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The 14 Most Heartwarming Acts of Kindness of 2017

2017 was a challenging year, filled with headlines we'd rather forget. It was also a time when people rose to the occasion, doing whatever was needed to help others, as these stories of kindness and compassion illustrate.

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From living in a car to living within a community’s embrace

Imagine living with your four-month-old baby and two-year-old toddler in a beat-up old car because you’ve lost your home—and every other option. That’s what happened to Raijene Mallory, a young, single mom, from Richmond, Virginia. The 22-year-old was put out of her home, along with her two children, and needed a place to live while she got on her feet. With every shelter in the area full, Mallory and her children were spending their nights parked in hospital parking lots, where police were nearby and she felt moderately safe. The young family’s story was reported on a local news station, and within two days, the community pitched in to help. A property owner gave them a rent-free, fully-renovated two-bedroom apartment, and other community members showed up with offers of employment, day care, counseling, and clothes. Check out more random acts of kindness that changed people’s lives.

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An Air Force veteran with COPD gets a home remodel

When members of a home remodeling trade organization found out about a nearby soon-to-be-condemned house an Air Force veteran was living in, they decided to do something about it. Bolstered by a community of helpful volunteers, the veteran, who requested anonymity, got an HVAC system, a new roof, and a renewed outlook on neighborly kindness. Here are 10 more nice things that strangers have done to say “thank you” to veterans.

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New Yorkers come together to clothe homeless girl

Imagine what it would feel like to live in a shelter and have all of your clothing stolen out of an unlocked car. That’s what happened to a 14-year-old girl in Queens, New York. With nothing left but the clothes on her back, she confided to her guidance counselor that she had no clothing and couldn’t get to class. The Newtown High School community reached out via social media, and hundreds of New Yorkers responded, generating a used clothing program able to benefit many needy kids within the school’s community.

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A beloved pub’s patrons pitch in after a fire

A local pub can be a place of belonging, bringing people together over mugs of beer and conversation. When a popular Brooklyn eatery had a devastating fire on Valentine’s Day, its loyal patrons opted in to raise funds for its now unemployed staff. Paula McAleese, a Brooklyn denizen and local customer, ran a GoFundMe campaign designed to raise funds to cover living expenses for the pub’s employees who would be out of work until the pub reopened.

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A New Yorker works to save Puerto Rico’s slum dogs

Before all eyes were on a post-hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico, the economically-starved island was already fraying around the edges: An abandoned beach along its south-eastern coast became known as Dead Dog Beach because people would dump their unwanted, neglected, and ill former pets along its shore. Christina Beckles, a New York woman, stumbled upon the unending packs of malnourished dogs in heartbreaking condition as they were attempting to survive and took it upon herself to save as many of them as she could. Her story was chronicled in the New York Post, but her work is far from done. Here are 11 tear-jerking stories of dogs who found the homes they deserve.

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Everyday heroes save people and pets after Hurricane Harvey

When one of the worst recorded hurricanes in U.S. history left Houston residents flooded out of their homes and awaiting rescue on rooftops and attics, good Samaritans like Adam Brackman got to work. An animal lover, Brackman loaded family after family along with their pets into his boat to take them to safety. As reported by Good Morning America, among those he rescued from an attic were a 90-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s, her daughter, and the family’s three dogs and three cats.

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The 58 Las Vegas strip massacre victims are honored through 58 random acts of kindness

The Las Vegas Strip massacre was a horrific act, leaving countless lives changed forever. In honor of the 58 men and women who lost their lives that day, Lisa Schachtel Kodimer, who runs a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles, vowed to do 58 acts of kindness in their honor. Each good deed is geared towards paying it forward in an attempt to trump evil with unending good. Kodimer has done things like adding extra money to tips and picking up strangers’ checks in restaurants. She always shares her motivation for her good deed and asks that others follow suit. Here are 10 ideas for random acts of kindness you can do today.

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A fire is no match for this brave teenager

There’s little in life more terrifying than a fire, except a fire that has engulfed your entire family. That’s what happened to Rudy Edwards, a 17-year-old in Philadelphia. Edwards and his uncle thought they had gotten everyone out of the burning building alive—and then realized his one-year-old nephew was still trapped inside. To the disbelief of the crowd, the teen raced back inside and, despite the thick smoke and ever-growing flames, found the toddler and brought him to safety.

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Once poor, now not: A mystery couple picks up restaurant checks anonymously

One mystery couple has been frequenting a Pennsylvania eatery for years, picking up the tabs of fellow diners who looked like they could use a helping hand while keeping their identities secret. Why? Because they came from poverty and know how it feels, reports CBS News in Pittsburgh.

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A groom jumps into marriage—and a lake to save a drowning child

A wedding tuxedo may not be his bathing suit of choice, but that didn’t stop newlywed Clayton Cook from saving a drowning child. With their wedding vows behind them and their wedding photos still to be shot, the couple noticed a child who fell off a bridge into a lake and was in trouble. Without hesitation, the tuxedo-clad groom jumped off the bridge and pulled the small boy to safety.

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A pup saves a baby deer from drowning

Max Freeley was out with his dog, Storm, for a stroll on Long Island Sound when Storm noticed a baby deer flailing in the water. Like a shot, the dog galloped into the sound and pulled the young fawn to safety. As more help arrived, the confused deer made for the sound and was drowning yet again. This time, human rescuers stepped in to save the animal, giving Storm a well-deserved break. The deer was brought to a local shelter, far from the water’s edge, as reported by USA Today.

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One phone call rallies a town and a team to help people in wheelchairs live boundless lives

Madeline Delp was wheelchair-bound after a car accident left her unable to walk at the age of 10. After graduating from college, the beauty with a boundless spirit reached out to a fledgling production team in her native North Carolina to ask for help creating a 25-part international video series called “Live Boundless.” With more hope than funding, the volunteer crew opted into the project, filming Delp as she became Ms. Wheelchair USA 2017 and working with her to make her dream of helping others a tangible reality.

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A 63-year-old rabbi donates his kidney to a stranger

According to the New York Daily News, rabbi and teacher Avrohom Hoffman quoted an old Hebrew saying, “If not now, when?” when asked why he is donating a kidney to a stranger. The aging rabbi was a perfect match for 62-year-old Berta Ilvarova, a woman with polycystic kidney disease. Both are doing fine post-surgery.

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A neighbor responds to a heartbreaking letter from a lonely senior citizen

When the letter came from a neighbor two doors down, 37-year-old Marleen Brooks was dumbfounded and moved beyond words. Brooks wasn’t even aware that the old house was occupied since no one ever seemed to be outside. The letter, written in a halting hand from 90-year-old Wanda Mills, wasn’t addressed to anyone in particular. In it, she speaks of loneliness and fear, asking for companionship and for someone to be her friend. Brooks was up to the challenge, establishing a friendship with Mills that led her to create an organization called Pen Pals for Seniors. Check out these 24 stories of touching kindness of strangers that will make you tear up.