Making Good: Raising Men Lawn Care Service
Learn how young men and boys are giving back by providing free lawn care to the elderly, disabled and single moms.
Untidy lawns can be eyesores. But Rodney Smith Jr. sees those eyesores as an opportunity to help.
“Once day I saw an elderly man cutting grass and something just hit me. God was talking to me (saying), ‘Do something about it,’” he says.
That sight spurred Smith into action. The Alabama college student pulled out his mower and began cutting the grass for elderly and disabled residents and single moms in his town of Huntsville. He didn’t charge anything. Instead, it was his gift to people who did not have the money, time or resources to care for their yards.
He started in fall 2015 and spent his free time mowing lawns, when he wasn’t in class or studying at Alabama A&M University. He set a goal to mow 40 lawns by the winter, but reached that number in just a month and a half. Then Smith mowed his 100th new-to-him lawn, not counting repeats, before the year ended.
“So many elderly people, they can’t afford it. It’s a real need," Smith says.
Once he saw the impact and opportunity, he decided to move forward with his vision to make the effort even more meaningful.
Smith, who is from Bermuda, started Raising Men Lawn Care Service. He combines community service with his desire to mentor youth. Smith says he hopes to give kids a sense of accomplishment and purpose, boost their self-esteem, and teach them morals as they learn to use a lawn mower, blower or weed eater.
His one-man effort expanded to a volunteer crew of about 20 boys, ages 7 to 17, in 2016. They cut 100 yards a month, on average, and typically on the weekends.
“It’s the Bermudian way to give back when you can,” he says. “I’m just doing something I know how to do. I didn’t know it was going to turn out to be this big.”
As they mow, remove weeds and rake leaves, he says the kids also learn about teamwork, leadership and listening. No matter their age, size or background, they are capable of doing whatever they put their mind to, he says.
“It’s not hard to motivate them,” he says. “They love it, especially young kids.”
Each member of the young mowing crew starts with a white T-shirt with the Raising Men Lawn Care Service logo. They’re taught to drive the mower like a race car, by following a straight line, turning around and coming back in a straight line.
“They like the idea of the race car,” he says.
Once the kids mow 10 yards, they earn a orange T-shirt, then green with another 10 lawns, then blue with another 10 yards. They get a black T-shirt once they hit the 50-lawn mark.
After word got out about Raising Men Lawn Care Service in 2016, Smith received equipment donations from companies such as Briggs & Stratton, a lawn mower and small equipment company, and money to pay for supplies, T-shirts and refreshments. His story and the work of Raising Men also was featured in a video by Briggs & Stratton.
Smith graduated from Alabama A&M in spring 2016 and planned to pursue his master’s degree in social work. While he earned his degree, he also gained another accomplishment by teaching young boys to follow in his footsteps and give back to the community.
“Today we just finished a lawn for an elderly disabled man. His grass was up to his knees. It’s sad,” Smith says. “We love that Raising Men can help provide this free service.”
Like blades of grass, his idea is growing. He would like chapters of Raising Men Lawn Care Service to sprout up in other cities.
“We’re encouraging people to do so the same thing in your town,” he says. “It has to be free. We don’t want that to change.”