BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (KMSP) - With a push of his mower in Bloomington, Minnesota Thursday, Rodney Smith Jr. has now officially cut grass in 48 states.
“My purpose in life, I believe,” he said.
He stopped in Bloomington at the home of 80-year-old Charlene Fredrick-Schrupp, which was arranged by her daughter's friend.
“I’ve been following him for the past year,” said Becki Bonesteel. “I had to meet him after seeing everything that he’s done.”
Inspired by God, Smith started putting miles on his mower in the summer of 2015 after seeing an elderly man struggling near his home in Alabama. That first small act of kindness led to a nonprofit, Raising Men Lawn Care Service, that encourages children to help people in need by mowing lawns for free.
He made a personal commitment to trim the yards of the disabled, single moms, veterans and the elderly for free.
“I’d give anything if I could even mow a little patch,” said Charlene Frederick-Schrupp. “But the body says, 'No way.'”
Through donations and corporate sponsors and a huge following on Twitter, he’s traveling in all 50 states and inspiring kids to help out in their communities, including here in the Twin Cities.
Nationwide, 190 are taking part in his 50 Yard Challenge, where kids are awarded with different color t-shirts with the more lawns they mow. Once complete, Smith meets with the young volunteers and presents them with a new lawnmower.
“We just want to show they too can make a difference,” said Smith. “There’s many ways to make a difference, I have simply decided to pick a lawnmower and I hope to inspire kids around the nation and even worldwide to make a difference.”
In northeast Minneapolis, Marcia Dietz learned of Smith’s effort on the Fox 9 Morning News just hours before he arrived.
“I’m a cancer survivor and I have some troubles with the lawn sometimes,” she said. “It gets a little overgrown and I get some help when I can.”
Before flying to Alaska Friday and Hawaii a day later, Bonesteel reminded Rodney he’s inspiring people of all ages, gifting him one of her homemade blankets she’s currently sending to people in need in all 50 states.
“We definitely need more people like him,” Bonesteel said. “Or anyone who is giving back to their community because there is not enough of it.”