random acts of kindness
Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward,
safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you. ~ Princess Diana
Cincinnati, it seems, is a growing hotbed for something truly beautiful. People are gathering to find opportunities to help others, just because they can. These people are part of a movement that is called #KindFlash and their impact is becoming increasingly far reaching.
The group that has grown to more than 1200 volunteers just held its one year anniversary clothing drive. With more than 30 drop off venues, they collected 2666 hats, gloves, scarves and socks (plus 1118 other items such as ear warmers, coats, snacks, etc) for a grand total of 3,784 donations distributed to people in need throughout 51 Greater Cincinnati neighborhoods.
The whole idea is to spread kindness, without any expectations for return (except of course, the warm feeling inside of knowing that you have made a difference in someone else’s life). Volunteers folded donations into clear ziploc bags with a note attached letting people know the items are free, and those bags are placed on park benches or sidewalks, tied to phone poles, or other places of high traffic. Many volunteers have said that no sooner were they walking away, they noticed those bags disappearing.
That Drive is just one act they are doing. Each month they come up with a different idea for impacting a different neighborhood and/or group of people – or non-human animals. Most of the time, they are events where volunteers have an opportunity to get to know the organization and individuals involved. This month they are collecting kitty litter and cat food for Ohio Alleycat Rescue. In March, they will be visiting, getting to know and helping to fundraise for The Cincinnati Dragons, a youth wheelchair basketball team.
#KindFlash, originally known as Random Acts of Kindness, began about a year ago after Liz Wu had seen similar ideas in other cities on the internet. In a February snow storm, as she was huddled by her heater Liz got to thinking about the people who didn’t have a heater to curl up next to. She saw a photo with a news article of people collecting items for the homeless, and decided to strong arm her friends into helping.
There was a post on Facebook, and the next thing Liz new, the Cincinnati movement had begun. Almost overnight it mushroomed with dozens joining in on their event. They organized drop off location and began putting word out that they were collected warm clothing. Donations began pouring in. Within ten days, more than 100 volunteers were involved and pulled together over 2000 items to distribute to more than 35 neighborhoods.
“We want to demonstrate how easy it is to make a difference in your community, and see that it doesn’t take much time or resources. People can do most things on their own,” Liz told me. “With #KindFlash, it is neat to see how a lot of times there is some relationship building between volunteers and an organization we help, or recipients of that organization.”
Everyone of all ages is welcome to join. If you would like to get involved, they have a Facebook group here.
Have you registered for the upcoming A Night of CINspiration, new events of Good Things Going Around? Space is limited, so register today!
I have known Vickie Mertz virtually for years. Her day job is with a nonprofit organization called Cincinnati Works, a nonprofit organization that helps people in our community who are unemployed or underemployed to raise above poverty and gain economic self-sufficiency. It has always been so obvious that Vickie’s career means so much more to her than simply a paycheck. Her passion for wanting to empower and energize people comes through loud and clear.
I learned recently of yet one more reason to admire the woman behind those inspirational posts. Quietly, without any need or want of recognition, Vickie has been using her own money to buy ingredients for brown bag meals of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with pretzels or chips, and distributing them to people on the streets who haven’t the means to purchase meals for themselves. Tucked into each bag is a little note from Vickie that reads, “God loves you and so do I. Sign my name.” John 316 In the cold months of January and February, she also collects winter outerwear.
Vickie is known to always have a stock with her in her car, as she never knows when she may see someone from her window in need of generosity. She also spends some of her lunch hours downtown, walking the sidewalks in search of hungry and/or cold people.
“I have been blessed over and over by them wanting to hug me or thank me because I got there at just the right time,” she told me as her voice broke in emotion. “One man said, ‘thank God I (Vickie) was there’ because he was about to get something off the street.”
I was so touched that I needed to feature her. Vickie is absolutely a CINspirational Person.
Lisa: Where does your inspiration come from for doing this?
Vickie: Personally in my own life, I went three years without a furnace and just used space heaters when my husband wasn’t working. Doing this for others is just something my heart tells me to do. I know that I need to share now because I can.
Lisa: How do you find the people to help?
Vickie: I work on Walnut Street. They are not difficult to find. When I head out, I pray about whether to turn right or left; and either direction, I always find people in need.
Lisa: Are there any people whose stories stand out to you?
Vickie: I don’t ask people why they are on the street so I don’t know many of their stories, but I remember how the impact of my helping them.
I remember seeing one woman right across the street from me. She slept there day and night. One morning I walked over to her with coffee. She had a blanket over head. I asked her if would like the coffee, and the woman said ‘no’. The next day I took her coffee and a protein bar. On the third day, I said my name and asked for her name. ‘Jeanelle’, she said. She said she had a laptop in her backpack and she went to school. When she pulled her hands out to accept the gloves I had brought, I noticed the gold ring on her grimy hands. It occurred to me that she was able to keep the ring and backpack somehow. I knew there was more to her story. I reached out to organizations asking they come and talk to her about going to a shelter. Then, one day she was gone. My prayer is that she is in a better place.
What can you buy with a $1 bill? Well, a random act of kindness for starters. How about many random acts of kindness?
One hundred students at John Jay Middle School in the Katonah-Lewisboro school district in Cross River, New York were asked to spend one dollar on something good for someone else. The assignment was given one week after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Teachers Laura Atwell, Gail Bergman, Amy Baisley, Nick Stathis and Jim Egeler gave the kids 26 days for the project (representing the number of students and teachers killed).
“We were all stunned after Newtown,” Atwell told Lisa Buchman of the Bedford-Katona Patch. “It might seem to seventh graders that there isn’t a lot they can do after a situation like that, so we wanted to empower them to do something good.”
The teachers donated $20 of their own money so each student would receive one dollar to spend on someone else.
Many of the students increased their funds by soliciting matching donations through social networks.
Mills Reed purchased three copies of the book The Three Questions by John Muth, and donated one copy each in memory of Anne Marie Murphy, a Katonah native and teacher who died at Sandy Hook. Reed arranged for the books to go to the Mount Kisco Library, Katonah Village Library and Somers Public Library—where Murphy was born, raised and buried.
Ryan Kingston of Cross River used social media to raise matching $1 contributions for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in memory of his best friend whom he lost to the disease a few years ago.
Caleigh Boyer-Holt of Katonah also grew her dollar which she and six other students used to buy supplies to hold a bake sale in Katonah. They raised $200 and donated it to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Here are some other examples, as relayed by Atwell to the Bedford-Katona Patch:
Three students (independent of each other) used the dollar to buy stamps, and wrote and mailed letters to their elected officials asking for sensible laws around guns.
One student obtained matching funds and pre-paid for 26 coffees at Noka Joe’s, leaving 26 slips of paper at the counter to be handed to each customer, explaining their coffee was pre-paid in honor of the lives lost at Newtown.
One student traveling in Belize gave her dollar to a girl of apparent little means there.
Many students did extra chores at home, earning extra money to donate to local nonprofts such as the Outreach ALS Foundation.
“One dollar was the seed for these kids to spread kindess,” Atwell said. “This may turn into a team tradition.”