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Florida group hangs coats on fences, poles to help residents stay warm

Hard freezes are a rarity in central Florida, but a group is trying to make sure nobody stays cold during this year’s chilly weather.

>> Read more trending news

Bright Hopes in Pasco County has been collecting coats and tying them around trees, light poles and fences, leaving a note saying the clothing is free to anyone who needs it, WTVT reported.

Group members are also stapling hats and gloves around town. The group already has given away 50 coats and will continue this month as part of its annual Warm Winter Drive, WTVT reported.

“It means so much to a lot of people out here who are literally sleeping on the ground tonight,” said Melissa Cohee of Bright Hopes.

The organization is a community involvement outreach program for the homeless and underprivileged of Pasco County, located north of Tampa.

Cohee said the coats are for anyone.

“I don't want anyone to feel obligated,” she said. “I don't want anyone to feel bad about taking it, so this is not just for homeless, this is for anybody that needs it, anybody that's cold, anybody who needs a jacket, they can take it.” 

Cohee says people will stop her, even from their cars, and hand her the coats off their backs to give away.

“That happens quite often, actually,” Cohee said. “A lot of people are touched, and if we can inspire somebody else to do something like that, that's our main goal.”

Woman gets tattoo that plays voicemail from her late grandmother

A Chicago woman found a unique way to keep her deceased grandmother close to her heart.

>> Read more trending news

Sakyrah Angelique got a tattoo under her left collarbone that an app can read, using her cellphone’s camera and play an audio file, WGN reported. 

Angelique tweeted a video Tuesday night of her listening to a voicemail of birthday wishes from her grandmother, who left the message a month before she died..

Angelique said she had held the voicemail for nearly three years, unsure of what to do with it, WGN reported

She discovered the technology from Skin Motion that enabled her to hear her grandmother’s voice. A Skin Motion user can upload an audio file, tattoo the resulting “soundwave” pattern and play the audio by scanning the ink with an app.

Trader Joe's store in Michigan donates 35,000 pounds of food to shelter

A Michigan store donated 35,000 pounds of food to a local shelter after its refrigeration system failed Wednesday morning, WXMI reported.

>> Read more trending news

The Trader Joe's store in Kalamazoo made the donation to the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. 

“They called us and we were able to mobilize a team within an hour that consisted of staff and volunteers,” said Greg Weaver, the mission’s director of food service.

Trader Joe's store captain Daniel Sorscher told WXMI that the company donates food daily to local shelters.

"Everything that we deem is able to be consumed safely we donate to our neighbors and we're really happy to participate in helping the community in that way," Sorscher said.

The Kalamazoo Gospel Mission provides three free meals daily, serving about 600 meals every day. Weaver said 95 percent of the mission's food comes from donations.

The mission was able to store most of the food, but also donated 4,000 pounds to 12 Baskets, a local food pantry, WXMI reported.

Woman wins $5 million jackpot from winning ticket she didn’t want to buy

A New Jersey woman will soon be a whopping $5 million richer after checking the numbers on the scratch-off lottery ticket she accidentally purchased two weeks ago.

>> Read more trending news 

Oksana Zaharov, 46, meant to buy a $1 scratch-off ticket while she was shopping in New York City, but she was mistakenly issued a $10 ticket by the clerk instead. Even though she went ahead and bought it anyway, she waited a full two weeks to check it.

“When the clerk handed me the wrong ticket I felt bad so I decided to just go ahead and buy it,” she said on Tuesday. “I actually used the ticket as a bookmarker for a couple weeks before I decided to scratch it.”

Much to her surprise, she eventually scratched off the ticket to reveal the winning numbers.

“I never win anything,” Zaharov said. “I was sure the ticket was fake. It wasn’t until I brought it into the office that I knew it was for real.”

>> Related: This grocery store sub named best sandwich in the country

The mother of two will receive 19 annual payments of $260,000 ($172,068 after taxes) and one additional payment of $60,000 ($39,708 after taxes). Then, she will continue to receive annual net payments of $172,068. With her newfound wealth, Zaharov plans to take her family on a vacation to the Bahamas and to set aside much of the remaining money for her children’s future college educations.

Mom serves lunch to more than 100 kids when snow storm closes schools

Most kids cheer when snow cancels school. But that one day off from classes could mean that some children won’t have anything to eat until they report to school once the snow passes.

That’s the realization that Amy Price had this week when her son’s school cancelled, so she jumped into action, The Chronicle-Telegram reported

>> Read more trending news 

Price posted on her Facebook page, “If you live in the Lorain County area, and your kids depend on school-provided breakfast and lunch to be able to eat today and they do not have school, please inbox me. Someone from my company will drop off some items for you.”

By 1 p.m., Price’s post had been shared 450 times and she had a list of more than 100 children who were in need of a meal. She also was sent messages by others who were willing to help get food or donate money, The Chronicle-Telegram reported.

Price, with the help of her family, then delivered cheeseburgers and fries from a local McDonald’s to those who needed them. 

Some schools in the area have a Backpack Program, which gives elementary school children a backpack full of nonperishable food for the weekend, adding extra food for longer planned breaks, The Chronicle-Telegram reported.

New Year's baby born on freeway after South Carolina police chase

A South Carolina father watched his baby girl’s birth while he was in handcuffs.

>> Watch the news report here

WCIV-TV reports Carl Alewine’s fiancee’s water broke early on New Year’s morning and he was racing down Interstate 26 near Charleston to get her to the hospital.

>> On South Carolina woman slips out of handcuffs, hijacks cruiser, deputies say

The car was traveling at more than 90 miles per hour when several law enforcement officers started chasing Alewine.

He just kept going until officers eventually boxed him in and forced him to pull over.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

They had Alewine in handcuffs when his little girl, Anastasia, came out with one push.

>> On New section in North Carolina DMV handbook explains what to do when pulled over

"I'm sitting there, watching her born on the hood of the car, fireworks going off in the background, because it's 1 in the morning on New Year's and then they let me out of handcuffs and all the cops started clapping and congratulating us," Alewine recalled.

>> Read more trending news 

The baby was born healthy, even though the mother went through a high-risk pregnancy. 

The family said they're thankful for the first responders' help. 

Sledding dog takes winter woes away

We’ve heard of sled dogs but what about a sledding dog?

Secret the dog can sled all by herself, The Daily Mail reported.

The 3-year-old Australian shepherd drags her sled to the top of the hill of the property of her owner, Mary, then hops on and takes off. 

>> Read more trending news 

Then she does it again ... and again ... and again, just like a kid.

Mary posted the video to Instagram last week, where it has gotten more than 156,000 views.

Soldier makes it home just in time to be at his baby girl’s birth

Two days, 7 planes, 10 flights and thousands of air miles, but a soldier made it home just in time to be at his daughter’s birth.

But he almost didn’t make it.

U.S. Army combat engineer Francois Clerfe flew from Iraq to Kuwait to Turkey to Frankfurt to Baltimore then to Atlanta before finally landing in California, KSBW reported

>> Read more trending news 

All of the flights and connections had to be timed perfectly. 

Luckily, despite coming into the world early on New Year’s Day, Julia Clerfe, Francois’ newborn daughter, waited just long enough for her dad to be at the hospital with his wife, Natalia Svistunova, KSBW reported.

Julia was due to be born on Jan. 9.

Clerfe now has 30 days leave and an additional 10 days of paternity leave before he has to return to deployment, KSBW reported.

'You're the best, #PatriotsNation': Fans donate blankets to those in need

It was cold out in the stands at Gillette Stadium Sunday for the New England Patriots game, and plenty of fans brought blankets to help stay warm.

Now those blankets are going to those in need.

MORE: Patriots, fans embrace the cold with blanket donations

It was 13 degrees at kick-off with a wind chill of about -2.

>> Read more trending news 

The coldest game they ever played was in 2004 against the Titans when it was 4 degrees.

The team handed out 65,000 hand warmers to fans, and allowed those brave enough to endure those cold temperatures to bring blankets into the stadium.

MORE: Patriots clinch top seed in AFC with win over Jets

Those blankets are now being donated to the Pine Street Inn in Boston and other local shelters.

The Patriots tweeted out photos of the blankets and thanked fans for their generosity.

Woman pays for stranger’s birthday cake in memory of her daughter

A mother who lost her 9-month-old daughter in 2008 when a TV fell during a move and killed her has inspired people on the internet by paying for a stranger’s birthday cake.

>> Read more trending news 

McKenna Jodell Fox’s death occurred when her mother, Ashley Fox, was disconnecting a TV during a family move, KTVK reported at the time. The TV fell forward and the baby girl did not survive her injuries.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

Years later, Fox has brought people to tears with her act of kindness toward a stranger. She bought 11-year-old Madison Jauregui’s birthday cake and left a note explaining why:

Dear Birthday Girl Family, In honor of my daughter’s 10th birthday I have chosen your birthday cake to pay for. Each year I do this random act of kindness because I am unable to buy my daughter a cake of her own. Today is her big double digit birthday. Please enjoy your day. McKenna’s mom

The act of kindness left the Jauregui family speechless.Madison’s brother Kyle shared the note and the story of the act of kindness on Twitter.

Washington State police department wants to thank Good Samaritan

A police department in Washington State wants to find a man involved in a violent scuffle, but not to arrest him.

>> Read more trending news

A stranger helped save the life of an Aberdeen police officer during an arrest, investigators said. The department wants to thank the man for putting his own life in danger.

The officer tried to arrest a juvenile suspect on an outstanding warrant Wednesday afternoon. 

When the officer tried to arrest the minor, he said “no” and tried to step away. According to investigators, the officer grabbed the suspect by the arm and the two hit the ground. While the officer was on top of the suspect, the officer saw him take a knife out of his pocket but was unable to wrestle it away, police said.

Cell phone video from a witness shows the violent encounter unfold for roughly three minutes.

Police don’t know what would have happened if a Good Samaritan didn’t run over to help.

Investigators said the man successfully knocked the knife out of the suspect’s hand, without any concern for himself.

The suspect continued to fight the officer and began grabbing items off the officer’s utility belt. With the citizen’s help, the officer was able to regain control and handcuff the suspect.

The Good Samaritan told the officer his name and went to catch the bus. However, the officer couldn’t remember the name. The Aberdeen Police Department wants to thank the citizen for helping the officer in the dangerous situation.

Police did not say what the warrant was for but did arrest the minor, who will be facing an additional charge for assault on a police officer.

Donations ease sting after vandalism wipes out Iowa honey business

Donations nationwide have eased the sting for an Iowa couple whose beekeeping business was destroyed by vandals, The Globe Gazette reported.

>> Read more trending news

Justin and Tori Engelhardt, who own Wild Hill Honey in Sioux City, discovered their 50 hives and supplies had been ransacked Thursday. Nothing was stolen, but Justin Engelhardt said nearly half a million bees were killed and there was an estimated $60,000 worth of damage not covered by insurance. He called the destruction “completely senseless.”

“They knocked over every single hive, killing all the bees. They wiped us out completely,” Engelhardt told the Globe Gazette. “They broke into our shed, they took all our equipment out and threw it out in the snow, smashed what they could. Doesn’t look like anything was stolen, everything was just vandalized or destroyed.”

The Engelhardts opened Wild Hills Honey six years ago. They sell jars of pure, raw and creamed varieties of honey and other honey byproducts, the Globe Gazette reported.

Todd LaCroix began an approved GoFundMe account on behalf of the Engelhardts and Wild Hill Honey. 

“Tori and Justin are wonderful people who have just suffered a terrible loss,” LaCroix wrote. “The destruction of their bees and equipment is not only a financial hardship but has taken an emotional toll as well.

“Unfortunately, insurance will not cover the loss of the bees and equipment. Any help is appreciated.”

LaCroix set a goal of $24,000, and that had been surpassed by midnight Friday as more than $28,000 had been pledged.

Victoria Kleber, who identified herself on the fundraising page as a 50-hive operator from southwestern Pennsylvania, said she would also donate “nucs and queen cells this spring” if she lived closer to the couple. 

"I hope you will come back stronger and that the perpetrators of this cruel act will face justice," Kleber wrote. "I had ONE hive vandalized last winter and can not even imagine losing all my girls. God bless, and you are in my prayers!"

Wild Hill Honey plans to restock its hives by spring, Engelhardt said Friday, noting he and Tori are salvaging what they can. They hope to resume sales by 2019, the Globe Gazette reported. 

Italian grandmother learns how to use Google Home Mini

It’s difficult enough to get your grandparents to run the cable box. Imagine when an 85-year-old Italian grandmother gets her hands, or voice, on a Google Home Mini.

Ben Actis recorded his grandmother learning how to use the new voice-activated device. 

>> Read more trending news 

She says “hey goo goo” repeatedly, first to ask the weather, then to request her favorite song. 

Google Home Mini was smart enough figure out the weather part, but when she launched into Italian, it didn’t do so well. 

Watch the video below or click here.

Woman gets Christmas kidney after five-year wait on transplant list

A Virginia woman got the gift of life this Christmas.

Sandra Bragg was one of the more than 80,000 people who were on the list for a kidney transplant. But she had high hopes that this Christmas would bring the life-changing surgery she needed, WDBJ reported.

>> Read more trending news 

“I kept on saying, ‘I’m going to get one for Christmas.’ I was determined I was going to get one,” Bragg told WDBJ. “I told my dialysis tech, I said, ‘I won’t see you for Christmas because I'm going to get a kidney.’”

And she was right. The call came two days before the holiday.

It was her third time getting the good news, but the past two times had been what was called “false alarms.” But Bragg said, “Third time’s the charm.”

Now, after five years of dialysis and dealing with kidney disease for most of her life, she has a new hope for the coming year, thanks, she says, to having faith.

“For a while, I didn’t have faith, and I thought ‘Oh this is it? This is going to be my life?’” Bragg told WDBJ. “And it’s totally changed. I mean, just keep the faith.”

Christmas gifts found on Florida interstate will be returned to child

A woman who found a bag of presents on a Florida interstate on Christmas Eve has located the child they belong to and hopes to return the gifts soon.

>> Read more trending news

Andrea Reed posted an update to her Facebook page Thursday, thanking people on social media for their help in locating the family of “Branson,” whose presents were found by her as she drove south on I-75 in Sarasota County near North Port.

Andrea Reid was driving from St. Petersburg to Cape Coral when she spotted the presents on the side of the road, WFLA reported.

The tags on the gifts were for Branson, and “they are from Pops and Windy Randy and Jack,” Reed said. “Unfortunately, the wrapping had come off some of them just because from sliding on the road.”

Reid’s post on Facebook has been shared hundreds of times, and it paid off when she learned the whereabouts of Branson.

“Branson has been found!!” Reed posted Thursday. “Thank you to everyone for your help, you have been amazing!

“I’m still trying to figure out the details to get Branson his gifts.”

Volunteer cuddlers at Florida hospital help spur infant development

A program at a north Florida hospital pairs volunteers with newborns to give them love.

>> Read more trending news

The babies are in the neonatal intensive care unit at UF Health Jacksonville and sometimes their parents can't be with them.

UF Health Jacksonville is one of Northeast Florida’s biggest and busiest hospitals, but tucked away inside, there's a quiet place with tiny beating hearts and tiny hands just waiting to be held.

You could call volunteer Lavonne Mitchell a professional cuddler.

“I retired in 2010 from government and I had heard about them needing someone to rock and cradle the babies, just give them some TLC,” Mitchell said.

And that's exactly what she does once a week for four hours.

They may be only days old, but some of these babies have already faced major challenges.

“Some are here because their parents may be incarcerated and so they need someone. They need that voice, they need that touch,” Mitchell said.

Some are premature, waiting for adoption. Many are addicted to drugs.

Rana Alissa, medical director of the newborn nursery, said cradling the babies goes beyond just comfort. The human touch helps release a hormone called oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone.

“They feed better, they can maintain their temperatures better, they can maintain their blood glucose better,” Alissa said.

And holding them is not only important and good for the baby, but Mitchell said it is also good for her. She calls it a win-win.

“It's a great feeling inside. I feel very rewarded to know I could lend a hand to somebody in need,” Mitchell said.

It has become a labor of love for her. Who knew a simple touch when it comes from the heart can make a difference?

Gambler hits it big on Christmas at Texas casino

This will be a Christmas one lucky gambler will never forget. 

The unidentified winner was able to pocket a $1.5 million jackpot playing Bally’s Million Degree progressive machine at Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino.

>> Read more trending news 

The gambler, who hit the jackpot on Christmas Day, was described as a casino regular from Eagle Pass, Texas, KABB reported.

The casino seems to be lucky on holidays.

On Valentine’s Day, a woman won $1.2 million at the same casino while playing one of its penny machines, KABB reported.

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MUST SEE: Dog unwraps puppy for Christmas

An elderly dog, Cash, was heartbroken when his best four-footed friend died three years ago, but his owner came up with the perfect Christmas present this year to help lighten Cash’s mood, The Daily Mail reported.

Cash’s owners, Marie Ahonen and her partner, bought him a puppy of his own and wrapped the new addition in a box for the golden retriever to open, The Mirror reported.

>> Read more trending news 

When Cash’s owner came in, Cash sniffed the box and his tail started to wag. Then, the box was set on the floor and Cash got his surprise.

The surprise was caught on video.

Strangers use tragedy to give girl the gift of hearing for Christmas

When a 5-year-old Seminole County girl died earlier this year after a life filled with health issues, her parents decided to entrust her brand-new hearing aids to her teacher, in the hope that they would find their way to a family who needed them.

The pink hearing aids ended up in the hands of 4-year-old Brianna Giddens.

WFTV introduced the Giddens during the last holiday season after learning about Brianna’s declining hearing and her parents’ struggle to afford hearing aids not covered by their insurance.

Brianna was born with cytomegalovirus, or CMV, which could, over time, result in complete deafness.

>> Read more trending news 

Since last year, her hearing has deteriorated markedly, but her parents could not afford the $3,000 it would cost to get hearing aids for her.

Jennifer Autorino, who teaches Seminole County children younger than 3 who are deaf or hard of hearing, contacted the Giddens family after the 5-year-old Seminole County girl died.

Autorino described the girl who died as being full of sunshine.

“Just her aura was one of sweetness and love,” Autorino said. “I don’t think you could meet her without feeling how she contributed to the world.”

When the girl died, her parents, who had struggled to afford her brand new hearing aids, gave them to Autorino, who gave them to the Giddens.

“It broke our heart because somebody lost their child, but they passed something forward to help our child, and we’ll always be grateful for that,” Brianna’s father said.

The two families have never met, and the donors asked to keep their identity private.

While they may not know them, Brianna’s mother said they would never forget what the donors did for her daughter.

“Every time they put those in, it’s a reminder of the gift they’ve given us,” she said. “Absolutely.”

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