Man on cross-country lawn mowing tour for veterans visits Pittsburgh region |
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Paul Guggenheimer

Rodney Smith was in Charleston, W.Va., hoping to come to Pittsburgh.

He wanted to mow a lawn for a veteran.

For free.

By Tuesday, he had found someone, a Gulf War vet named Kenneth Morton who had spent 20 years in the Army and served in Operation Desert Storm. Smith drove to Canonsburg to take care of Morton’s lawn, free of charge.

“I’m thanking them for their service,” Smith said.

It all began one day in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala., in 2015, not long after Smith finished earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He saw an elderly man struggling as he was mowing his lawn. Smith pulled over to help him and had an epiphany.

Smith, 29, decided that he should mow lawns for free for the elderly, disabled and veterans.

“At first, my goal was to mow 40 lawns, and I reached it faster than I thought. So I set a new goal of 100 lawns, and I made that one, too,” Smith said.

He’s been to all 50 states at least four times each after starting a nonprofit called Raising Men Lawn Care Service.

In 2018, he completed a cross-country lawn mowing tour twice, once during the summer and again in the fall. The veterans he has met include those who have served in wars from World War II to Vietnam to Iraq.

Smith takes no salary and survives by living at his dad’s house. He drives everywhere. People help him along the way by giving him gas cards or gas money and paying for his hotel rooms.

He encourages children and young adults to help in the volunteer efforts.

“And once they mow 50, we drive or fly to wherever they are and we present them with a brand-new mower, a weed eater and blower,” Smith said.

The lawnmowers are bought by donors who purchase them off an Amazon wish list. So far, nearly 40 participants have completed the challenge. Smith has hundreds more participating in countries all over the world, including England, Germany and Australia.

“It’s about instilling good morals and the importance of community service and work ethic and just giving back to the community in general, and those in need, by mowing lawns for free,” he said.

Smith has no plans to stop as long as people support it: “It’s a much-needed service wherever I go.”

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