Last October, Rodney Smith Jr. spotted an older guy cutting grass in front of his home.
“He appeared to be suffering,” said Smith, a senior at Alabama A&M University. “I was watching him when it hit me.
“I could make a difference.”
Smith asked his Facebook pals if they knew someone who was old or handicapped and needed their grass trimmed. He didn’t possess a lawnmower, but he was ready to mow yards for free during his breaks between classes.
People introduced him to friends and acquaintances. He set a goal of cutting 40 lawns by winter. He looked on Craigslist for a secondhand lawnmower so he could cut grass for others who didn’t have mowers. He located one, and when he explained what he was doing to the owner, the man handed him the mower for free.
Smith had accomplished his 40-lawn target by October. He’d trimmed 100 lawns in a month. Smith founded the “Raising Men Lawn Care Service” after WHNT News 19 handed him $319 as part of a “pay it forward” feature.
The firm, which is part lawncare company and half youth initiative, currently has around 20 young men, ages 7 to 17, who trim lawns for the elderly, disabled, and single moms who don’t have the time or finances to keep their yards looking well.
Smith shared a photo on Facebook two days ago of himself, his partner Terrence Stroy, and a woman whose grass they had just trimmed.
In less than a week, it had received over a million likes and had been shared over 200,000 times.
“It simply blew out,” he explained. “I have so many messages that I can’t even respond to everyone.”
‘Everyone helps everyone.’
Smith is originally from Bermuda, where “everyone helps everybody if they can.” He’s quiet and humble. He seemed to be both delighted and apprehensive about his sudden celebrity.
Smith believes his father’s desire of helping others rubbed off on him while he constructed houses for a livelihood.
He moved to the United States in 2009 and attended Drake State Technical College, where he received an associate’s degree.
He will graduate from Alabama A&M in May with a degree in computer science.
“I’d like to go back and earn my master’s degree in social work,” he explained. “All of this has inspired me to pursue a career in social work. I like assisting others.”
Smith cuts grass between lessons seven days a week. “I’ll complete class, mow the lawn, and then return to class. I trim some more grass when I go out.”
His service obtains suggestions from folks in the Huntsville area who need their grass mowed via Facebook. He and Stroy frequently post images of youngsters in their program smiling with the person whose lawn they just mowed on the organization’s Facebook page.
“A lot of folks can’t afford it,” he explained. “They’re on social security, just scraping by, and they’re grateful we can do this for them every two weeks.”
That’s something else. The lawn-mowing isn’t just a one-time activity. The lawncare service comes to clients every two weeks to ensure that their lawns are in good condition.
Smith claims to have witnessed people cry with excitement when they saw their lawns. “One lady had bone cancer and couldn’t afford to get her lawn mowed. It is fantastic to be able to assist so many folks who have fallen on hard times.”
The program involves about 20 boys ranging in age from 7 to 17. Their parents or friends contact the service via Facebook, and Smith mails sign-up paperwork to them.
“We get to know them and have fun,” Smith added. He and Stroy take them on trips and work with them to improve their self-esteem, work ethic, and moral standards. The lads mowed the lawn, raked and bagged leaves, and used weed eaters and trimmers.
They begin with white shirts, similar to a karate belt system. They earn an orange shirt after cutting 10 lawns. Once they’ve cut 50 lawns, they’ll change into green, blue, and eventually black shirts.
He claims that about the sixth lawn, they begin to realize the significance of what they’re doing. They frequently inquire when they will be able to mow lawns again.
Smith’s objective is to instill in them the value of teamwork and togetherness, as well as to develop leadership and listening abilities.
Briggs & Stratton, the maker of lawn mowers, made a film on the Raising Men Lawncare Service as part of its You.Powered. campaign, which gave the program another social media boost.
Smith established a GoFundMe page to generate funds for the purchase and maintenance of lawn equipment, as well as the purchase of t-shirts, refreshments, and program materials.
People from all over the country and the world, including Canada and Saudi Arabia, have approached Smith about starting chapters of the Raising Men Lawncare Service. Smith plans to use part of the money to help the charity grow. He hopes it will grow into a “global” movement.
Smith grinned when asked whether he had any spare time with graduation approaching and a full-fledged charity in the works.
“Some,” he admitted. “I mostly go to school, work, sleep, get up, and repeat.”