After Losing His Job, This New Jersey Man Started a Free Lawn-Mowing Service for Seniors and Veterans
Not even a pandemic can stop a good Samaritan with a lawn mower.
Brian Schwartz was a dedicated VP at a digital ad agency in New York City, right up until COVID-19 hit the world—and the economy—hard this spring. By June, he was laid off from his job, a devastating blow that, sadly, millions of Americans have been dealt in 2020.
Finding himself jobless in the middle of a pandemic—with a mortgage to pay and a wife and newborn baby at home—wasn’t exactly the start to summer he’d envisioned. But the Wayne, N.J. resident didn’t let it bring him down for long.
Instead, Schwartz directed all his energy toward helping others in his community. Soon after his role was impacted in June, the former ad exec decided to start a totally free lawn-mowing service for local seniors and veterans, which he dubbed as plainly as possible: I Want to Mow Your Lawn.
"I’d gone out to mow my lawn and it felt therapeutic—it was a good workout and helped me to clear my mind," Schwartz told The Washington Post. "So I thought, 'That’s it, I’ll give back by mowing lawns and doing yard work for people who are having trouble doing it on their own.'"
To get the word out, Schwartz built a website from scratch, created a Facebook page, and sent a press release to local news outlets. By the end of June, Schwartz was mowing the lawn of his first eager taker, an elderly woman in Verona, N.J.
Given the financial and physical challenges brought on by the pandemic, particularly for those 65 and older, providing free-of-charge lawn mowing was the safest and most helpful thing Schwartz could think to do for his vulnerable neighbors. Schwartz was particularly moved to serve older folks in his community since losing his own grandfather last year. Schwartz is also extending his volunteer services to disabled veterans.
"I just love grandparents," Schwartz said in an interview with CNN. "I can only imagine the stress they're all going through. I realized a lot of them (senior citizens) are on fixed incomes, so I figured there's a creative way to help them out. Not just physically, but also mentally."
He's since expanded his grassroots program to provide landscaping and yard work for a client roster of more than 25 grateful seniors and veterans in four New Jersey counties. More volunteers (also let go from their jobs due to pandemic-related downsizing) have jumped on board to help out, too. This includes one of Schwartz's former coworkers, Sabrina Anthony, who was also laid off from her role as director of online media. Anthony now pitches in as I Want to Mow Your Lawn's VP of social #MOWments (you got to love it).
As chief mowing officer, Schwartz always practices safe social distancing and won't accept tips (although since many of his clients have expressed interest in repaying his kindness, he does accept donations for gas money and several charities close to his heart). His customers love him, to put it lightly, and as long as he has the time, he has no intention of putting his lawn mower away.
"These are difficult times," Schwartz said. "There are people going through more stress than we are right now. I’m finding great meaning and purpose in pushing a mower around to help others.”
Need your yard whipped into shape in the New Jersey area? Here's how to reach out for a free trim.