14 Real People Who Inspired Us in 2014 [LIST]

As the year draws to an end, meet 14 good doers who changed lives in 2014 - with their own two hands.

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Inspirational people doing good.

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Good things are happening every day. People fall in love, scientists discover cures for disease, strangers help each other out, millions of dollars are donated to organizations striving to make the world a better place. In mass media, stories abound of celebrities using their fame to do good, and at the same time, ordinary people are also doing extraordinary things that receive less fanfare and media coverage. Using their own strengths to make good things happen, these regular day good doers are motivated to perform good deeds, drawing from their own personal experiences and from the people in their lives.
As 2014 comes to a close, we pay tribute to 14 of these good doers - of all different ages and stages - who did their bit in interesting, inspirational ways.

1. THE WOMAN WHO COOKS A WEEKLY ROAST FOR SHELTER DOGS

Claire Nash really cares about dogs. After starting out as a volunteer dog walker for the Cardiff Dogs’ Home in Wales, she started bringing leftovers from home for the shelter pups to eat. But the scraps of food didn’t go very far, and eventually she decided she’d just have to cook for them herself. She now cooks a full roast dinner every Sunday - chicken, peas, brussel sprouts, sausages and all - and delivers it to the shelter for the dogs to enjoy.
SO GOOD: The dogs are in for an extra special holiday treat this year - a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. And all of this hearty food comes straight out Nash’s pocket, and the goodness of her heart.

2. THE WEDDING GUESTS THAT DONATED BLOOD INSTEAD OF GIFTS

Gifts were nowhere to be seen at Dhwani and Jay Pandya’s wedding - instead, guests queued to donate blood in honor of the young couple. The bride’s father, Dr R.B. Bhesania is a long-time campaigner for blood and organ donation, and told the Times of India that this was the “best wedding gift.”
SO GOOD: During the Indian wedding 300 people gave blood and pledged to donate their organs, increasing awareness for this important health cause.

3. THE HAIRDRESSER WHO STYLES THE HOMELESS

Hairdresser Mark Bustos has a celebrity clientele, and he charges a fair dime for his styling services. But not on Sundays. One day a week Bustos hits the streets of New York and offers his services to the homeless for free. He works on a word-of-mouth basis, and is well known by the people on the street. He also publishes photos of his street sessions on Instagram, with small bios about individual clients.
SO GOOD: Bustos doesn’t just give haircuts. He gives his homeless clients a pampering moment away from their everyday lives and a sense of dignity. And every so often, he gives them such a transformation that they find themselves ready to make a change in their lives, for the better.

4. THE 95-YEAR-OLD WOMAN WHO KNITS SCARVES FOR SOLDIERS

Nikki Smith, 95, is grateful for every day of her life, and committed to passing that sense of gratitude on to US soldiers. A veteran herself, she has knitted hundreds upon hundreds of scarves to donate to troops, in coordination with California-based charity Operation Gratitude.
SO GOOD: For that personal touch, every scarf gets shipped off with a note: “Handcrafted with love and gratitude in every stitch by Grandma Nikki who was a World War II Veteran U.S. Navy.”

5. THE RETIREE WHO DOES GOOD WITH TOILET PAPER ROLLS

In an inspiring story of creative problem-solving, Seattle retiree Leon Delong has been working with janitorial staff to collect partially-used toilet paper rolls from high class office buildings and redistribute them to nearby food banks. Over the past 15 years, it’s estimated that he moved a million toilet paper rolls - which food bank managers told the Seattle Times were just as popular as T-Bone steaks.  
SO GOOD: Known as The Toilet Paper Guy, Delong turned what was essentially an annoyance for one sector of society into something incredibly useful for another.

6. THE MAN WHO MAKES FRIENDS WITH STRANGERS

Robbie Stokes thinks children should be told to talk to strangers - not stay away from them.  To that end, his social movement  I TALK TO STRANGERS [ITTS] aims to unite diverse racial, ethics, political and socio-economic groups through conversation. As the friendly face of the movement, Stokes tours extensively to turn strangers into friends, and ultimately create a kinder world.
SO GOOD: ITTS has expanded its activities to include a foundation that creates programs and partnerships based on dialogue, creating a global community dedicated to sharing and being more open minded.  

7. THE WOMAN WHO CLEANS CANCER PATIENTS’ HOMES

Debbie Sardone is a professional cleaner, who has been running her own cleaning company for the past 30 years. And for the past eight years, she’s been using her profession to help women struggling with cancer - by cleaning their homes free of charge. Her nonprofit, Cleaning for a Reason, matches maid services who volunteer to scrub and buff houses across the US and Canada with patients in need of a helping hand.
SO GOOD: With the help of her volunteers, Sardone’s aim is stated beautifully on the Cleaning for a Reason website: Our goal is to focus on your home, so you can focus on your health.

8. THE AUSSIE 20-YEAR-OLDS WHO DO LAUNDRY FOR THE HOMELESS

Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi, two 20-year-olds from Brisbane, Australia, have a noble goal – to restore respect for the homeless, raise health standards, and reduce strain on resources. Their solution is the Orange Sky Laundry - two 10kg washers and dryers in the back of a van. With a portable generator and a growing team of volunteers and sponsors, the mobile laundry shadows food vans, so people living on the street can get their clothes washed and dried while they eat.
SO GOOD: Now capable of servicing some 10 people per hour, Patchett and Marchesi dream to build a fleet of larger trucks, to help even more people in need across Australia.

9. THE ITALIAN BAKER WHO CHANGES LIVES IN PRISON

Nicola Boscoletto has brought about a drop in repeat offenders in Italian prisoners from 70% to 1-2% - just by opening a bakery. Employing men serving time in a Padua prison, the cooperative produces some 70,000 Pannetoni cakes every year, and more than that - empowers prisoners to build skills and confidence.
SO GOOD: Boscoletto told euronews about the transformative powers of the baking program: “They start to change, they become the type of good worker that it is hard to find even outside, because they regain their dignity, self-esteem.”

10. THE ANONYMOUS HELPER THAT USES THE WEB TO DO GOOD

FreeHelpGuy uses the Internet to maximize his good doing impact, broadcasting an open-ended offer to help anyone, anywhere. He helps artists in need of confidence boosts, shares bone marrow donor requests and gives world travel tips - to name just a few.
SO GOOD: A self-titled "anonymous free helper," FreeHelpGuy has recently launched a new website for people all over the world to both offer and request help – of all shapes and sizes. He uses the site alongside social media to harness the collective power of the Internet to do his bit to solve the world's problems.

11. THE COLLEGE STUDENT THAT LIVES IN A RETIREMENT HOME

24-year-old college student Marissa Plank lives in the Judson Manor retirement community in Cleveland, Ohio - and the residents love her for it. In exchange for monthly musical performances for the senior members for the village, Plank lives rent-free, and when she’s not studying she loves spending time with her much older flatmates.
SO GOOD: The mutually beneficial arrangement makes everyone happy, eliminating the barriers of age that so often separate society, and allowing Plank to make her elders smile - and vice versa.

12. THE 9-YEAR-OLD SURFER RAISING MONEY FOR INDONESIA

Nine-year-old Aussie Winter Vincent is an avid surfer - and just as enthusiastic about philanthropy. After getting inspired by a school event for World Water Day, Vincent teamed up with the nonprofit Waves for Water, and raised $3,000 to provide clean water for the people of the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia.
SO GOOD: Vincent’s next goal is to raise money for water filtering systems in South America, in coordination with the surfing charity.

13. THE CHINESE BUSINESSMAN WHO BUILT LUXURY FLATS FOR FREE

Xiong Shuihua was born in a village of wooden huts and muddy roads in southern China, and became a millionaire through years of hard work in the real estate and steel industries. Always well-looked after by his community, Shuihua recently decided to return the favor - by bulldozing the existing structures in Xiongkeng village in the city of Xinyu and replacing them with luxury apartments for his former neighbors. All out of his own pocket.
SO GOOD: This admirable act of altruism came with a firm understanding of social welfare, with the millionaire also providing three meals a day for older residents unable to make ends meet. He told the Daily Mail “I earned more money than I knew what to do with, and I didn’t want to forget my roots.”

14. THE SPORTS STAR WHO’S STANDING UP TO BULLIES  

When British rugby World Champion Ben Cohen retired from the sport in 2011, he built the world's first anti-bullying foundation - the Ben Cohen Stand Up Foundation. He was motivated by the plight of his father, who died standing up for an employee who was being attacked.
SO GOOD: As well as raising awareness of the damaging effects of bullying and homophobia, Ben gathers funds to support organizations that do similar work. The end goal is to help connect communities and create a world of understanding and kindness.

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