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.

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.

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.

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