Rodney Smith Jr. is mowing lawns this summer — not only at his home in Huntsville, Alabama, but in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. And he’s doing it for free.
Smith (@iamrodneysmith) says his goal is to help the elderly, people who are disabled, veterans and single mothers, and his nonprofit organization Raising Men Lawn Care Service has gotten young kids involved in the effort.
He tells Here & Now‘s Lisa Mullins that many of the people whose grass he cuts are “shocked” at first, but then appreciative that someone is there to help.
“I remember just a few days ago, this lady, she was a widow for a few years, and she just let the lawn go, because her husband used to take care of the lawn,” Smith says. “But I came and mowed it for her. And it hadn’t been cut in probably three to four years.”
On how he finds out about lawns in need of mowing
“Before I started the tour, I made a request to my followers, if they knew anyone in the cities and states I’ll be going to. So I selected a city in each state where I’d be going to, and I put it out, and people just start submitting lawns of those who are elderly, disabled, single moms and veterans, and that’s how it all happened.
“I mow an average of three to four lawns per city. Sometimes it’s more. Like yesterday in Casper, Wyoming, I had about five or six lawns. So it was a pretty busy day.”
On how many young people he’s recruited so far
“We have a total of about 180 kids taking part in our 50 Yard Challenge, including one in Canada and seven in Bermuda and England that are taking part in this challenge. So let’s say you had a kid in New York that accepted the challenge, all they would need to do is make a sign saying, ‘I accept the 50 Yard Challenge,’ and in return, we send them a white Raising Men Lawn Care Service t-shirt, along with shades and ear protection. Once they mow 10 lawns, they get an orange shirt, 20 a green, 30 a blue, 40 a red and 50 a black.
“And once they reach 50, we fly to them, we do lawns with them and we also give them brand new lawnmowers. To date, 12 kids nationwide have completed this.”
On why he’s doing this
“I’m just trying to encourage kids to get out there and make a difference. Too many kids are inside playing video games. And what I’m doing, I believe it’s my purpose. I remember a few years ago, I had a one-on-one conversation with God, and I asked him to use me as his vessel. He didn’t give me an answer that day, not a week later, not even a month later. It happened a few years later in 2015, when I came across an elderly man outside mowing his lawn, and it looked like he was struggling, so I pulled over and I helped him out. At the time I was getting my bachelor’s in computer science, so I thought I could mow 40 lawns by the end of winter. But I mowed 40 lawns so quick that I upped my goal to 100, and a month and a half later I reached my 100th lawn, and that’s when I came up with the idea of raising my lawn care service.”
On what he says to kids who might complain while mowing a lawn
“I let them know that they’re making a difference. I remember one kid we had, he came out for the first time with us in Huntsville, where I’m based out of, and at first he was like, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ But after he finished his first lawn, it was for an elderly man, and I asked him on camera, how does it feel to know that he made a difference. And his face lit up. He said, ‘Oh, did you see his face just now? I finished his lawn, and he had a big smile on his face and he thanked me. Oh man, oh man.’ I mean, it’s priceless just to see his face just light up after he’d done his first lawn, and that’s the kind of reaction a lot of the kids are giving us. So it’s really cool to see such a small idea grow into something that is inspiring kids nationwide and even worldwide.”