It wasn't all bad
1:53 a.m.

Fifteen years ago, as Victoria Johnson read a used book she had just purchased, a photograph that had been tucked inside fell out. This was the beginning of a mystery that she finally was able to solve last month, thanks to internet sleuths.

The picture was of a Black family, and Johnson, a professor in New York City, estimated by their clothes that the shot was taken in the 1960s. She would look at the photo often, wondering who they were and if they were still living. In February, Johnson asked for help on Twitter, and the picture was retweeted thousands of times.

The great-niece of the man in the photo messaged Johnson, to let her know it was a photo of Sheldon and Margaret Sudduth and their daughters, Valerie and Sharon. The picture was taken in 1964 at their home in Topeka, and mailed to relatives in New York City. While Sheldon and Margaret have died, Valerie and Sharon are both alive and reside in Texas.

During a phone call, Valerie Sudduth told Johnson that her mother, a nurse, was a widow, and met Sheldon at church. Sudduth explained to Johnson that in the picture, she "looks so happy because she was thrilled about her new dad. Sheldon was kind, funny, and gentle. He made her feel she could handle anything she set her mind to." The photo is now on its way to Sudduth. Catherine Garcia

1:01 a.m.

An abandoned lot in southeast Atlanta is now a vibrant free food forest, where neighborhood residents can learn about healthy eating while enjoying fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

The food forest spans 7.1 acres, with 2,500 edible and medicinal plants. The land was originally used by pecan farmers, and then rezoned for townhouses. When the property entered foreclosure, the Conservation Fund bought it, and with grant money and help from other organizations, it was transformed into the Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill, the nation's largest free food forest.

The forest has nut trees, fruit trees, berry bushes, vegetables, and herbs, grown in a way that mimics nature, certified arborist Michael McCord said. McCord helps manage the forest, and told CNN everything in the space is "a teachable moment, whether it be trees, trails, bees or vegetables. That's what's most important to me — that we're raising awareness about sustainability and agriculture."

The city-owned and managed forest is in the Browns Mill neighborhood, a food desert where the closest grocery store is 30 minutes away by bus and 1 in 3 residents lives below the poverty line. More than 1,000 volunteers help keep the forest up and running by planting, watering, and harvesting crops. People are asked to only take as much food as needed, to ensure no one goes without. "It's really a park for everyone," Atlanta councilwoman Carla Smith told CNN. "Every time I go, there's a community there who respects and appreciates the fresh healthy foods." Watch the video below to get a look at the forest, pre-pandemic. Catherine Garcia

March 3, 2021

At 14, Benjamin Kagan isn't old enough to get the coronavirus vaccine — but he can help those who are eligible secure appointments.

Due to a limited number of appointments, getting signed up has been hard for most people, and it's even more daunting for those who don't have access to a computer or have a slower internet connection. After making appointments for his grandparents, Kagan, a Chicago resident, was inspired last month to start Chicago Vaccine Angels, a group where volunteers secure appointments for people in need of assistance.

It hasn't been easy, the tech-savvy high schooler said. Kagan has to be on his computer at midnight, ready to get in a virtual line, and "it's incredibly complicated to navigate even for myself," he told CBS Chicago, adding, "If you're not on the ball and getting them as soon as they are released, they're gone." It's worth it, though — since launching Chicago Vaccine Angels, Kagan has helped more than 119 people, mostly seniors, get appointments. Catherine Garcia

March 3, 2021

More than 300 years after it was mailed, a letter sent from one cousin to another in the Netherlands has finally been opened — virtually.

Jana Dambrogio, a conservator with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries, told NPR that before the gummed envelope was invented in the 1830s, people would secure their letters via "letterlocking," using intricate folds, creases, slits, and holes to transform the piece of paper into a package. While some archivists have used scissors to cut locked letters, Dambrogio worried about what is lost "when we open the unopened."

With a team of researchers, Dambrogio was able to take a locked letter and read it, without disturbing anything. The letter, written in 1697, was found in The Hague in an old postmaster's trunk. Inks at that time contained high amounts of metal, so the team used an X-ray scanner that can create 3D images of teeth to make a 3D image of the letter. The writing showed up "as a very bright region on the scan," like a bone would appear on an X-ray, Amanda Ghassaei of Adobe Research told NPR.

Because it was folded so many times, the letter had several layers close together, making the words look jumbled. The team had to "find a way to manipulate that data and actually virtually unfold it so that we could get it into a flat state," Ghassaei said. Success came after the researchers used a brute-force algorithm, and they discovered that the letter was sent to request an official death certificate for a relative.

The folding pattern included an arrow shape, and is "quite beautiful," Dambrogio told NPR. She finds it "thrilling" that the note can be read "without tampering with the letter packet, leaving it to study as an unopened object." Catherine Garcia

March 1, 2021

When his surfboard drifted away from him during a November surfing session, Lee Brogan thought it was gone forever. Instead, it was found more than 400 miles away by a woman intent on getting the surfboard back to its owner.

Brogan lost the surfboard while at Runswick Bay in northeastern England. It ended up traveling across the North Sea, washing up in the village of Skeld in the Shetland Islands. On Dec. 28, Stephanie Riise and her partner Jake Anderson found the surfboard on the beach, and Riise immediately posted photos of it on a Facebook page called Shetland Seashore Discoveries.

Riise told The Scotsman she was hoping the owner would quickly claim it, and within an hour she received a message that the board belonged to Brogan. It was "unbelievable" how fast it all came together, Riise said, and once a "shocked" Brogan contacted her the next morning with proof that it was his surfboard, they worked on a plan to get it back to him.

Joel Friedlander, a local courier, ended up packing the surfboard in the back of his truck, and dropping it off at Brogan's house — the trip took 18 hours, including a 12-hour ferry crossing. Brogan was so excited to see the surfboard that it "was like a child at Christmas," Friedlander told The Scotsman. The surfboard has a few dings and needs to be painted in some spots, but considering the long journey, it's in good shape. Everyone is content now that the surfboard is back where it belongs, and Riise said that seeing Brogan "so thankful and appreciative has really made it worthwhile." Catherine Garcia

February 25, 2021

Whether they want to skate or play hockey, everyone is welcome at Steve Chittle's backyard ice rink.

Chittle lives in Manton, Michigan, and wanted to do something that would lift spirits amid the pandemic. His children don't skate, but that didn't stop Chittle from going through with his idea of building a small ice rink on his property. Once he was finished, he knocked on doors to spread the word, and soon there were neighborhood kids darting around on the ice.

The parents, thrilled that their kids are having fun outside and not on their phones, have chipped in to buy skates and hockey sticks so everyone can enjoy the rink. "We all know that you've got to provide for your kids, but somehow you've got to give them some magic every now and again," Chittle told CBS News. "Just give a kid some magic. It doesn't get any better than that." Catherine Garcia

February 24, 2021

Amanda Palomino has spent the last several months baking cookies for friends while fostering dogs, and found a way to combine both of these interests through a new charitable company: Batter that Matters.

Palomino, 27, lives in Bedford, New York. Her father owns several restaurants, but she is a self-taught baker, learning as she created desserts for her family. Palomino told The Journal News that she began baking more during quarantine as a way to "de-stress," and when she gave her desserts away to family and friends, she saw how their faces would light up. "I've been thinking about starting my own business for a while so I figured why not bake, spread joy, and give back," Palomino said.

In early January, she started Batter that Matters, an online bakery specializing in cookies — her favorite treat to make. Her menu features classics like chocolate chip and snickerdoodle, with vegan and gluten-free options to be inclusive. A portion of her profits will always be donated to charity, with the organizations changing every few months. Palomino's first charity is the SPCA of Westchester, and she picked this no-kill animal shelter in honor of the pups she's helped rescue over the last year. "I've spent part of the pandemic fostering dogs and it's been really rewarding," she said. Catherine Garcia

February 23, 2021

Adolfo Melendez is looking out for his fellow small business owners in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Using $2,000 he had set aside to buy ads for his restaurant, Melendez purchased gift cards from seven other dining establishments in town, to be raffled off online.

"If you help one person and that person will help another business, that will help a lot," Melendez told WSAW. As the owner of El Mezcal, Melendez knows how hard it is right now to run a restaurant. He said small businesses are the backbone of Stevens Point, and that's what prompted him to buy the gift cards.

Pete Ananiadis, who owns Olympia Family Restaurant in Stevens Point, said he appreciates Melendez and his community spirit. "In these COVID times it's very important to eat local, small mom and pop shops," he told WSAW. "He understands that, and for all of us right now it's a tough time." Catherine Garcia

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