2013 Christmas Challenge: Day #24…Make (Another) Meal, Make a (Bigger) Difference

So remember when I said that I only had one rule when I began my 2nd 30 day kindness challenge?  No repeats from last year–I wanted to do as many new things as possible to not only keep this year fun, but also to prove that there truly are unlimited ways to help others.

I made one exception: I knew I wanted to go back again to serve at a homeless shelter, the place that inspired me to begin my kindness journey.

But in addition to this exception, I also gave myself a small loop hole–a way to still follow my rule, but bend it just a bit.  And here it is–if I do repeat an act of kindness, I needed to kick it up a notch and take it to another level.

And that’s what happened today.

I currently sit on the board of a young professional’s group and manage their charity/community programs.  Over the past year I’ve organized several charity events–including serving drinks at a Sister Hazel concert to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters.  Yes–working with charities can be fun…a lot of fun!

But the crème de la crème of my role is planning the Christmas program–an event I created last year called “Make a Meal, Make a Difference”, supporting St. Vincent’s homeless shelters.

Last year’s event was a huge success–but we wanted to make this year even better.  And boy did we!

The hallway was lined with donated items

The hallway was lined with donated items

In addition to packing lunches for 150 homeless and wrapping books for 100 children staying at the shelter, this year we added a clothing drive.  For a few weeks we set up bins in a couple office buildings and by the time of the event, we gathered about 50 bags–including blankets, clothing, and toiletries.

Over the past few months several other companies moved to the area and were eager to be a part of the day.  Five Guys donated lettuce and tomatoes, Panera donated bread.  And because I knew all about Kohl’s awesome program, they sent a team over to help…and will be sending St. Vincent’s a check for $500!

My favorite moment was when David, the Director for St. Vincent’s, took the microphone and said a few words to kick off the event.  After saying the typical thank yous, he started talking from the heart.

The team from Kohl's and I posing for a quick picture with the Director from St. Vincent's

The team from Kohl’s and I posing for a quick picture with the Director from St. Vincent’s

First, he looked around the room–filled from wall to wall with volunteers ready to give back.  “The younger generations are often viewed as disconnected, not caring about others.  But today is proof of how that is simply not true.

Then he said he wanted to tell a story.

Nearly 3 decades ago, a woman walked into one of the first homeless shelters in our local area.  She was an alcoholic…she was on drugs…she had lost everything.

The staff at the shelter took her in and worked with her.  One staff member in particular showed her great kindness and over the course of many months was able to help her get her life back in order.  That woman went on to become on of the top leaders in the school district helping special needs children.

And then my eyes started to water…I didn’t expect to hear what he said next…..

“That woman is my sister.”

Everyone knows the “six degrees of Kevin Bacon”…but he explained that it’s the same when it comes to homelessness.  It won’t take you very long to find a connection.

At the end of his talk, he issued us a challenge for next year and mentioned they have an enormous need right now for food in their pantry.  Apparently this week they had to turn away a large group of people–they ran out of food.  I couldn’t help but think back to just days before…when I was serving in a St. Vincent shelter and we ran out of many of the dinner items.

It broke my heart, but more than anything, I was still incredibly inspired.  Inspired by the generosity of everyone around me…inspired by how simple kindness for others can change lives…and how if you put your mind to it and team up with others who care, you can indeed make a difference.

The team of board members outside the St. Vincent truck.

The team of board members outside the St. Vincent truck.

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