Inspiring Volunteerism One Lawn at a Time

It’s officially the summer season. That means children on vacation, and maybe some summer jobs, like mowing lawns in the neighborhood. Instead of mowing for cash, one young man started a free lawn care service. His mission is to give back to the community and inspire children to do the same.

Rodney Smith Jr. founded the Raising Men Lawn Care Service to keep children on a “positive path while learning and understanding their value in society.” They offer free lawn care to veterans, single mothers, the elderly, and those who are disabled.

Raising Men Lawn Care Service

Can you just tell me a little bit about yourself?

Rodney Smith Jr.: I’m from Huntsville, Alabama. I went to high school in upstate New York at a school called Maplebrook. It’s a small school for kids with learning disabilities. I graduated with an associate’s degree in information technology at J.F. Drake Technical College. From there I went to a four year college at Alabama A&M, where I graduated with my bachelor’s in computer science. I went right back and got my master’s in social work after I found my true purpose in life, which is helping people.

Finding Inspiration

Can you tell me what inspired you to start this organization?

Rodney Smith Jr.: I was in my senior year of college getting my bachelor’s in computer science when I came across an elderly man outside mowing his lawn. It looked like he was struggling. So I pulled over and helped him mow. That night I decided I would start mowing free lawns for the elderly, disabled, single moms, and veterans. At first my goal was to mow 40 lawns. At that time I was getting my bachelor’s in computer science, so I thought I could mow free lawns in between classes. But I mowed 40 lawns so quick that I upped my goal to 100. A month and a half later, we founded the Raising Men Lawn Care Service. We also include kids aged 7 to 17 so they can give back to their community with a lawnmower.

The 50 Yard Challenge

Can you kind of give us a little bit more, um, how like background on how your organization works?

Rodney Smith Jr.: The main part of the organization is the 50 yard challenge. The 50 yard challenge is a challenge we have issued to kids nationwide, and even worldwide, to mow 50 free lawns in their community. Free for the elderly, disabled, single moms, and veterans in their city. Let’s say you had a kid in Phoenix, Arizona, and they want to take part in the 50 yard challenge. What they will do is they’ll make a sign saying “I accept the 50 yard challenge” and send it to us. In return we send them a white raising men or raising women’s T-shirt along with shades and ear protection. Once they mow 10 lawns, they get an orange shirt; 20 are green; 30 are blue; 40 are red; and once they mow 50 lawns, they earn a black shirt. So it’s like the karate system.

Once they mow 50 lawns, we fly out to do lawns with them. We also give them brand new mowers, weed eaters, and blowers for completing the challenge. To date about 40 kids nationwide have completed this challenge. We have 368 kids nationwide, including one in Canada, seven in Bermuda and England, and three in Australia that take part in the 50 yard challenge. They’re all mowing free lawns in their communities. So that’s the main part of the organization, just getting kids out there to help out their community.

The Impact

How has it not only impacted you, but how has it impacted the kids that do the challenge as well?

Rodney Smith Jr.: It gets them out in the community, gets them to put down video games. It gets to show them the importance of giving back to the community and helping others in need. And it instills a good work ethic in them as well. It gives them an identity, you know, not just sitting around doing nothing. They’re out there and are a part of something. They’re part of a whole team a kids who are out there making a difference. And for me, you know, it’s just knowing that something as small as mowing a lawn is impacting the lives and many. I would’ve never expected it to grow into what it is today. It just made me see how God works.

Supported by Donations

Where do you get your equipment and resources from? How you get all the lawn mowers and weed eaters and stuff?

Rodney Smith Jr.: Well, everything given is from donations. I mean people just support the organization. We have an Amazon business where people can go and purchase lawn mowers and weed eaters and send them to us directly. Everything’s just private donations to support the organization. And donations allow us to buy T-shirts for the kids. When we first started out, we had to buy the lawnmowers. Just donations from regular people.  We don’t have a corporate sponsor or anything right now. Hopefully in the near future we will be able to get a big sponsor. It would allow us to do more. We could go to schools and get more kids to join the program.

How You Can Help

How do you choose the people who mow the lawns? Do they just sign up? How does that work?

Rodney Smith Jr.: We’re based in Huntsville, Alabama, so we have people that sign up there. For the other states where the kids take part in the 50 yard challenge, they go into the community and they find out who needs it, anyone elderly, disabled, single moms, and veterans. Social media plays a huge part in it and allows us to reach out.

How can people get involved in your organization?

Rodney Smith Jr.: They could reach out to us on our website at WeAreRaisingMen.com. We’re trying to open up more chapters. People can go in the community and do the same thing as us, or they can go there and sign up the kids. If adults want to take part in the 50 yard challenge, they can do that as well. We’re trying to encourage everyone to just go there and make a difference one lawn at a time.

Press play to listen. What benefits do you think volunteerism brings to children? Please comment below.