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It wasn't all bad
1:30 a.m.

Scientists were thrilled to discover 10 rare burrowing owls earlier this month in an unexpected location: the edge of Los Angeles International Airport.

Several decades ago, the airport bought a development called Surfridge and demolished all of the houses. The empty land became the 302-acre LAX Dunes Preserve, which is now home to 900 plant and animal species, many of them endangered. Scientists say that the owls — the most seen there in 40 years — are a sign that a restoration project that began in the 1990s is a success. "This is very exciting — a real stunner," biologist Pete Bloom told the Los Angeles Times.

Planes roar over the fenced-in preserve, which is not open to the public. Volunteers coordinate with the airport to come in and clean up invasive weeds, helping make the preserve a place where different species can settle. In addition to the burrowing owls, researchers have recently spotted El Segundo blue butterflies, as well as California gnatcatchers, Blainville's horned lizards, and six legless lizards. They were overjoyed by that discovery, as legless lizards are hard to find and haven't been studied much. Catherine Garcia

February 19, 2019

Kazi Mannan remembers what it was like when he arrived in the United States 23 years ago, with $5 to his name.

An immigrant from Pakistan, Mannan told WJLA that in those early days, he never had enough money to eat inside a restaurant. Years later, when he opened his own restaurant, Sakina Halal Grill, in Washington, D.C., he decided that everyone would be able to eat his delicious Pakistani and Indian food, whether or not they could pay.

Since opening in 2013, Mannan has made it his mission to feed people who are hungry and homeless. Some come in and eat twice a day at the restaurant, and the staff has their orders memorized. Mannan estimates that in 2018, the restaurant served at least 16,000 free meals. "I don't want any donation, but if you're coming in to eat, that's your support of helping a community restaurant that is offering kindness and love others," he told WJLA. "I'm trying to worship our Creator through food." Catherine Garcia

February 15, 2019

Sleet, snow, rain, heat — nothing got in the way of Jack Lund during his nearly 70 years as a mailman.

Lund, 91, joined the U.S. Postal Service in 1949. He spent his career in Richfield, Utah, and retired on Wednesday with a perfect record, always delivering his mail despite encountering bad weather, his mail truck breaking down, or other issues, ABC 4 reports.

His co-workers say Lund is more than just dependable — he's also honest and friendly. During his retirement ceremony, Lund was honored with a U.S. flag and special postal artwork. Catherine Garcia

February 14, 2019

Workers demolishing the old Jeffersonville High School in Indiana discovered an accidental time capsule from the 1950s.

While ripping out cabinets in a science classroom, the crew found a simple black purse. Inside it was a blast from the past: the 1953-54 basketball team's schedule, a lipstick, a ribbon for coming in first in the mile relay at a track and field event, ID cards, and a letter asking the purse's owner, Martha Ina Ingham, to prom. Ingham was a 1955 graduate of Jeffersonville High School.

Greater Clark County Schools wanted to reunite the purse with its rightful owner, and last week it posted a photo and message on Facebook. Two of Ingham's children reached out, and because the family no longer lives in the area, the purse will be packed up and mailed. "I hope this little piece of history brings back fond memories of her year at Jeffersonville High School," Erin Bojorquez, public information officer for Greater Clark County Schools, told the News and Tribune. "I also hope to answer the community's burning question about who took Marty to prom." Catherine Garcia

February 13, 2019

Instead of getting a soda or candy bars out of the vending machine, students at Clinton Middle School in Tennessee are getting books.

Academic coach April Meyers had the special vending machine installed in the cafeteria, with books costing only $1; the money raised will go toward buying new titles. "We just hope it will spark a little more interest in reading for some students who maybe don't have the opportunity to go to the bookstore and choose their own book to keep," Meyers told WVLT. "It will just excite them about reading and increase some of our literacy here." Eighth grader Hazel Hensley said she's "around a bunch of bookworms," and expects the vending machine to be very popular.

Something similar is happening in Houston, where the Houston Public Library recently installed two vending machines downtown. To get the machines open, people just have to scan their library cards and enter their PIN, and the machine is able to tell which books have been borrowed. "We believe that the library should be everywhere," Houston Public Library Executive Director Rhea Lawson told Houston Public Media. Catherine Garcia

February 12, 2019

This is what being a good neighbor is all about.

Glenda and Raphael Savitz moved to Newton, Massachusetts, a little over two years ago, and soon welcomed a daughter, Samantha. During her newborn screenings, doctors discovered that Samantha was deaf, and her parents immediately began learning American Sign Language. As Samantha got older, her neighbors would see her using sign language with her parents, and it sparked an idea: What if they learned ASL, too?

An instructor was hired, and soon, 18 neighbors gathered in Lucia Marshall's living room for their first lesson. Since then, they've learned lots of basic words and how to string them into sentences. The neighbors are excited that they can now tell Samantha how much they like her shirt, or how proud they are of her for making a basket in her small basketball hoop. "This child will always be a child of this neighborhood," Terry Nowak told The Boston Globe. "We will all be participants in helping her as she grows. We do that with each other's children. The community is already in place. This is just a new way to express it." Catherine Garcia

February 10, 2019

After seeing how many of his parishioners were sick because of their diets, and who did not have access to fresh, healthy food, Rev. Heber Brown III of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore decided to do something about it.

On a large lot in front of the church, Brown planted a garden filled with everything from summer squash to kale that now produces 1,100 pounds of produce every year. He also teamed up with black farmers in the area, who now sell their fruits and vegetables at the church on Sundays. Due to the "amazing" response, Brown said, he decided to bring the program to more congregations, launching the Black Church Food Security Network in 2015.

Now, more than 10 churches in Baltimore, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., have established sustainable food systems at their churches, and Brown gets emails and calls all the time from people interested in joining the network. The program is a win-win: Underserved communities are getting access to healthy food, and farmers are selling their goods. "Food is always going to be a priority for our communities," Brown told WTOP. "And churches and faith-based organizations, I've got a strong hunch, will always be here." Catherine Garcia

February 7, 2019

When Jonah Larson was 5 years old, he taught himself how to crochet by watching YouTube tutorials, and now, just six years later, he's built his own crocheting empire.

The 11-year-old from La Crosse, Wisconsin, has his own business, Jonah's Hands; he takes orders from customers and also sells his one-of-a-kind wares online. In videos he posts to his Instagram account — which has almost 60,000 followers — Jonah makes it look easy, his fingers flying as he crochets his latest beautiful creation. "When I see my crochet work when it's done, it blows my mind to know that I, an 11-year-old with a tiny hook and a ball of yarn, made this amazing afghan, scarf, cowl, you name it," he told NPR.

With his profits, Jonah buys more yarn, does some investing, and also gives money to organizations that are important to him; he was adopted from an Ethiopian orphanage, and he often sends it crocheted items and donations. Jonah's Hands is more popular than ever, and he's had to briefly stop taking orders because he has more than 2,500 to fill. Jonah's got big plans for the future — he wants to go to West Point and become a surgeon — but for right now, he says, "it's just nice to know that I can come home and crochet in my little corner of the house while sitting by the one I love most: my mom." Catherine Garcia

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