Rodney Smith Jr. is a man with a mission and a mower.
For five years, Smith has been mowing lawns for free for the elderly, disabled, single mothers and veterans around his city of Huntsville, Alabama, and its suburbs, but like the rest of the world, his routine has changed due to the coronavirus. However, he isn’t going to let a pandemic stop him from helping people.
The Bermuda native is still mowing lawns, but he’s also making care packages for his clients. He gives them a variety of items, including toilet paper and food. For many of them, Smith’s efforts are essential because “many are them are shut-in,” as he told Atlanta Black Star over the phone.
“Every day, I go to the grocery store and buy four or five of everything,” he added. He takes the items, poses for a selfie and goes to the next house. Smith adheres to COVID-19 distancing guidelines by using a selfie stick to maintain a 6-foot distance, according to AL.com.
Smith is happy he is able to “make a difference and help people.” He believes it is his responsibility since he is relatively privileged.
“I think it’s important we get out and help,” he explained to Atlanta Black Star. “We’re young, we’re able, so we should give back where we can.”
Helping youth learn how to volunteer their time and resources has been an essential part of Smith’s mission since he began. He founded a nonprofit organization, Raising Men Lawn Care Service, in 2016 and started the “50 Yard Challenge.” The challenge encourages kids aged 7 to 17 to mow 50 lawns, and if they meet the goal they receive their own lawnmower, leaf blower, and string trimmer.
When asked what people could do to help, he didn’t request donations. Smith just wants more children to work their way to 50 lawns.
“Get out this summer and give back,” Smith said.
To accept the challenge, prospective mowers must make a sign stating they accept the challenge and send it to Raising Men. Participants will receive a white shirt after they sign up and will get a new shirt for each level they reach. Children of any gender are allowed to participate. If they start in the fall or winter, raking leaves and shoveling snow are included.
For more information on Smith’s work, head to Raising Men’s website.