Julie Housley of Springfield, Utah, was scrolling through her social media feed when she came across a story that made her pause.
The story was about Rodney Smith Jr., an Alabama man who started a nonprofit called Raising Men Lawn Care Service when he was still in college. The program encourages young people to serve their communities with free yard work.
Rodney originally got the idea to help his neighbors after seeing an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn. He quickly discovered that tending to people’s lawns and doing other chores around their properties is a huge blessing to those who aren’t able to complete the work on their own — especially veterans, the elderly, and anyone with a disability.
So the compassionate man started organizing young people in his area to help their neighbors for free. Soon, the project blossomed into a full-time job for Rodney!
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Over the years, he has expanded his program even further, starting a new project to help law enforcement officers bond with their communities through, you guessed it, yard work!
Rodney’s newest initiative is geared toward kids, and it’s a wonderful way to help them get fresh air and exercise while helping others. He calls it the 50 Yard Challenge. It encourages kids and teens to mow 50 yards for people in their communities for free. Then, Rodney will reward everyone who completes the challenge by driving to wherever they live in the U.S. and personally delivering a new lawn mower, leaf blower, and certificate of completion.
When Julie Housley saw the 50 Yard Challenge, she knew she had to tell her 12-year-old son Boston about it. He jumped at the opportunity right away! He got started in May 2020 and finished up in October.
“I’d only mowed my lawn before, but I thought it would be good to try and do it for other people,” Boston said. “It was hard, but it taught me a lot about serving others, and it helped me feel like I was doing something good.”
Boston’s parents helped him locate people to support at first, but once word got out, he had no trouble finding lawns to mow. His parents estimate that he spent about 29 hours mowing the 50 lawns.
“He has gotten really good at it, and has even mentioned that it is something that he wants to do as a job,” said his dad, Rhett Housley.
True to his word, as soon as he heard about Boston’s success, Rodney packed up the new yard toys he’d promised and drove all the way to Utah from Huntsville, Alabama, to celebrate.
Just look at the smile on Boston’s face! Rodney said it is his pleasure to drive to these kids’ homes and give them their reward. Ultimately, it solidifies his mission to teach young people to care for those around them.
“We are raising men and women,” Rodney said. “My goal is to teach children while they are young to serve one another, work hard, and give back to their communities.”
More than 1,400 kids have taken part in the 50 Yard Challenge since it first started in 2016! That’s a lot of miles for Rodney, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Share this story to spread the word about Rodney’s important work — and to congratulate Boston on his huge accomplishment!
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