Heartwarming stories to remind you to find joy amid the pandemic

Louie Correa the "Birthday Brigade's Brigadier General."
Louie Correa the "Birthday Brigade's Brigadier General."(Ashley Stoloff)
Updated: Sep. 22, 2020 at 4:43 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The past six months have been stressful and it has reshaped the daily lives of many people. So here’s a look back at some of NBC12′s favorite “Acts of Kindness” stories to help brighten up the day.

Crewe Woman Surprised with $300

In May, we met Jessica Niro at her home in Crewe, Virginia. Like millions of Americans, the longtime waitress lost her job.

“Life keeps going on and the money is not rolling in,” says Niro.

She needed answers about her unemployment benefits from the Virginia Employment Commission, so NBC12′s Anthony Antonie put her in contact with the right people and helped her out.

“Thank you so much, you don’t know how much this means,” Niro said.

Nurse Jumps Into Action

This is a reminder to be hopeful. Samantha Baxter is a nurse at Saint Mary’s Hospital. She was off-duty when she witnessed this crash in Henrico.

Baxter was administering aid to the victim before firefighters could get there.

“I looked up and I saw the car flipping, I put my car in park and jumped out, ran towards it, not knowing if there were alive or not,” says Baxter.

Captain Bryce Grissom with the Henrico Fire Department was on the scene that day and he was encouraged to see a civilian being so selfless.

“With everything going on in the world, it’s really good to see people willing to stop what they were doing, to jump in and make a difference,” Grissom said.

Garbage man spreads joy on the job

Darrel McNeil reminded everyone to smile through the hard times, with a personality so infectious and he’s someone that can really make your day.

“I love my customers with all my heart, I really do,” he said.

Mr. Darrel, as he is affectionally known by the kids on this route, has been a garbage man for close to 25 years.

Recently, he formed a friendship with a pair of toddlers, Bodhi and his little brother Cardin.

“They ask every morning if it’s garbage day,” their mother Allie Albright said.

Darrel bought the boys a toy garbage truck and they love it.

To say thank you, Albright nominated him for the Acts of Kindness award, and it came with $300 and a gift card to Mexico Restaurant.

“I was surprised man, it shocked me. I wasn’t expecting that I really wasn’t,” says Darrel.

Birthday Brigade

Remember traditional birthday parties? That’s a thing of the past, but in this quiet Chesterfield neighborhood, they still found a way to make it work!

At 6 p.m. every Sunday, things get lively, thanks to the captain of the “Birthday Brigade,” Louie Correa.

He’s organized more than 200 drive-by birthday parties for kids in his neighborhood.

“What I hope the children get out of it is the opportunity to feel celebrated and feel special,” says Correa.

He even caught the attention of Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager of the TODAY show. The hosts gave him $500 to buy costumes for more birthday parties.

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