Two Planned Parenthood facilities in Colorado recently announced that they would be closing this summer. The two facilities, one in Longmont and one in Parker, did not perform abortions but referred for them. Whitney Phillips, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, told local news that they are closing due to the “tough financial landscape” and because of the Affordable Care Act.
“We supported the ACA because we love the idea of more people having health insurance and increasing access to the critical services that they need, but a lot of our patients were self-pay,” she said. “They would come in…and pay out of pocket. Under the ACA, a lot of patients were given the opportunity to be on Medicaid. Again, that’s wonderful, but it meant that rather than bill them directly, we had to bill Medicaid. And Medicaid reimburses at a very low rate.”
Some of the other Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains affiliate locations will extend their hours to accommodate patients. The affiliate announced six closings recently, including these two facilities in Colorado, three facilities in New Mexico, and one in Wyoming. At least 13 Planned Parenthood facilities have closed or have announced closure this year, including four in Iowa (after that state’s lawmakers decided to defund the abortion provider), as well as two in Pennsylvania, and one in Maryland. Except in Iowa, the efforts to defund the abortion provider were not the cause of the closures, Planned Parenthood officials have said. Most closures are due to patient numbers and finances.
According to their annual reports, Planned Parenthood’s numbers and non-abortion services have declined in the past few years. Its abortion numbers have remained consistent. Planned Parenthood has yet to release its report for 2016.
One refugee family is making things sweet down in Georgia. Ruwaida G, her husband Khaled, and their daughter Zainab and their son Mohamad fled Syria in 2012. They applied for asylum in Jordan and arrived in the U.S. in 2016, with assistance from New American Pathways and Holy Trinity Parish, both of which teamed up to help the family. The family has asked that their last name be kept private so as not to endanger their relatives in Syria.
“We decided to leave Syria because we feared for our lives and for our children’s lives,” Ruwaida said. “There was no safety in Syria wherever we went, and we needed to leave if we wanted to survive.”
After passing the rigorous U.S. vetting processes for immigrants, the family settled in the Atlanta area. Amanda Avutu, who also lives in that area, met Ruwaida and her family after seeing an online post asking for volunteers to help set up the family’s new apartment.
“As I started visiting with the family and getting to know them more, we would go to their house and they would make us coffee and she start serving us cookies. We were going there focused on helping her husband find a job, but then found that she was literally serving us up an opportunity,” Avutu said.
Ruwaida carried a wooden cookie mold with her to the United States, which is used to make traditional Syrian cookies. The cookies are made with a 10-step process and Ruwaida hand molds hers. Avutu and her friends asked Ruwaida about selling her cookies for a profit. Ruwaida was skeptical but gave it a try, baking 45 dozen to sell at a music festival.
“She sold out before the first band played,” Avutu said. Soon after, Ruwaida, her husband, and a group of five friends created Sweet, Sweet Syria, a cookie business that Ruwaida hopes to grow into a successful family enterprise.
“I learned how to make these traditional Syrian cookies from my mother, who learned it from her mother, and so on,” said Ruwaida. “It is a family recipe. I learned how to make them when I was 14 years old and I have been making them ever since.”
Ruwaida, with the help of Avutu, has taken a business accelerator course and signed a lease on a commercial kitchen. She hopes to make cookies to sell at local coffee shops, restaurants and specialty grocery stores. Sweet, Sweet Syria will also expand into online orders soon and, in the future, to offer other Syrian foods as well.
Ruwaida’s husband, Khaled, a former electrician, works as an assistant chef.
“They’re very much partners in this business,” Avutu said. “She was a homemaker previously…and he’s been immensely supportive of her having this opportunity to work. Previously, they hadn’t really thought about that.”
Avutu and Ruwaida’s other friends have started a GoFundMe account to raise the money for her first year of rent on the commercial kitchen and to eventually help the couple open their own store, where people new to the U.S. and long-time citizens can gather. The crowd funding page has raised more than $20,000 of the $30,000 goal.
Ruwaida says she’s happy every time someone enjoys her cookies and the recipe that’s been handed down for generations.
“I am lucky to have a group of dear friends…I couldn’t have made it without them,” she said. “I hope that people who read (my story) see that we had a life before, and because of war we were forced to leave and rebuild our lives in a new country. I want them to know that we are thankful for the generosity of people and their willingness to see us and treat us as fellow human beings.”
The death of Kayla Greenwood’s father, Michael (pictured above, left), was caused by Kenneth Williams in 1998. Williams was charged and convicted with two unrelated murders and manslaughter and was executed for his crimes in late April. But before he died, he received an extraordinary kindness from the Greenwood family.
Kayla learned that Williams has a 21 year-old daughter, Jasmine, whom he hadn’t seen in 17 years and a 3 year-old granddaughter that he had never met. In a gesture of forgiveness, the Greenwoods decided to fly them from Washington to Arkansas, where Williams was being held.
The Greenwoods were waiting for Jasmine and her daughter when they landed at the Little Rock airport. They took them to the prison so Williams could see his daughter and meet his granddaughter. Kayla and the rest of her family were not allowed to see Williams, but she emailed a message to him via his attorney.
“I told him we forgive him and where I stood on it,” said Kayla. “Jasmine said that when the warden read the email to him, he broke out in tears.”
The Greenwoods pushed for Williams to be pardoned, but family members of another of Williams’ victims insistent on the death penalty. The reunion, however, brought some comfort to Williams and his family in his last days.
“When he found out that we are bringing his daughter and granddaughter to see him and that my mom and dad bought the tickets, he was crying to the attorney,” recalled Kayla. “He was sad he couldn’t talk to us.”
The office in charge of Pope Francis’ acts of charity announced the opening of a laundromat for Rome’s poor and homeless. Dubbed the “Lavenderia di Papa Francesco” (“Pope Francis Laundry”) this service was inspired by the pope’s call for “concrete signs of mercy” during the Year of Mercy in 2016.
“Here, then, is…a place and service to give a concrete form of charity and mercy to restore dignity to so many people who are our brothers and sisters,” said the Papal Almoner’s office.
The laundromat will be located in a complex run by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio, which provides other services for the poor such as showers, a medical clinic, and a barber shop. Whirlpool Corporation donated the new washers and dryers and Procter & Gamble will donate free supplies of detergent and fabric softener, according to the Papal Almoner.
On Saturday, March 25th, North Carolina native Oscar Davis Jr. finally received the Purple Heart he earned during WWII exactly 72 years, one month and two weeks ago. Davis had been assigned to “Animal” Company of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He was wounded while serving as a radiotelephone operator during the Battle of the Bulge.
Pvt. Davis was knocked down by a piece of German shrapnel while his unit was under shellfire. The radio on his back protected him from immediate death. The shells struck a nearby tree, which fell on Davis, causing a spinal injury that paralyzed him from the waist down for three weeks. Once Davis recovered, he rejoined his unit in Germany.
Davis had been told years ago that he would receive the Purple Heart, an award that recognizes troops wounded or killed in action against an enemy of the United States. Unfortunately, the paperwork for the award was never signed.
The medal ceremony took place in a dining room at Heritage Place in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The 92 year-old veteran was smiling as Lt. Col. Marcus Wright, commander of the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, pinned it to his jacket. “This has been some day,” said Davis. “I couldn’t believe all this was going to happen. I just want to thank the Lord.”
Family and friends of Davis’ attended the ceremony, along with soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team and 82nd Airborne Division.
“All I can say about this is ‘Wow’,” Lt. Col. Wright said. “I’m absolutely honored to be here today.” Wright presided over the whole event.
After the medal was awarded, soldiers from A Company presented Davis with a unit coin and a shirt. Dozens of people lined up to shake Davis’ hand. The medal ceremony was the result of almost two years of work undertaken by the Veterans’ Legacy Foundation, a North Carolina-based organization that helps veterans receive the awards that are owed to them. Volunteers searched an entire archive of war reports for proof of Davis’ injuries, said foundation director John Elscamp. In 2015, the Veterans’ Legacy Foundation helped Davis receive the Bronze Star and other awards that he had earned but never collected.