Heroes in Hard Times
Along with People magazine, Oprah's celebrating random acts of kindness and saluting those who take the time to help neighbors, strangers and single moms.
In Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Dr. Oz meets one couple who's doing just that.
When their small, working-class town was hit hard by the country's economic crisis, Dr. Dan Bell and his wife, Suzie, made it their mission to make sure everyone in their community had access to free healthcare. Soon after, they started the ECHO Health Clinic.
Watch Dr. Oz's visit to ECHO Health Clinic.
"We were looking at how you really live your faith," Dr. Bell says. "We're at the age where you're looking at, 'Are you doing all you can do with your life and finishing strong?'"
"From medical care and counseling to serving up a hot meal, everyone is made to feel at home," Dr. Oz says. "There's sort of a unity of spirit that I feel when I'm here. And, you know, it's not high tech, but it's high touch."
Jeff, one of 46 million Americans without health insurance, tells Dr. Oz he wouldn't be able to afford his diabetes and neuropathy medications without access to ECHO.
"If this clinic wasn't here, what would you do?" Dr. Oz asks.
"Probably fall through the cracks," Jeff says.
"We're only about 2,000 [people]. We don't even have a stoplight, but yet, we have a place that people can come and get care," Dr. Bell says. "To me, that's heroic."
Suzie says something magical happens when a community comes together. "We sit down, we eat, we break bread together," she says. "We are able to just commune and connect as human beings."
"We see the broken-down cars on the highway when we're driving, and [think], 'Oh God, it's going to hold up traffic,'" Oprah says. "But that is somebody's life."
Without a way to get to work, these drivers run the risk of losing their jobs and falling farther behind financially. This is where Hal Colston steps in.
In 1996, Hal founded the Good News Garage in Burlington, Vermont, to help men and women with car troubles. "In so many ways, people are just a repair bill away from disaster. The car dies, they lose their job, and they just spiral out of control," he says. "I wanted to do something about this."
Watch Hal and his team at work.
Before donated cars go back on the road, a staff of mechanics assesses the vehicles and makes repairs. Then, they're sold at a reduced rate to people in need—80 percent of which are single moms.
Thanks to Hal's community garage, Dylan, a single mom who says she needs a car to go to job interviews and pick up her daughter from school, pays just $134 for a reconditioned sedan. "I'm so excited, I have to hug you," she says. "You guys are just amazing."
How does he decide who gets a car? Hal says his team considers many factors before handing over the keys. "We have a priority list. We look at size of the family," he says. "[We ask]: 'Are they near public transportation? Are they at work? Do they need to get to a job?'" Hal says there are usually about 50 people waiting to get a vehicle from Good News Garage.
Every recipient must pay a little something for his or her car, but Hal says the amount depends on the person's financial situation. The "reach-up program" asks a person to pay a few hundred dollars for car repairs, taxes and the cost of getting it on the road. If you're in the "jump-start program," you'll pay no more than half the book value of the vehicle.
"HendrickCars.com wants to pitch in," he says. To help a few families get back on the road, Rick donates ten 2008 Chevy Impalas! "They all get 29 miles to the gallon. They've got 100,000-mile warranties. They've all been serviced," he says. "They're certified, so there's no maintenance."
In addition to the ten cars, Rick and his team want to buy gas for each car...for one year. "Hal, you've done an amazing job," Rick says. "You're an inspiration to all of us. Just keep up the good work."
Armed with a slow cooker and ladle, Dale, the founder of Jusst Sooup Ministry, dishes up more than 900 quarts of free soup each week.
In the past 11 years, Dale says she's handed out more than 65,000 bowls of soup to hungry members of the community.
Dallas runs a company that removes old oil tanks from homes, and one day, he and his wife, Randi, thought of a way to give their business a higher purpose. They decided to donate the leftover oil in the tanks to families who couldn't afford to heat their homes.
This idea evolved into HEAT, a nonprofit organization that Dallas says he funds out of his salary. Thanks to HEAT, more than 200 homes stay warm every winter.
In 2008, Tracy Orr went to a foreclosure auction in Dallas, Texas, to say a farewell to the home she shared with her daughter. Tracy says she got behind on her mortgage payments after she lost her job, and her home was put on the auction block.
Moments before the bidding was set to begin, a local news crew filmed Tracy as she wiped away tears. Then, a woman approached Tracy and asked her what was wrong. This woman, Marilyn Mock, would later become known as the "foreclosure angel."
Then, Marilyn turned around and gave the home back to Tracy and her family. Why did she do it? "Whatever it was and wherever it was, it meant everything to her," Marilyn says. "You could just tell it."
Though she didn't have $30,000 to spare, Marilyn says she, like many women, can always figure out how to come up with the money if she really wants something. "There's always a way to do it," she says. "I had a dump truck, so I took the title in and got a loan against the dump truck to pay for a house."
So far, Marilyn says she's been able to help four other homeowners and has received more than 10,000 requests for assistance. "Most of the people, they only need maybe $600 to maybe $2,000 to keep their house," she says. "They don't need a lot."
These days, Tracy says she's financially stable, employed and forever grateful for the kindness of strangers.
A few months after Tim and Nancy took ownership of the Arena Motel, he says a homeless mother and daughter came there looking for a warm place to sleep. "We had rooms available, and she didn't have a roof over her head," he says. "We gave her a place to restart her life, and that's where it all began."
Since then, Tim and Nancy say they have given shelter and free meals to hundreds of people in need. Some stay for free, while others pay what they can. "We're on a mission here," Tim says. "The mission is to make people's lives better."
"Having a room for us means a better quality of life because we're together. I really do appreciate Tim," Lorenzo says. "He's basically welcoming us in and opening his doors to my family."
When Heather showed up at the Arena Motel a year ago with her four kids, she had no job, no car and nowhere to go. Tim helped Heather by hiring her as the motel's housekeeper.
Tim says he and Nancy aren't looking for a reward or recognition. "What we're really looking for is the satisfaction of knowing that we made somebody else's life better," he says.
When Mary found out from a friend that many hotels throw away gently used pillows, blankets and sheets, she took action. Mary began shipping out these sheets to places in need, including homeless shelters with little to no bedding.
So far, she says she's personally delivered enough comfortable covers for more than 8,000 beds. To help out, all 340 members of Oprah's audience brought along a set of sheets to donate to Mary's organization, Green Recoverings.
"You see the need, you see what you can bring to the need, and then you just give it a go," Dr. Bell says. "If it's meant to be, it's going to happen, and it will usually go better than you ever dreamed."
Hal says volunteers must learn how to do with, versus doing for. "It's not about saving and rescuing people," he says. "It's about helping people accomplish their dreams and goals."
Find out how you can help these organizations.
Meet three young heroes who are taking action!