A guy who travels the US to mow lawns for veterans has a new Christmas mission
Rodney Smith is gearing up for a trip to Alaska. He's already been to all of the lower 48 U.S. states. He's on a mission to provide free lawn care to the elderly, the disabled, single mothers, and veterans. He's the founder of a nonprofit for youth which is aimed at community development.
He's showing everyone in America his dedication to service, and he's doing it the way he knows best: mowing lawns.
He is the founder of Raising Men Lawn Care Service, a way for young people to give back to their community while learning the ins and outs of the lawn-care industry. Smith doesn't limit his services to mowing, just like any other lawn-care service. Raking leaves and shoveling snow are just a couple of the services he and his cadre of volunteers offer.
As he travels the United States, he takes requests, even going so far to post his phone number on Twitter. He mows lawns in the dark, just to get one more in for that day. He'll even do what he calls a "mow by," completing a lawn-care service for someone in need, even when they aren't home.
Of course, it's better if they're home. Then the family can meet the incredible individual who enjoys giving back and mowing lawns so much he'll go to disaster sites, like storm-stricken Virginia.
Smith started mowing lawns for free in 2015 after driving by an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn. He stopped his car, got out, and finished the lawn for the man.
"A small act of kindness grew into all this," he says. "You never know what someone is going through and you touch them a certain way."
After that act of kindness, he founded his nonprofit in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. while he was working on a degree in computer science. He used to mow lawns in between classes, a challenge for his studies but one he took with zeal. Then, he challenged others to something similar. He wanted kids to mow 50 lawns after posting a photo of them accepting the 50-Yard Challenge.
"I show kids the importance of giving back to their community," Smith says. He now boasts hundreds of volunteer lawn care experts through Raising Men. "At first they didn't like it... but they see the smiles and it shows them a different side of life."
They didn't know it when the accepted the challenge, but Smith would present the kids with a new lawn mower upon completing their 50th yard.
He challenged himself again with the task of mowing "50 Yards in 50 States." In 2017, he drove to all lower 48 states and flew to Alaska and Hawaii. In May, 2018, he started doing it all again, visiting 20 states within three weeks. He's not just mowing one lawn in each state, either. He often mows up to four per day as he travels. And when he comes across those in need, he stops to hear their story and help out.
And now he finds himself with a different challenge.
In 2017, Smith traveled to all the major urban areas in Tennessee and Alabama, dressed as Santa Claus to deliver gifts to the area's homeless population. For 2018, the big-hearted lawn mower said he wanted to go even bigger. On Nov. 26, 2018, he began another nationwide tour, to visit each state and meet with at least two people or groups who are homeless and deliver gifts that will make them happy.
He wants to deliver true Christmas cheer. Not content to give and take a photo before moving on, he wants to sit with them, talk, find out how they became homeless, and try to understand what the season means for them.
Rodney Smith covered the lower 48 states in just 22 days. As of Dec. 18, 2018, he was on his way to Alaska to continue his mission.
"Every day is tough when you're homeless, but it's terribly difficult this time of year – both physically and mentally," Smith said. "If I can help make even a few people more comfortable and happy, I want to do it. It may sound crazy, but I believe if we all helped just one person where we live, the results would be astonishing."
To make donations, visit Hopefortheholidaystour.com. To follow Rodney and hear stories from those he meets, visit him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.