The Kindness Club: Going beyond summer reading
By ANGYE MORRISON
Cindy Hatchell, assistant library manager and manager of Youth & Family for the Statesboro-Bulloch County Library, had a vision. She wanted to teach local children about kindness, and to help them put into action what they learned.
The summer reading club at the library has a theme each year, and this year’s theme has been “Altogether Now,” giving participants the opportunity to learn kindness, community and unity. Hatchell said she had begun a program called 52 Weeks of Kindness at her former library in Kentucky, and she wanted to do something similar in the Boro.
The program in Kentucky thrived for five years, and she had hoped the program here would take off as well. Hatchell said it was a bit harder to establish a similar program here, mostly because you can’t really walk places with the children.
But despite the logistical problems, the Community Kindness Club has been a great thing for the children and adults who participated.
“We decided to try to do the kindness club,” Hatchell said, “and bring in the community to where we could help a different entity each week.”
Participants determined that the entities they helped would be ones they were familiar with and that they felt they could get support for helping. The club began on June 2 with the Statesboro Police Department. The children made a cardboard police car, and filled it with donuts. The kids also made cards for the officers, thanking them for all they do for the community.
Next, the children created gift bags with socks, lotion and eyeglass cleaner for residents at Bethany Lodge. The kids also made cards for the residents there.
For Safe Haven and Esther’s Place, their next service project, the children gathered up items for women and children, since that’s who the two organizations serve. In addition to cards, they also made pipe cleaner bouquets of flowers for the desks of employees.
The next week, students made a fire hydrant and filled it with prepackaged muffins, cookies and cupcakes for firefighters and EMTs. When they delivered their gift, along with cards, the firefighters treated the students to a tour of the station and fire truck.
Following that up, the children made bags for residents at Open Hearts Community Mission that contained hygiene items, bottled water, snacks and socks. The next week they collected baby items, for Choices of the Heart. After that, the children made toys and blankets, along with adoption posters for Fixing the Boro.
Last week, the children focused on doing a project for the local food bank and the Humane Society, collecting food and pet items, and donating some of their own handmade pet toys and blankets. This week, the children will take the requested socks and underwear to Fostering Bulloch.
Around 20 to 25 children, along with parents and some grandparents, have been involved with the club. Hatchell said the students were a bit shy at first, but now “they’re pros” when it comes to making the cards that go with each gift.
“We talked about it at first,” she said of the concept of kindness and the people they’d serve. “We’d talk about maybe the homeless people, and how that can happen to anyone. People fall on hard times sometimes, and that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to help them and be kind to them.”
Hatchell said the children understood the concept of kindness right off the bat, but they did discuss it to be sure.
“The kids already kind of understood the concept,” she said. “My hope is that it’s opening their eyes and their hearts. I hope they grow up to be kinder people with open hearts, and that they will love their community and love others.”
Hatchell also hopes the community and the organizations will be impacted. People have been so appreciative of the children’s efforts, she said, and it’s helped the children see that even a small act can make a big impact.
“Each one of these organizations, if we didn’t have them, so many lives would never be touched,” she said. “That’s what I wanted to show these kids; that we all have a purpose and we all need to work together.”