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Everyday Heroes: Brandon Brando

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

Brandon Brando isn’t just helping the homeless with spare change. He’s changing their lives by building them better and safer places to call home.

A freelance audio-visual tech, Brandon built a wooden shelter, or what he calls a “live station,” last May for Reginald Driskell.

When the two men met in 2021, Reginald had been living on the streets for about 25 years, 17 in a refrigerator-size cardboard box near Mercedes-Benz stadium.

Even at 7 feet by 3.5 feet and minus a bathroom, the live station was a big step up for Reginald. It got him out of the elements, off the ground, and cooling under solar-powered fans. And, at last, he could keep his belongings behind a locked door instead of dragging them in trash bags wherever he went for safekeeping.

“He’s very grateful, and he lets me know that all the time,” Brandon said recently.

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

Brandon -- who credits his giving spirit to his parents -- didn’t stop there.

A few weeks after helping Reginald settle into his new home, a cousin of Brandon’s called from Virginia.

An older homeless woman named Dawn was living up against the side of a local convenience store. Couldn’t Brandon please help her?

Although he lives paycheck to paycheck, Brandon headed to Roanoke, Va. With some donated materials and a little volunteer help, he put together an even slightly bigger live station than Reginald’s in about five days.

A local television station caught the stunned look on Dawn’s face as she was shown the live station, equipped with a generator, heater, and coffee pot. She couldn’t believe it was for her.

Brandon hopes to build another live station for another homeless person before the end of the year.

He said he has already made some improvements to Reginald’s live station and hopes to make others very shortly.

But ultimately, Brandon would like to find someone who supports his long-range dream of a community of live stations for the homeless.

He said he realized he can’t rush it too fast.

“I have to try to find a balance between my work life and what I want to do to uplift and build the community,” Brandon said. “I’m taking it one day at a time.”

With help from his uncle, John Brown, Brandon built the live station for Reginald in his spare time in about 3 1/2 weeks. He’d hoped to spend about $150 on the project but blew past that budget several times over, giving Reginald a space large enough to lay down, sit up, safely store all his belongings, and be comfortable.

He thoroughly insulated the tiny structure and used two USB-powered cooling fans on each side of the unit for air circulation. The fans connect to a solar rechargeable power brick, the type that is typically used to charge multiple devices. Two solar-powered LED lights inside that are attached to solar cells on the roof.

Brandon initially let the blue tarp that covered Reginald’s cardboard box stand as the new structure’s roof. But in late October, he was hatching plans to add a solar generator and a real roof to Reginald’s live station.

He was able to figure out how to make Dawn’s home in Virginia larger, 8-foot by 4-foot. Brandon said that her live station has a solar generator complete with a 100-watt solar panel that allows her to have a coffee maker and plugs for it and her cellphone charger.

He said he had remembered seeing Dawn in the Richmond community years ago.

"She used to stay in this home for people with mental issues," he said. "But that home got shut down."

Brandon said he’d love to do more and do it more often.

"But I can’t really jump the gun," he said.

Brandon believes his passion for helping the homeless was “probably in the cards.”

“My parents have always looked out for just anybody who needs some help,” he said.

HOW TO HELP

Reach out to Brandon at www.imbrandonbrando.com.

Read our first encounter with Brandon and Mr. Reginald: New Atlantan inspired to help homeless (ajc.com)

See the television story about Brandon’s efforts in Richmond, VA. VIDEO: Home for the homeless - KYMA


WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER: A SPECIAL PROJECT

This place we call home is filled with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. Their selfless acts make this region so special – and they bring out the best in all of us. With the holidays upon us, we wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help.

Just as the 55 people we’re profiling can’t do it alone, nor can we. That’s why we worked closely with our partners to bring you this collection of uplifting stories.

We hope they leave you feeling inspired and ready to tackle the busy new year that lies ahead. We hope they make you feel more connected to your community or to your neighbors.

And maybe, just maybe, they will motivate you to come up with your own small way to make a big difference in the lives of others.

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