Susan Young and Jeff Truesdell
April 07, 2014 12:00 PM

MATTHEW NALYWAIKO, 32

Santa Rosa, Calif.

A FEELING FOR OTHERS

Growing up with dyslexia, Matthew Nalywaiko feared he’d struggle in life. But he drew inspiration from his parents, Victor and Katherine, who volunteered feeding the homeless. “There are no words for their heart for people,” he says, tearing up, “or [wish] to see me strive.”

CHANGE OF DIRECTION

Unfulfilled doing construction work on luxury homes, he volunteered with orphans in India and built houses for the poor in Mexico. Then in ’09 he launched Serve a Little (servealittle.org), recruiting 80 handymen and other volunteers. They’ve done free odd jobs – fixing leaky faucets, keeping cars running – for 200 needy families, especially struggling single and military mothers. “To make sure kids are okay,” says Nalywaiko, now a video producer, “moms have to be okay.”

A LEG UP

The gift of a used car and regular oil changes let Nazareli Parra, 25, then a single mom of two, finish school and find work as a receptionist and translator at a dental clinic. “Matthew,” says Parra, now a married mother of three, “changed my life.”

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