, and veterans. Parents sign up youngsters as participants to teach them about volunteering.

This college student started mowing lawns for older residents free of charge

Rodney Smith Jr. founded Raising Men Lawn Care Service in Huntsville, Ala. It enlists young volunteers whose parents want them to learn about giving back.

Rodney Smith Jr. saw something last year that changed his life: an older person cutting grass in the heat of a sweltering Alabama summer.

The sight inspired the 27-year-old Bermuda native and college student to begin cutting lawns for people who needed help, and he soon founded Raising Men Lawn Care Service with the goal of both helping people and enlisting young volunteers whose parents want them to learn about volunteerism. A year later, the project is going strong.

Today, Smith said, the service is mowing about 100 yards a month around Huntsville, Alabama, and is spreading to other states, thanks in part to donations of cash, lawn mowers and other equipment that came in as word of his project spread, particularly on Facebook. He talked about how the effort began and how it helps people in need:

AP: What is Raising Men Lawn Care Service?

Smith: It's a nonprofit organization. We go around and cut grass for free for the elderly, disabled, the single-parent mothers and the veterans.

AP: Describe the early days of the service.

Smith: When I first started, I just had my car and my lawn mower. That's all I had. I was cutting between classes. I was a college student, and I just graduated recently with a bachelor's in computer science.... All this got me wanting to go back for my master's in social work because I believe I found my purpose in life, and that's helping people.

AP: You're working with young people to teach them to give back to the community. Why is that important at a time like this?

Smith: Not too many kids are outside anymore. Not too many people are helping their neighbors anymore. So I think it's important that we lead the way and give back to the community.

AP: Where do the volunteers come from?

Smith: All from Facebook. When I first started the program, I asked people if they had any young people, young men or women, that would like to join – just let me know. A lot of parents said, 'Oh my son, my daughter can come out.' In the Huntsville chapter we have about 50 kids altogether.

AP: What's the future of Raising Men?

Smith: We have seven chapters in seven different states. The big goal is to get it into all 50 states.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to This college student started mowing lawns for older residents free of charge
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today