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New Day Saturday

U.S. Daily Case Count Hits Pandemic High Causing Disruptions; Top Ten Political Stories Of 2021; One-On-One With Outgoing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms On Final Days In Office; "Thanks To Veterans" Program Pays For 11 Vet's Homes; CNN's 2021 Hero Of The Year. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired January 01, 2022 - 07:00   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Happy New Year everyone and welcome back to this special edition of NEW DAY weekend. I'm Amra Walker, jazz --

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Feliz anyo nuevo, Amara. Thank you so much for sharing part of your New Year's Day with us. I'm Boris Sanchez. Coming up from the Capitol insurrection to election night upsets it has been a whirlwind year in politics. And we're going to break down for you the top 10 political stories of the year.

WALKER: Plus, one-on-one without going, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance- Bottoms, she sits down with CNN and talks about her decision to not run for reelection and what it was like for her city and herself to face protests and a pandemic. That is all coming up, but first let's get a check of your top stories.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning and happy new year. Thank you for joining us, I'm Ryan Nobles.

2022 begins with more disruptions and a grim warning. Things will likely get worse as the Omicron variant spreads across the U.S. The nation broke records twice this week for the seven-day average of new daily COVID-19 cases, which remained at an all-time high of roughly 356,000 new daily infections, Thursday. Meanwhile, the FAA says staffing shortages caused by COVID-19 infections could lead to even more flight cancellations.

More than 11,000 flights have been scrapped since Christmas Eve, including more than 1000 today and tomorrow. But none of those are the result of FAA issues. Now, with millions prepared to return to work and school, there are concerns the number of new infections will rise even further. CNN's Pablo Sandoval reports.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. is shattering records this week with an average of about 356,000 COVID infections reported every day in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University. That's world rang in the new year, the latest surge is sweeping across the U.S. pushing cases and hospitalizations to unprecedented levels. Experts warning a turning point could be weeks away.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR: Given the size of our country, and the diversity of vaccination versus not vaccination, that it likely will be more than a couple of weeks probably by the end of January.

SANDOVAL: Roughly 62 percent of the country's fully vaccinated according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only about 33 percent of fully vaccinated adults have gotten boosters, which experts say are critical in protecting against severe illness from the variants. The Omicron variant, the most contagious strain rapidly spreading across the world.

In the U.S. states are seeing their highest case in hospitalization numbers ever. New York reported more than 76,500 new cases on Thursday, governor's office said, breaking its single day record. hospitalizations hit about 8,000, an eight percent spike from the day before. Hospitalizations have risen almost 20 percent since Monday.

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE AND POLICE: Clearly, New York and Washington DC are ahead of the curve, but not by much. And so, expect in the next three to four weeks we're going to see everyone really hit with this.

SANDOVAL: New Jersey, identified more than 28,000 New COVID-19 cases via PCR testing Governor Phil Murphy said on Thursday, the number of positive cases likely higher due to at-home testing, he added. Some governor's calling on the National Guard. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, deploying 1250 National Guard troops he said on the day the state reported its highest hospitalization numbers.

Georgia also deployed 200 troops in the same week that six major health system saw 100 to 200 percent increases in hospitalizations, Governor Brian Kemp said. And New York, doubling its National Guard deployment to 100 and preparing for 80 guardsmen to undergo emergency medical training next month according to the governor.

With more virus spreading in the country, more than 30 colleges and universities are changing the start of their spring semester and more children are getting sick and being hospitalized than at any other point in the pandemic just as their school will be navigating reopening after the holidays.

FAUCI: Quantitatively, you're having so many more people including children who are getting infected and even though hospitalization among children is much, much lower on a percentage basis than hospitalizations for adults particularly elderly individuals. However, when you have such a large volume of infections among children, even with a low level of rate of infection, you're going to still see a lot more children who get hospitalized.


SANDOVAL: On a positive note, studies and reports on the Omicron variant continue to suggest it may not be as lethal as Delta, even as it spreads quickly. Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York. (END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Polo, thank you, Colorado Governor Jared Polis is calling it a New Year's miracle that no deaths have been reported after fast moving wildfires engulfed parts of the state. Winds of up to 105 miles an hour fueled the fires which had destroyed more than 500 homes in Boulder County, Colorado, and forced some 35,000 people to flee. The wildfire began Thursday morning and spread rapidly across thousands of acres. The area is still too dangerous for residents to return.

President Biden is out with a New Year's message for the American people. During a pre-recorded video on ABC the commander in chief and First Lady Joe Biden, struck an optimistic tone heading into 2022.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No matter how tough the challenge, how high the obstacles, we always overcome. This virus and tough. As we enter the new year, I'm more optimistic about America's future that I've ever been. You know, at our best we've taken every crisis we faced and turn it into an opportunity to be a stronger and a better nation.


NOBLES: Biden and the First Lady also paid tribute to medical workers on the front lines of the COVID fight.

Major New Year's Eve plans were scaled back around the world due to the spread of the Omicron variant but many cities still found ways to celebrate.

In New York City, about 15,000 masked and fully-vaccinated people gathered in person for the Time Square Ball Drop.

Fireworks lit up the sky on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as people there celebrated the start of the new year.

And here's the scene from Madrid, Spain where a spectacular show of fireworks was on display.

Eric Adams New York City's new Mayor was sworn into office this morning in Times Square just minutes after the ball drop and midnight. Adams, a former Captain for the New York Police Department, took his oath of office as the 110th Mayor holding a framed photograph of his mother Dorothy's while resting his hand on a family bible.

Still ahead, it was a crazy year in politics to say the least. Next, we'll break down the top 10 stories of 2021.



SANCHEZ: A presidential impeachment, bogus election fraud claims and election night upsets. WALKER: It was an interesting year in politics, to say the least. CNN's Jim Acosta takes a lot at the top 10 stories of the year.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The top 10 political stories of 2021 make this past year feel more like a decade. Starting at number 10.

Pandemic paralysis as medical experts stress vaccines and boosters as the best way of preventing COVID-19 disinformation and lies about these life-saving shots continue to spread as well, misleading millions of Americans are you've

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sure you've seen the pictures all over the Internet of people who've had these shots and now they're magnetized. They put a key on their forehead it sticks, they can put spoons and forks all over them and they can stick.

ACOSTA: Of course, that's utter nonsense. So, get vaccinated.

At number nine.

Republican Party at war with itself over its leader. Disgraced ex- President Donald Trump and his big lie that he won the 2020 election.

DONALD TRUMP, 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not forgetting 2020. Most corrupt elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth President cost us, the President is unfit and the President is unwell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Donald Trump were the 2024 nominee, would you support him?

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I would not

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): You can send Liz Cheney home, back home to Washington, D.C.

ACOSTA: At number eight, Democrats have issues of their own.

ANDREW CUOMO, FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside.

ACOSTA: Facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment which he denied, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York resigns.

GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA), GOVERNOR-ELECT: Virginia, we won this thing.

ACOSTA: Glenn Youngkin, a Republican wins the governor's race in Virginia.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: A very big night for Republicans and a major, quite frankly a major wake up call for Democrats.

ACOSTA: And Gavin Newsom Democratic governor in California successfully fights off a recall there.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Thank you to 40 million Americans 40 million Californians. Thank you for rejecting this recall.

ACOSTA: Number seven. Messy withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Biden administration scrambles to evacuate American citizens and tens of thousands of Afghans from the country ahead of an August 31st deadline.

13 U.S. servicemembers and more than 170 Afghans are killed in terrorist attacks outside Kabul's airport, and the chaotic end to America's longest war.

BIDEN: It's time to end the forever war. Thank you all for listening. May God protect our troops.

ACOSTA: At number six. Big Lie gives birth to an amateurish audit of the 2020 election results in Arizona, which ends up confirming what Americans already knew -- Joe Biden won Arizona.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ballots that were provided to us to count in the coliseum very accurately correlate with the official campus numbers.

ACOSTA: As new GOP driven restrictive voting laws crop up in state houses across the country.

GOV. RON DESTANTIS (R-FL): And I'm actually going to sign it right here. It's going to take effect. Florida, your vote counts.

ACOSTA: Number five, President Biden and his team tried to show Democrats can deliver with big legislative victories first on COVID relief and then infrastructure, but the question remains in his Build Back Better social spending plan passed through the Senate.

At number four double trouble for the GOP in Georgia as Republicans lose to Senate runoff races in January.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: John Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in Georgia, he is defeating David Perdue, the Republican candidate.

ACOSTA: GOP insiders blame Trump rumbling that his election lies backfire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is hereby acquitted the charge.

ACOSTA: Trump becomes the first president in American history to be impeached for a second time, this time for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol. Once again, Republicans stand in the way of a conviction.


BLITZER: Democrats falling those short of the 67 votes needed to convict Trump. This is the second time Donald Trump has been acquitted in an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. ACOSTA: At number two, an event that would normally land at the top of any list of big political stories, the inauguration of a new president.

BIDEN: Preserve, protect and defend. The Constitution of the United States Constitution of the United States.

ACOSTA: But it was far from a typical transfer of power as Trump tried to scheme his way into staying in office, pressuring state officials like Georgia's secretary of state.

TRUMP: So, look, all I want to do is I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we want the state.

ACOSTA: Number one of story 2021. American democracy under attack, January 6th, the insurrection.

TRUMP: We fight like hell, and if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.

ACOSTA: In one last ditch attempt to halt a Biden presidency, a violent mob of Trump supporters and members of far-right groups stormed the Capitol, some chanting they want to kill the vice president.

Rioters clashed with police. Eventually, they smashed their way inside sending lawmakers running for cover.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody stay down.

ACOSTA: A Trump supporter is shot dead by a police officer and as she and others attempt to breach the Speaker's Lobby inside the Capitol. First responders are beaten with the American flag and sprayed with chemicals. As night falls, on a shameful scene, a symbol of American democracy is left battered. In the melee Capitol Police Officer Brian Signac was assaulted by chemical spray. He suffered strokes and died the next day. Haunted by January 6th, a handful of other officers later die by suicide. And the trials of the insurrectionists begin.

True to form, Trump went on to lie about what happened at the Capitol. He never showed remorse never apologized for what he did. Trump has so far escaped any accountability. Instead, he's been emboldened by Republicans who have largely adopted as lies as their own is lapdogs and conservative media and his disciples in Congress now echo is toxic rhetoric. Political Violence Trump and his allies Unleashed is now the subject of an investigation by the January 6th House Select Committee. That probe and its findings may well alter the political landscape for 2022 and beyond. Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.


SANCHEZ: Jim, thanks for that a candid conversation without going Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms is next. She talks about what it was like for her city and for her leadership to get thrust into the national spotlight. A conversation you won't want to miss after a quick break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


WALKER: The new year will bring a new mayor for the city of Atlanta. Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms decided not to run for reelection in November after four years in office. She became a national figure, highlighted for her leadership as a city faced many challenges from racial justice protests to a global pandemic.

SANCHEZ: In her final days, Mayor Bottoms sat down with CNNs Fredricka Whitfield for a candid, wide-ranging interview to talk about her legacy.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: As you reflect on your term, what are the high points, what are the low points? What are the areas that you felt like really shaped you as a leader?

KEISHA LANCE-BOTTOMS (D), MAYOR OF ATLANTA: Oh, there's so many moments. Over the last four years, of course, there was the pandemic that we have all endured together and still in the middle of a pandemic, and then the protests of last summer. But even before that, at the beginning of my term, we experienced three months into my swearing and the largest cyber-attack in the history of any city in America, it completely crippled our systems for nearly a year. And there was a very large federal investigation into the last administration.

WHITFIELD: So, let's zero in on some of those. Because it also means that your leadership was tested. What do you suppose your leadership role teaches you about or has taught you about yourself?

BOTTOMS: That I'm resilient, just like our cities resilient, just like our country is resilient. And there are moments that you don't scrip. But within you and within all of us? I think real it's really the strength and the courage to face those moments. And I heard Maya Angelou say, you know, I did them what I knew to do, and when you know better, you do better. And that's what the last four years have been about. I can't say it's always been perfect leadership, but with whatever's come our way, come my way. I've done the best that I could in the moment. And, and I've learned that I am deliberate and afraid of nothing, as Audrey Lord said.

WHITFIELD: And what do you suppose the nation in the city learned about you? Because, as you just mentioned, it didn't take long before you were recognized not just as a leader of a municipality, but you became a nation's leader too. And let's talk about, you know, particularly during the Trump administration, I mean, he singled you out on several occasions, he singled out the city on several occasions whether it was about immigration, you took a stand, saying you refuse to house U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees.

BOTTOMS: As a country. We are better than this. We are better than separating families. WHITFIELD: And you also stood up to the President, when he called

Atlanta crime infested as though termites or rodents had infested the city. How did you do that?

BOTTOMS: Well, well, I hope that what America saw is that I'm a lot tougher than I look. A lot of times we judge people based on what we see and what we think we know about them. But for leaders across this country, we had to lead in the absence of leadership with Donald Trump and for someone to come for Atlanta and to disparage Atlanta and the leadership and the people of Atlanta in the way that he did a lot of cities and a lot of countries, a lot of leaders across the country wasn't difficult for me to confront that, and that's what you do when you are faced with a bully, you confront the bully, and oftentimes, the bully will stand down.

WHITFIELD: What guided you through that.

BOTTOMS: I think it is a deep-seated courage of that probably been a part of who I am, for my entire life growing up having the benefit of growing up in Atlanta as a child, an African American child. You see leaders who look like you. And you see people who are doing extraordinary things. So, it never occurred to me that I couldn't be courageous or that I couldn't do something extraordinary because there were always examples around me from my teachers, to my grandparents and my parents to the mayor and the people you saw on television. They were a part of our community, and that's the beauty of growing up in a city like Atlanta. And I'm, I'm so glad that in the same way as a child that I was able to emulate that representation that Atlanta still represents that magic to people across the country.


SANCHEZ: You may recall the death of racial art Brooks by police in 2020 caused a nationwide uproar. And in Atlanta where it happened. That uproar turned into unrest.

WALKER: Fiery, violent protests erupted in the days after the shooting. The officer who fired the fatal shots, Garrett Roll faces felony murder and multiple other charges. Large numbers of Atlanta officers called out sick from work in response to those charges. Atlanta's police chief even resigned following the shooting and subsequent protests. Here's part of the conversation.


WHITFIELD: Is there anything in that moment that you felt you should have done differently? You could have done differently? How do you describe what you and the city endured at that time?

BOTTOMS: It was heartbreaking for so many reasons, because I know that our officers were out, by and large, doing the very best that they could do. And then you have this young father who was killed. And just a couple of hours ago, I was with a group of CEOs in the city and university leaders who have meet with quarterly. And we had a presentation from the group Perf who's helped, who has been helping us with police reform in the city. And I asked the question, had our training been differently, had our

training been different with that have turned out differently? And the response was, we don't know. But what we are working toward with our training is to make sure that it's not just de-escalation, but that we don't get to the point where you need the escalation. And with the killing of (INAUDIBLE) Brooks, it was horrible time in our city, because it was shortly after the killing of George Floyd.

And in so many ways, for so many, it represented all of the things that people have been angry about. But on the other side, there, you know, was outcry where's the support for, for our police officers? And in that moment, on May, the best decision based on the information that I had, and the options that I had before me, I felt that it was the best decision. You know, life -- you don't get do overs in life. So, I can't say that I would do anything differently. But I know I made the best decision I thought could be made.

Chief Shields has offered to immediately step aside as police chief, so that the city may move forward with urgency in rebuilding the trust so desperately needed throughout our communities. I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer.

And it's my hope that on the heels of that tragedy, that we are able to avoid another tragedy like that in our city.

WHITFIELD: All that you have learned all the you have endured all that you hope to be passing on, whether it be to your children to the city of Atlanta or to the Mayor-elect Andre Dickens, what will be your advice for him, Mayor-elect Andre Dickens?


BOTTOMS: I've given him a lot of advice. I don't know if he's going to take it or not. But just a few things, and we, we were actually together this morning. And I just really cautioned him to protect his peace. There were --


WHITFIELD: What do you mean by that?

BOTTOMS: There were moments during my term that I honestly thought I lost the ability to empathize. Because there's so many bad things that you confront on a daily basis as a leader, and I think part of it is creating something internally that protects you.

But if you don't ever separate, if you don't ever turn off, you can sometimes become desensitized.

WHITFIELD: So, that's hard to understand. Because, especially, when you were thinking about your son, your son was standing right next to you during those moments of unrest in Atlanta. I mean, that was empathy.

But I -- was it before or after that where you felt like there was possibly an absence of empathy in you as a leader?

BOTTOMS: I don't think it was continuous, but there were moments. And I'm sure over the next few months, I'll go back and I'll think about what else was going on when I felt that. But that's what happens when you are fatigued, when you're drained, when you don't take a day off. When you are --

WHITFIELD: So, he's got to find that space.

BOTTOMS: He's got to find --


WHITFIELD: You're hoping he finds that space where you can decompress, reconnect with yourself, so, as to keep your priorities in check.

BOTTOMS: Absolutely, and I've heard people say they're calling 2021, 2020, the great resignation. I think it's the great reevaluation on how we -- how we maintain our physical and our mental, and our emotional well-being. And I wish I had been more thoughtful of that for the entirety of my term, and not at moments when I felt that I -- may be physically was at my breaking point or just completely exhausted.

WHITFIELD: So, then that brings us to a great way to wrap it all up, which is then how are when will we see Keisha Lance Bottoms reevaluated Keisha Lance Bottoms.

BOTTOMS: I am in a state of reevaluation. I'm, hopefully, going to be able to take some time over the holidays. I -- right now, I feel like I'm running through the tape. I mean, even with my tripping over words and stumbling, it's because I'm really tired right now.

But once things settle down, I want to make sure that we finish strong and I'd leave the city in the best possible way that our new mayor can pick up the baton and continue the race.

Once I feel comfortable and then I've done all I can do, then, I'll stop and think and I'll reevaluate.

WHITFIELD: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, thank you so much.

BOTTOMS: Yes, thank you.


AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): The candidate Mayor Lance Bottoms endorsed will take over for her. Mayor-elect Andre Dickens will be sworn in on Monday. We'll be right back.



WALKER: Welcome back everyone to this special New Year's Day edition of NEW DAY. I'm Amara Walker. BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): And I'm Boris Sanchez.

Coming up, Regina has served this country in the military.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): And now, as a Navy veteran, she continues to be a positive role model and make an impact in her local community. Now, her community is repaying her. A conversation you will not want to miss.

WALKER: That's all coming up. But first, let's get a check of your top stories.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): All right, thank you, Boris and Amara. And good morning, everyone, I'm Ryan Nobles in Washington.

Federal officials are warning the violent extremists could try and exploit the anniversary of the January 6th riot.

NOBLES (voice-over): Officials say there are no specific or credible threats at the moment. The report was compiled by the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and law enforcement agencies.

Officials say conspiracy theories and election fraud claims continue to resonate with domestic extremists and could inspire some to promote or commit violence.

Family, Friends, and dignitaries gathered this morning for the official state funeral for Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The New Year's Day service which was limited to only 100 people due to COVID restrictions, capped a week of events honoring the anti-apartheid hero.

South Africa's president delivered the main eulogy during the funeral at St. George's Cathedral and hailed tutu as the country's national conscience. Tutu died last Sunday at the age of 90 after years of health complications.

NOBLES (on camera): Betty White is being remembered today as a talented comedian, entertainer, and despite having great success, remained humble.


BETTY WHITE, FORMER AMERICAN ACTRESS: I've been lucky enough to do just about so much that I -- if I start complaining about anything under the sun, throw me out of the business.

NOBLES (voice-over): White died yesterday, just a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday, and tributes are pouring in from around the world. Including this one from her former co-star Bob Newhart. He said, "My first standup T.V. appearance was April 1960, and on Jack Paar and Betty White was a guest. Today, we lost a giant."

And a quick programming note, don't miss an unforgettable concert film. Watch. Carole King and James Taylor Just Call Out My Name. It's tomorrow at 9:00 right here on CNN.


NOBLES (on camera): And I will see you back here at the top of the hour. But for now, let's send it back to Boris and Amara.

SANCHEZ (on camera): A few military veterans are spending the holidays enjoying a really special gift. A home that's fully paid for.

WALKER (voice-over): Regina is a Navy veteran honored by the Thanks to Veterans program. She is still serving her community as a volunteer and she includes her three children in the service. She is a team mom for her son's football team and was, let's say, surprised with the news after one of their games.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you guys know, Regina is a veteran.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you guys also know she just got a new house, right?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How important is this house to you?




REGINA W.: Because it gives my children a stable place to live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you feel if I told you Veterans United is going to buy your house in full and it's now yours?

REGINA W.: What? My goodness. Are you serious?


REGINA W.: Are you serious? Oh my God.


WALKER (on camera): My goodness. Regina, it's emotional for me watching. Also joining us is Pam Swan, vice president for military relations at Veterans United Home Loans. Welcome to you both.

Regina, let's start with you. Replay that moment for us and what it was like.

REGINA W.: Just hearing it gave me emotional every time. It was -- I'm at a loss for words still. All I can think about was, are they -- are they playing with me? Is this a joke? And I've seen everybody is jumping in.

When I see my dad cry, I knew it was real because my dad was there, and my daughter was jumping up and down. And I was like, oh my gosh, this is real. They just paid off my house. No mortgage payment. It was just so many emotions -- I was going through so many emotions at the time. Even now listening to it.

SANCHEZ: I can tell that, that it makes you really emotional, Regina. Obviously, it means a lot for your kids too and the foundation of Generational Wealth and all the opportunities that come with homeownership.

Talk to us about how your kids are feeling, do they realize how big a deal this is?

REGINA W.: My daughter, she is 15, she does, but my son, they're eight and nine, I don't think they really know, because a couple of days ago, they were like, mom -- talking about my bills, because I always go over like bills with them. And you know, they were like, OK, what about the mortgage?

So, it's like they forget, they know, but they forget. And I'm like, mom don't have a mortgage. So, if -- you know, if getting some -- if -- we're just trying to get used to it. They don't fully understand, but they will when they get older.

WALKER: It's just such a beautiful story and moment that we got to share with you there on video.

Pam, can you tell us a little bit more about this program and also how it started?

PAM SWAN, VICE PRESIDENT OF MILITARY RELATIONS, VETERANS UNITED HOME LOANS: Absolutely. First, Regina, I want to say Merry Christmas to you and your family. You have become part of our family at Veterans United, so we're so excited to see you again today this Christmas.

And Merry Christmas to you, Boris and Amara as well. So, Veterans United, we have a lifestyle and a business model of enhancing veterans and their families lives and the communities as well.

And as we moved into the holiday season, particularly Veterans Day last month, and thinking about how could we enhance the lives of our veterans and show the enhancement that they give to communities, and Regina is a prime example of that.

And we selected methodically, looking at veterans and telling the story of how veterans serve after service. So, really focusing on those individuals that have given back to their communities and the things that you just saw in the videos and I've talked about Regina, and she is a prime example of that.

People that serve in the military, they have a mindset and a focus to give back and to help others and that they only bring that back into their communities. And with the housing market, the way it has been through this pandemic, we saw a lot of our clients make offer after offer and be taken -- a seller would take another offer. And they would have to go out and look for that search again.

And so, when we selected those individuals, we kept that in mind, and we reserved one sweepstakes that we will be giving away and announcing on New Year's Eve, is the last day that you can register to be the 11th home recipient, just like Regina, and still have that advantage of this year.

And as we look at how 2021 has unfolded in the housing market and be able to affect yet another life, another family, and another community, just like we did with Regina.

SANCHEZ: Pam, you talked about giving back to those who give so much to our nation and helping out these veterans, tell us about some of these recipients, and also how does someone enter to receive that 11th home?


SWAN: Absolutely, Boris. So, the other recipients are varied across the country. And it is exciting to see all of them and we've gotten close to every one of them. I think Regina probably has gotten a phone call from somebody at Veterans United every few days. She has become family and the other recipients the same way.

So, they, they have -- we have former Army, we have a Vietnam veteran, we have Marines, we have male and female alike service members. As, again, it's as varied as the military is.

So, the way that you can be one of these individuals and be the 11th home recipient is go to It's a very easily -- easy sweepstakes submission, and try to be that 11th homeowner.

But also, even if you're not get the education, look at the program that's out there and make sure that if you know a veteran, you're telling them to go to this site and maybe change their life forever.

And as you said, Boris, I think was the generational change. And that's what really mortgage free home does for people like Regina and the other recipients out there.

It is a generational change and encourages all of us to give back more to our communities, whether we're veterans, veterans' families, or we're just part of our community. Let's give back, let's show that service.

WALKER: What an incredible organization. Pam, thank you for that.

And Regina, lastly to you, I mean, tell us a little bit about how this has changed your life. What kind of freedom it's going to allow you, and how you'll be spending your Christmas Day today?

REGINA W.: The way it has changed my life is we're able to -- my family and I were able to give more to the community. My children opted out of Christmas gifts this year, and instead, they decided to donate Christmas gifts to needy children. So, that's in itself a blessing where we're able to give more. It's just -- it's an amazing feeling moving forward. My children, they're -- they'll be able to have opportunities that I didn't have growing up because we are mortgage-free. I'm able to do more as far as their education and extracurricular activities because of it. So, yes, this is a big deal for us in our family.

SANCHEZ: Using this opportunity to continue helping others, Regina, you are so inspiring and impressive. Thank you so much for your service. Congratulations on the home.

REGINA W.: My pleasure.

SANCHEZ: Pam, thanks for all your hard work helping folks like Regina and giving back to them for so much that they've done for us. Merry Christmas to you both and thank you for the time. Have a Happy Christmas.

REGINA W.: Merry Christmas.

SWAN: Thank you. Merry Christmas to you.

WALKER: Merry Christmas. The best story on Christmas Day. Thank you so much.

Coming up, we're going to introduce you to the 2021, CNN Hero of the Year and her inspiring work with California's homeless.



SANCHEZ: Time now for the good stuff. This month, CNN named its Hero of the Year and she is impressive. Kaitlan Collins has more.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The 2021 CNN Hero of the Year is -

KELLY RIPA, CNN HOST: Shirley Raines.

COOPER: Shirley Raines.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shirley Raines runs a nonprofit called Beauty 2 the Streetz, transforming part of Skid Row into an outdoor beauty salon, offering haircuts, facials, meals, and hugs to the homeless.

CNN Hero Shirley Raines joins me now. Hey, I loved your outfit last night so much.

SHIRLEY RAINES, CNN HERO OF THE YEAR WINNER: Oh, Perry Meek, girl. He did that, did he not?

COLLINS (on camera): It was the perfect outfit -- RAINES: I love Perry.

COLLINS: -- to win and awarding. But, obviously, there's so much behind this. So how did you start this project? What really helped you get this started?

RAINES: I think everybody knows at this point my, you know, my son passed away many, many years ago. And I broke, you know, emotionally, spiritually, and I had so much pain. And, you know, later his dad lost the battle with cancer. And I was just trying to make some sense of the pain in my life, you know what I mean?

And to trying to find something to do with that pain, I found the homeless. A friend of mine, Yuri (PH), asked me if I would like to come out with him to feed the homeless one day with another nonprofit.


RAINES: And I went out there, and I fell in love with the community like from day one. I was just like, wow, you all like broken. You're just like me, let's go, you know?

COLLINS: And so, you're out there, and did you -- did the idea come to you then or how did you kind of get the idea? Because there are so many ways to be able to help the homeless, but what made you think that this was a something that they needed, and something that could help them?

RAINES: You know, let's be clear, this is what the community wanted from me. I went out there to do just what everybody does when they feed the homeless, give them their needs.

They came to me with their wants. They kept saying, we love your hair, we love your lashes, we love your makeup. I'm like, oh, queen, I can get you some of this if you want. They were like, would you? And it started very organically. It was something that they wanted.

And I think that the narrative that's been attached to homeless makes us forget that they still want to feel inherently beautiful. So, they came to me with this. And I was more than happy to do it because that's something I had to offer. And I felt like I had a lot to offer, but that I did.

COLLINS: Clearly, you do have a lot to offer.


RAINES: Oh, thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: But do you think, to them, to a degree, it's about a sense of dignity because, you know, it's not just about meeting their needs of eating and having somewhere to stay, and blankets, and clothing. But this is -- this is a sense of dignity when it comes to a haircut or facial or something like this.

RAINES: I think it's that and I also think this being seen and being touched. You know what I mean? Like the thing, the work that we do, we physically touch their hair, we scrub their hair, we put hot water on their head.

So, part of me thinks it's the desire to feel beautiful, but it's also the desire to feel seen. You know what I mean?

For 30 minutes, someone is calling their name. My team is washing their hair. We're catering to them, and we're making life about them. And I think that they've just been neglected for so very long, that this attention makes them feel good.

So, I think it's a -- it's a -- it's a double-edged sword. I think it's also the beauty as well as just feeling good.


COLLINS: And what is the power of physical touch, of something like that to some -- to the people that you meet every day?

RAINES: I think that that's spiritual CPR. You know, I think a lot of times we fight to save the body. Let's give them food, let's give them shelter, let's give them clothing. But I think physical touch is that -- is that spiritual CPR that revives the spirit inside.


RAINES: That says, you know what, someone cares about me. That says, despite where I am and how I look, people love me. And I think that that's something that I wasn't feeling, you know, when I was going through my hard times.

And one of the things that helped me was makeup. It was an adult game of make-believe, you know what I mean? And I feel like that sometimes what we do with the community, like, you know, pretend. You know, there's nothing wrong with pretending. We do it as kids all the time.

COLLINS: We do. And as adults, maybe.

RAINES: And as adults, yes.

COLLINS: Well, you talked about, you know, the loss of your son and what this meant for you and where you were in that place when you went out with your friend that day, just to feed people and to be there for them.

What was it like being on that stage last night when you heard Anderson and Kelly say your name?

RAINES: It was so surreal, but, you know, more than anything, I'm just excited for the community. I'm just a messenger. You know, I work -- I work at the pleasure of the homeless, you know? I serve at their pleasure. I'm just a messenger. And it was just so amazing to know that the world cares.

You know, I think we feel like they're a forgotten community. And there's so many amazing people on that stage with me. COLLINS: Yes.

RAINES: And the fact that, you know, social media and the world chose us, they chose that community. They didn't choose me. They didn't choose me. They chose that community. You know what I mean? And that was heart-warming.

I can't wait to go back home. I can't wait to tell them that people see them and love them and care about them.

COLLINS: Well, and so with this, you get $100,000 --

RAINES: Yes, we do.

COLLINS: -- as part of this prize --

RAINES: We do.

COLLINS: -- to expand your work. And so, yes, your group. So, what are your -- what -- do you have any idea? What are you thinking? What's your vision for? What do you want to do with this?

RAINES: Well, you know, I go out on Tuesdays and I feed them out of my -- out of the van, and I always wanted like an ice cream truck kind of thing to make it easier. But right now, unfortunately, we're at a time where we're struggling to feed them. So that money is going to go towards food.

So, one thing I can say for certain is that Skid Row will be fed from Beauty 2 the Streetz for the rest of 2022. I'm a mom, we have to be practical. As much as I'd love to be frivolous, we want to make sure that these people get warm meals every day as much as we can get out there. So, that money is going to go toward food, nurturing them, and just making sure that they are surviving.