From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
A SCHOOL LIBRARY GETS A MAKEOVER

After a 2006 tornado ravaged her tiny Arkansas town, Marmaduke Elementary School librarian Lena Hood felt sick as she surveyed the debris-covered stacks. "It was so sad," says Lena, 63. Yet the damage to the rural school—where half the students are poor—made one thing clear: The school's library was a relic, with tattered, outdated books, including a 1957 tome on the Soviet Union.

Enter Team Target. For three weeks crews working with the Target Volunteers School Library Makeover campaign painted the walls, brought in furniture, laid carpeting and installed four desktop computers. On Sept. 29 some 30 volunteers from Target—which, with the Heart of America Foundation, a nonprofit literacy group, has renovated 17 other school libraries this year—replaced old books with 2,000 new volumes and gave each of the school's 394 students five books to take home. "They had books from when I went to school," says Target volunteer Tommy Hendrix, 24, a Marmaduke alum. "This was needed."

No one could agree more than Emma Morton, 11, a sixth grader eager to jump into the Harry Potter series. "The library was running out of things for me to read," she says, "so this is really neat." Agrees Lena Hood: "Now there's such pride."

A NEW LOOK FOR A MOM BACK AT WORK

After four years at home changing diapers and rinsing sippy cups, Mary Tomback, 33, barely recognized herself. "I looked in the mirror one day—I had aged 15 years overnight," she says.

A lawyer-turned-stay-at-home-mom, Mary was enjoying afternoons in the park with sons Noah, 5, and Luke, 3, in 2008 when her attorney husband, Matt, was laid off. Forced to sell their North Carolina home at a loss, they moved to Minneapolis, where Matt had found work, and drained their savings to stay afloat. "We were on the brink," Mary says.

So she dived back into the workforce, landing a teaching job at a law school in St. Paul.

But her look still said "soccer mom."

Cue L'Oréal Paris and celebrity makeup artist Collier Strong. On Sept. 29 in New York City, he showed Mary what expertly applied eyeliner, lipstick and concealer can do and gave her a quick-and-easy makeup routine to carry her from the lecture hall to a night on the town. "I look like me, just better and fresher," says Mary, who also received a hair-color touch-up, a year's supply of cosmetics and $5,000 from L'Oréal Paris—and $1,000 in new clothes from PEOPLE. "This gave me back a part of myself and reminded me it's worth holding onto a little bit tighter."

A GENEROUS COUPLE CAN CELEBRATE—AT LAST

When Kenneth Clark had to leave for Air Force basic training in 2006, he and fiancée Monique Barnett settled for a courthouse marriage and chili dogs but vowed to have a real wedding someday.

Over the next two years, stationed at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., the Clarks squirreled away $8,000 for their big day. "Monique," says Kenneth, 28, "had great ideas for the wedding."

Then the couple, who had signed up as mentors with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, met Chuckie Dennis, now 13. His mother had been murdered, and he and his two sisters are being raised by their great-grandmother Bettye Graves.

One day, learning their kitchen was bare, the Clarks dipped into their wedding account to buy the family $300 worth of groceries. More withdrawals followed, for trips with the kids to the ballet, a museum, a basketball game. "They needed things," says Monique, 27, an aspiring writer, "and a wedding isn't a need." Says Bettye, 75: "They're always here for us."

A few months ago, with only $37 left in wedding savings, Monique closed the account. As a tribute to their generosity, PEOPLE, along with the Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu, is giving the Clarks a chance to celebrate with an all-expenses-paid six-day stay at the resort in Hawaii. "Now," says Monique, "we can have our honeymoon."

FOR A MOM ON A BUDGET, NO MORE SKIPPING MEALS

Safeia Jumarally has learned how to stretch a single chicken over three meals—and sometimes eats only a bagel or bowl of cereal for dinner so her three kids can fill up. The recession has hit hard: Her husband, Zainul, 43, a handyman, has lost most of his business, and they are working with the bank to avoid foreclosure on their St. Cloud, Fla., home. But Safeia, 40, doesn't believe in complaining. "I know we'll get through the tough times," she says in her lilting Guyanese accent. "People have it worse than we do, and we can help." Two days a week, since last year, she and Zainul have driven their breakdown-prone minivan to deliver food to the elderly as volunteers for Meals on Wheels, even though Safeia has had to sell some beloved jewelry to pay for gas. "This is the sweetest family, and we're blessed to have them," says Wilda Belisle, Meals on Wheels program director for Osceola County. And now the Jumarallys can count some blessings of their own: Lean Cuisine is awarding them $12,000 in groceries over the next year to celebrate their generous spirit and give Safeia a chance to take care of herself. "Now I don't have to worry," she says. "We're thinking about Thanksgiving and sharing a great meal—and giving some food to Meals on Wheels."

FOR MORE ON PEOPLE'S 35TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, GO TO PEOPLE.COM/35TH

  • Contributors:
  • CONTRIBUTORS Elaine Aradillas,
  • Lorenzo Benet,
  • Brian Braiker,
  • Paul Chi,
  • Champ Clark,
  • Antoinette Y. Coulton,
  • Mark Dagostino,
  • Shruti Dhalwala,
  • Mary Green,
  • Wendy Grossman,
  • Liza Hamm,
  • Jessica Herndon,
  • Julie Jordan,
  • Amy Elisa Keith,
  • Kristen Mascia,
  • Farah Menass.