HUNTSVILLE, Al. — On a warm October day in Huntsville, Alabama, Deborah Norwood popped her head out her front door to see one of her favorite visitors.
Rodney Smith Jr. was there, ready to help. Smith runs Raising Men and Women Lawn Care Service, and he travels all around his community and his country, mowing lawns for free.
To Norwood, assistance is crucial. The senior regularly needs oxygen, so yard work is no longer an option.
“I used to do it until I got so I couldn't, and I loved working in the yard,” said Norwood.
Norwood planted many of the trees around her home.
“I kept it manicured, really good and plenty of flowers,” she said.
Her love came out of necessity.
“I live on a small income, below poverty level,” she said. “I couldn't afford to pay somebody.”
Now, Smith makes sure she doesn’t have to.
“He comes and saves me the money he’d get. You know, that’d be money for groceries or someone something else that I need,” said Norwood.
Norwood is not the only one getting taken care of like this.
“We mow free lawns for the elderly, disabled, single parents and veterans. They need the help,” said Smith.
Help in a time of need is what Smith is hoping to inspire across the nation.
He travels across the country and mows people’s lawns for free in every single state. He does this to raise money for all kinds of causes and to spread kindness and community.
“Especially in these times, we need to help each other and give back where we can,” said Smith.
“He's a very beautiful person, a very good personality,” said Norwood. “I don't know why he's not married yet!”
The joy and service he brings are helping families afford the necessities, especially as prices rise across the country.
“Everything's gone up. It's awful,” said Norwood of how much everything from gas to groceries costs.
“It's hard for a lot of people,” said Smith.
Gas prices are the highest they’ve been since 2014.
Prices for food and other supplies cost, on average, 5% more this time this year than they did this time last year.
These increases forced lifestyle changes for many Americans, especially those on a fixed income.
“I just eat a little bit less expensive stuff. I mean, you can eat beans and potatoes and cornbread and survive,” said Norwood.
So, not having to pay for yard maintenance is a huge support.
“There's a lot of things that I go without, but I appreciate him doing that. He does a great job,” said Norwood.
Smith is also giving his support, in a different way, to teens that volunteer with him.
“A lot of kids, especially locally, that come out and mow with me, a lot of them come from single-parent households,” said Smith. “So, when they can come out and mow, you know, they kind of look up to me as like a big brother.”
“He was like the father I never had, like that father figure that I needed,” said Raquavious Knight, a 13-year-old who has mowed dozens of lawns with Smith.
“He's still helping me learn life lessons. There’s a lot I haven't learned yet, and I'm going learn from him.”
Brothers Raquavious and Lamar Knight have mowed lawns with Smith for years now. They participated in Smith’s 50-yard challenge, and they have now far exceeded it.
Smith challenges young people across the country to mow 50 lawns for free in their hometowns, and if they complete the challenge, he sends them a shirt and often pays them a visit to gift them their own mower.
“It makes me feel like I'm really helping somebody,” said Knight of his work with Smith, even beyond the 50-yard challenge.
Their mother Leslie Knight signed them up. With every lawn mowed, she sees how hard work makes strong men.
“It opened them up more, as in being more social, and actually them having a willingness to help others, to be the helping hand,” she said.
And for those they help, like Norwood, it’s inspiring to see young kids caring for those in need.
“And that's what I think is number one is important about what he does: they're learning that man is no island, and we are supposed to care for each other,” said Norwood.
“There are many ways to make a difference. So, I've simply chosen a lawnmower to make a difference with, and I hope to encourage kids to do the same,” said Smith.
Because with a creative heart to help, burdens of all kinds can be carried a little easier.
If you’d like to donate to Raising Men and Women Lawn Care Service, click HERE.
If you’d like to get your son or daughter involved, click HERE.