Sparking Joy $100 at a Time!

On the first Sunday in Advent, we gave out 150 one-hundred dollar bills in worship ($15,000) thanks to the generosity of several families and individuals in our church. This past Sunday, we gave out another $2500 to broaden our outreach. Participants in this project are asked to do two things:

1) BE INTENTIONAL as you use your heart and imagination to spark joy for someone (or more than one person) who needs it; and

2) TELL US YOUR STORY about how you decided to reach out.

If you or your family took one of the $100 bills, we’re praying for you and can’t wait to see what unfolds as you offer a blessing to someone else in the name of Christ and our church. Send your stories to Rev. Ron and we’ll share the good news with others on this page.

Special thanks go out to Lilly Price (reporter) & Joshua McKerrow (photographer) for coming out last Sunday and helping us share the good news about this project the next day with a great article which ran on the cover of the Capital Gazette. The story featured interviews with SPUMCer’s Janis Dike,  Joanna Kouvaras, Nick Plummer, Lorine Smith and Abby Roberts joyfully telling their stories of how and why they got involved.

Can’t wait to see how God will inspire people in our congregation to follow Holy Spirit nudges and offer others a Spark of Joy this Christmas season!

2019 Stories of Intentional Kindness

Week 5 & 6 Stories

I think the spirit of the $100 and the matching, etc. has finally sunk in. I was not in Church when the bills were available this year, but something occurred to me that SPUMC has presented before, without it really sinking in. For instance, the groceries collected for AFTER the Christmas season, when things go back to being less charitable, as you know. So I realize that this should not just be a Christmas story. I know I thought that before, but now it has really sunk in. (finally!)

I have started carrying cash again so that I can dish out a $10 or a $20 (probably not $100’s) more often. So far, I have not dished out $100, but I bet throughout the year, I will contribute well over $200.

I look for people I see that seem to be in constant need of food or clothing, etc. There are so many homeless, helpless, mentally challenged or life-challenged people that I run across nearly every day. I don’t usually support pan handlers, but I have talked with some who I engage to find out more about why they need the money. I challenge them to provide the back story and see if they are of sound mind (and sometimes know what they are doing to just solicit drug money) or if they are truly in need. I will never really know of course, but it helps me justify giving to someone who is (hopefully) sincere.

You should hear the stories. Some are totally lazy people, and some really, really, try  to make it, but just can’t. One guy needed $3 to spend the night at the Rescue Mission in downtown Baltimore. I gave him $10. He knew he was not capable of holding a good job, but he said he would take odd jobs and do what he could…

We gave our $100 gift to John. a young man who helps us with our yard work.  He is the father of two, is out of work and lives in a rough area of Baltimore. John doesn’t drive and is a quiet guy.  On one of our trips driving home, I asked him if he went to a church in his neighborhood and he told me he has never been to church, not even to a wedding or funeral – unbelievable and so very sad.  We gave John the envelope with a note about our church doing this special Christmas ministry.  This gift was a means of opening a door and bringing the church to Joe and his family.  Thank you for making this possible.

Before my son passed away in February, he was in a long-term relationship with a woman with whom he did drugs. After trying to stop his decline, she finally separated herself from the toxicity and “got clean,” then moved away. Later, she married and had a son. Unfortunately, the marriage proved to be abusive – both physically and emotionally – and the child was born with an extraordinarily rare medical condition, lacking a pancreas. This requires round-the-clock, hourly care, and has drained the mother physically, emotionally, and financially. Even over a short time, we grew very fond of her and plan to help  her in her struggle as much as possible. This year’s contribution will be the first of many aimed at making her life easier.

Well, we gave our $100 to a needy family at Arnold Elementary School where our daughter teaches.  (I remember when I taught we would adopt a special family each Christmas at my school and help them out with all kinds of gifts.)

Our $100 went to the family of a little second grade student there. I’m sure they appreciated the help very much and I felt good about our choice.  Thank you!

I wanted to let you know that this intentional kindness was harder than I thought in that we do live in a very privileged place and we don’t come across as many needy people as some other parts outside of our regular visited places.  I was really struggling with how I could help someone, so I grabbed a few cards off the church’s Angel Christmas tree to try and fill some joy that way.  I did do that, but in addition while I was doing some of my own Christmas shopping for my kids and wife, I was standing in line at the checkout counter and a older lady in front of me had a few items she was trying to get for her Christmas, as I could tell from what she was purchasing, but she was in a sort of panic when asked by the cashier for payment.  At this point we had been standing there in line for quite a few moments and you could tell the embarrassment she was feeling with not able to find her money or credit card in her purse to make the purchase(not sure what she was going to use to pay for it).  I could tell from how she was acting that she probably could not afford what she was getting and was very sorry to be holding the line up.  The lady asked the cashier to please ring up this other customer who is waiting as she continued to look for her payment.  The cashier, I guess, put her “order” on hold and starting scanning my items.  Without hesitation and quietly I told the cashier that I would pay for her items in addition to mine.  The cashier said “Are you sure?”  I just responded “yes please’.  She smiled and completed the transaction giving the older lady her receipt for her stuff that the intentional kindness money paid for and said the gentlemen in line paid for your items.  She looks at me with great thankfulness and wished me a great Merry Christmas.  I just responded with it was my pleasure and Merry Christmas have a blessed day mam.  The whole interaction took me by surprise and I was not sure what to say, but I can tell you how I felt was not measurable by words not spoken.

I gave the $100 Sparking Joy envelope, plus an amount that I added, to Marta, the woman who cleans our offices every other week.  Why did I choose Marta?  She is from Guatemala and her mother, who had a particularly painful form of cancer, had been ill for more than a year.  Marta had to make multiple trips to Guatemala to help care for her mother, who passed away last month.  Then, she had to contribute to thousands of dollars of funeral expenses.  Days before her mother died, Marta’s father had a major stroke.  She’ll continue to have to make trips back to Guatemala to help care for her father.  I don’t know how she can afford all of this as a domestic worker.  She must be deeply in debt.

Marta is a very sweet, honest, and faithful woman who came to the U.S. years ago to provide a better life for her family.   She makes incredible sacrifices for them every day.  I was delighted to be able to give this gift to someone who so obviously needs financial assistance.

I went to the Scholastic book warehouse and purchased 6 boxes of books of all different reading levels and interest. I gave some to the reading specialist at my daughter’s school for kids who need more books at home. Some went to a local Middle school that allows the kids to “buy” gifts for others with behavior rewards. The girls and I drove around to “Little Free Library” in the area and filled them up! My girls cleaned out their personal book supply to add to these. Then last week a friend shared a request for gifts for a family in need. The remaining books went to that family.

I enjoyed spreading joy to different areas and people.

My mom and I took the money and multiplied it to bring Christmas to 3 elementary school kids from Carrollton Elementary school in Prince George’s County. We purchased a coat, hat, gloves , clothes and toys for each of them.

What a joy to get to participate!

I’ve been a loyal follower of the 98 Rock morning show for years. I met the hosts many times, and have struck up a friendship with them in a way. For my act of kindness,  I made a donation in each of their names, to a charity that I thought reflected who they are. I made donations to Samaritan Women, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American Bird Conservancy, Comic Relief: Red Nose Day. They talked about it on air and were really moved by it, encouraging other listeners to do something similar.

I am pleased to tell you that I recently gave my $100 to a woman with a family and is in need of financial assistance.  She has been helping my parents over the past several years with cleaning their home.  Unfortunately, my parents recently had to move out of their home of 60+ years due to health concerns.  They now live in an apartment at a retirement home and are assisted by nurses daily.  The woman I referred to earlier now comes to my parents’ apartment and cleans.  Well, not only cleans, but she puts their clothes away, has great conversations, and “harasses” my father (a good thing).  It’s been a really hard transition for my parents and our family and she has been a real positive light for them.  As a big thank you to her for all that she does and for how much she cares for others, I handed her the $100 to her.  She was amazingly grateful and thankful.

Thank you to you, the church, and our awesome donor for helping make Christmas a fantastic time of year!

Our family anonymously gave the $100 to a family at our school.  The mother is dying of breast cancer, they recently moved to a smaller home.  We left a note saying we hoped they could use the money to do something fun together as a family.

It was fun.

We owe a tremendous thanks to all of the men and women who dedicate their lives to helping to safeguard our communities and our nation from harm. It requires them to sacrifice their time with their families and work in dangerous and stressful situations. Unfortunately many of these brave individuals are injured and recovery can be long and difficult.

It is for this reason that I thought that the $ 100.00 would be appropriate to support the America’s VetDogs organization. This organization provides services to military active duty personnel and military veterans as well as first-responders who are disabled in the line of duty. Each military member or first-responder is matched to a service dog and this bonding enables the individual to live a self reliant life with the dog assisting in daily activities and also to provide the motivation to keep on track with their physical and mental therapy programs.

Anne Arundel County has an organization called the Partnership for Children, Youth and Families.   Every County in Maryland has one of these and they are a group of the leaders of the County Departments that deal with everyday problems as well as emergency needs.  Their funds are handled by the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, so the donations are tax deductible.  A donation of $200 was made to the Community Foundation earmarked for the Partnership.  The $200 was used to help a currently homeless family pay the rest of a security deposit on a house they helped her secure.  They are in financial difficulty because of health issues followed by an unwanted divorce.   The mother works full time, and she and her children have been sleeping on the floor in a friend’s basement for a while.  This has helped them make a new life for themselves.

Week 4 Stories

We thought that we missed the opportunity to participate this year because we were away from home when the intentional acts of kindness envelopes were distributed originally. When envelopes were available the following week, we were excited and a little unprepared. Unsure of who needed to receive it, we prayed. Days later, my sister texted to tell me that she finished an 8-month rehabilitation program and would be moving into her own place, for the first time in over 10 years. In the last several years, she’s battled addiction, lost jobs, been in jail, been homeless (living a tent), and endured a life that I can’t imagine. It created distance amongst multiple relationships in my family. I started to accept that I’d lost a sister. I went to see her recently when she celebrated 6 months clean. Then, I started working on forgiveness and facing my own mistakes in our relationship. We still have a long way to go. The intentional act of kindness money allowed me to let my guard down and give to her. Once we used the intentional act of kindness money to get many of the kitchen essentials she’d need, we kept giving and completed her kitchen. We took her to dinner this past Thursday and gave her the items. She was without words and very thankful. She moved in to her new home yesterday. I’d like to thank you to SPUMC. This giving has helped in ways that I didn’t anticipate this year.

BONUS: You may recall that last year we used the intentional act of kindness to pay the lunch debts at two schools. We donated to pay the debts this year and decided that it will be a family tradition of ours going forward.

­I had been waiting for the right “nudge” for the Spark Joy project this year.  Several times, I thought I would be using it to help a family / student in need at the school where I work and each time, I would get a call out of the blue that filled that need.  (My school sponsored 22 students this year as a part of our Holiday Sharing Project.).

However, last week, I had a parent contact me to see if she could get some help for her family.  She had not been on my original list (we do our best to “catch” all needs, but this student in my new school had a situation I did not know about until this call).   I knew this was the place.  I asked the parent if she could come to meet me at the school at a time different from the other “holiday sharing pick up” night last Thursday.  She came and I shared about the program…. she shared with me that right after I called her, her Mom had told her to “wait…. it will be OK”.   At the the time, she did not know what I was going to share with her.  This mom was recently separated, has 3 kids and her oldest is a 1st grader in our school.  Despite many challenges, she is working and just got a promotion at her job as a hair dresser, but has been behind in bills so she knew that needed to be taken care of before the gifts.  Now she could do both.  Thank you again to whomever is behind sponsoring this program.  I was so grateful to have the resources to help student #23 on my list this year! ;).

This year it seemed to be harder to find the right moment to spread the joy of giving the 100 dollars. I really wanted to impact someone’s life in a positive way. So I carried the money with me everywhere I went and was always looking for the perfect moment. One night my wife and I went to dinner for our birthdays. The waiter was very nice and friendly. Some of the best service I have gotten in a long time. I was a waiter for a long time and remember how hard it was to work the holiday season. You missed out on so much. Also, the tips at this time are often not good. So this was my moment. I tipped the normal amount and then wrote a note to him on the check and gave the him the $100, too. For me I think the 100 dollars is so much more than just giving the one time. It forces me every year to see all the small moments in our lives that we can impact people with a simple act of God’s love.

We had the pleasure of giving to a young man living on his own near Jennings Road which is behind us. We’ve seen him grow up through the years with our kids and really take a terrible path. We tried to encourage him especially when he was in school. We used to try to help his mom but she has totally disappeared out of the picture. We recently saw that he got a job at a pizza place and so we had a way to reach him. Last night he met us at his restaurant gladly. We brought him a nice heavy winter coat and gloves because he walks or rides his bike everywhere. We also bought gift cards to Giant, McDonald’s and Café Rio instead of just giving him the money. He seemed genuinely happy and grateful, unlike I have ever seen before. He said that this comes at a needed time as he was struggling with the loss of an uncle that he was close to. He hugged us both several times which again was not expected at all. We were able to triple the giving but I just want to thank the generous donors for allowing us to have this wonderful opportunity!

When the announcement was made a few weeks ago that crisp $100 bills were available for anyone wanting to spread joy, I immediately thought of my friend John (not his real name).  John was in a terrible car accident 9 years ago which left him severely disabled — he is partially blind, has trouble speaking and suffers from significant cognitive challenges as the result of severe brain trauma. He lives in a rented room in Bowie, works a part-time job at a fitness club, is divorced and has a special needs son with Asperger’s syndrome. It would not be hard to imagine that someone in John’s position may have a hard time finding joy this holiday season.

Surprisingly John doesn’t see it that way – he is one of the most faith-filled, big-hearted and courageous men I know. In the past six years, I have watched him go from living in a state run group home with people caring for his every need to living on his own, getting a job, managing his own finances and serving others in his church and community — simply put, John is a miracle. If you ask him about his life and how he could possibly find joy in his many challenges he is quick to tell you about his faith and gives all the credit to God. He sends me texts with scripture he has read, we discuss the big and small challenges of life and there are times when I know God uses him as a messenger to me. John’s unshakable faith and heart for God inspire not only me but many others I have talked with about Jeff.

But John does not have much materially and Christmas can be tough for a dad with a 16 year old special needs son. It also turns out that John’s son has a talent and interest in computers and wants to build his own. Coming up with several hundred dollars in parts is a real struggle for Jeff and his ex-wife. You may guess where this is going…I met John this past Friday night for our annual Christmas card exchange — he always gets our family a card and writes a thoughtful faith-based note on it. I asked about his plans for Christmas and was not surprised to hear that even with working a part-time minimum wage job, John had managed to save up a couple hundred dollars to buy his son about half the parts needed for his computer.  I then handed John his Christmas card with the Joy Sparker envelope inside and explained how the generosity of some of our members resulted in what was in the envelope — lets just say the $100 had faithfully multiplied to cover the remaining parts for his son’s computer ;-).  John and I hugged and with a big smile proclaimed that “God is good”.  As I left his house, tears formed in my eyes as they are now as I write this — I thanked God for putting John in my life and the warmth of my soul confirms that Joy is not about what we get but what we give!

Thank you to the generous SPUMC donor who “Sparked Joy” in so many lives this Christmas season!

We originally wanted to spend the $100 gift from SPUMC on Toys for Tots.  We learned of a mother who unexpectedly died with no funds for burial.  We donated that money to help with funeral costs.  However, moved by the Holy Spirit, we used a $100 from our funds to do what we had originally planned, too.  We hadn’t shopped for kids’ toys in over 20 years. 

What fun.  Thanks be to God for his inspiration!

I work at a resale store behind which are some woods. The last few months I have noticed a young man occasionally walking out back. I was told by a coworker he lived in a tent back in the woods. Each time I saw him he struck me with how polite and kind he was to me. I knew this was how I wanted to use the $100. I found him and found out his name was Jeff (not real name) and explained to him the project our church has now yearly adopted and that I would like to use the $100 to take him to Walmart so that he could go shopping for whatever he needed. I told him if he wanted to buy 100 packs of gum it was his choice! He was floored beyond words and gave me the biggest hug. I told him to take a few hours to think about what he would like and meet me after work at 4:30. He was so excited he showed up at 4:00! We rode over to Walmart where he bought some clothing, a few snacks, propane for his heater, some small gifts for his nieces, some snacks and a box of cigarettes. He was nervous to ask for those, but I told him whatever he wanted! I added in a few items of my own so it wouldn’t be obvious when we went over the $100 mark! The whole time we talked. I found out his story and how he ended up back in the woods. He asked if he could use my phone afterwards to call his sister to tell her what had happened. I have participated in this project a few years now, but I have to say this particular night was amazing not only for Jeff, but for me as well.

I had a special opportunity to use our $100 this week. I had several Christmas present packages to ship and was dreading the post office, but had procrastinated going for too long. Sure enough, I entered the Pasadena post office with my packages and young son in his car seat and got in the back of a 16 person line. Out in the lobby standing in the self-service kiosk line, I noticed a very pregnant lady, holding a baby in one hand, a bunch of packages in the other arm, and a toddler in tow. I thanked God for only having to cart along one child on this trip. After standing there in unmoving lines for a couple of minutes, I heard the lady say to the toddler, “I know you need to potty honey. It will just be a few more minutes.” I looked around to see if there was a public restroom so I could try to help and there was not. Again, I heard her tell the squirmy toddler that she was doing her best and hopefully they would be on the way to a bathroom in a minute. I picked up William’s seat and my packages and got out of line. I went out to the lobby and asked the lady how I could help. She looked grateful, but unsure what I could do. I told her to leave her packages with me and I would ship them for her so she could go take care of her kiddos. At first, she declined concerned about the cost of shipping four large packages to California. I explained about SPUMC’s project and having some money in my purse to help brighten someone’s day for the holidays. So she would feel more comfortable leaving her boxes with a stranger, I also told her that I would leave the receipt at the desk so that she could stop back by and ensure they were sent and have tracking information for them. She gratefully accepted with a huge smile and left with her kids.

I think the big guy upstairs was watching too because about the time she walked out the door, a postal employee came out from the back and started helping those of us at the kiosk! So happy to have the opportunity to help out another mama this holiday!

This year we donated the $100 to the Lighthouse Shelter, Annapolis as part of a girl scout charity drive that was happening this season.  My husband  and I (with company perhaps) are going to do our best to attend the Longest Night Memorial Service later today.

A Homeless Persons’ Memorial Service
December 21st at 4:30pm
Whitmore Park
44 Calvert Street, Annapolis

I wanted to let you know I gave the envelope I took this year to a coworker – a single mother of four whose dryer just broken. She had a friend check to make sure it was not just a belt, but he found it was the motor and so there was no hope. This seemed like the (hopefully) last unfortunate occurrence of a horrendous year for her during which she temporarily lost her insurance, had her food stamp support decreased, found that her elementary school aged sons were referred to counseling, had her older daughter move back home and will be needing to find after school day care for her sons in the spring. She really appreciated the gift from the sponsors and said it was the first positive thing that has happened to her in weeks.

My original plan was to give the $100 plus another $200 of my own to my close family friend from West Chester, PA. Her husband lost his job in May and is still struggling to find a new job.  They have 4 children to support.  I gave them a back-to-school gift in Sept and a gift for Thanksgiving so I thought a Christmas gift would be great too.  But my friend could see the pattern here and told me before I had a chance to send her the gift that her family was doing OK and I didn’t need to send her anything more; however, she mentioned she was actually helping to support another family with a much greater need (why was I not surprised by this)!

She had actually used a few dollars from my Thanksgiving gift to buy coats for a family and then identified a need to buy them a washer and dryer.  They are a very young couple from Chester, PA and have three children, one of which is disabled.  So bottom line I sent her $300 and she raised another $400 and was able to buy the washer and dryer!  Below is her feedback from our group effort.

Lots of good Christmas moments here but my friend is truly an inspiration in thinking beyond herself to make a difference in someone else’s life!  Thank you and the church for this wonderful opportunity to help the greater community!

I wanted to update you all on the happenings with the Jones family whom you have helped. Their 2 yr old son was rushed to the ER on Friday night due to seizures but he has recovered well and was discharged from AI DuPont on Sunday. My daughter went with me to drive them home and had the opportunity to meet the whole family. Having met them, she strongly affirms our efforts. Because of your generosity they have been able to fully enjoy their  new home. From the mom “You make me wanna cry. I never imagined my home would be like this. Thank you so much!” From the Dad “Please tell them Thank you for everything!” (And I got a huge hug from him, twice!) They are absolutely loving their brand new washer and dryer. This will make life so much easier for them. Today Chip and Beth Ann delivered a truck load of Christmas gifts donated by the staff of Ridley Park Nursery School for the whole family while their daughters were at school. The kids will be delighted to see what Santa has brought them and the parents have gifts now to give each other. It was a wonderful feeling leaving their home today with snow flurries whirling about, seeing Christian love in action, realizing ALL that all of you have helped make happen for this family. (That feeling will be my favorite Christmas 2019 memory I am sure.) The best news arrived tonight from Dad. He was hired today as a cook at a local restaurant. Orientation is this Saturday. I am so excited for him to be able to provide for his family. God has been with us in our efforts. I believe it was Him that prompted each of us to get involved in caring for this family. Every time one of you told me you wanted to help, you added momentum to the efforts.There was an amazing ripple effect. You really made a difference! The Jones’ will be off to a great start in 2020! Thank you and Merry Christmas! Love, Beth

We took the $100 this  year with the intention of sparking joy in someone else in a way that was meaningful to our four children.  Our children range from ages 3 through 9 and oftentimes it’s difficult for them to see and understand the ways we donate and try to make a difference.  There is a wonderful child at their school whose mother is battling an extremely aggressive cancer.  We matched the donation and sent them money for a house cleaner and gift cards for grocery delivery.  Our hope is that they can spend as much time together as they can this holiday season.

Thank you for the opportunity to teach our children about giving.  It is such a blessing to witness so much good in the world.

For the Intentional Acts of Kindness, my husband and I donated a bunch of miscellaneous items to BARCS. They had posted a Christmas wish list so I used that when shopping from Chewy for dog food, toys, treats, and more. We know how much we love and spoil our own dog and this gave us a chance to help care for some other dogs who need some TLC. Thanks for letting us be part of this great outreach.

After much thought and prayer, I decided to match the $100.00 donation provided by the church and donate the funds to Severna Park Womenade.  In case you are not familiar….Womenade is an organization that provides one-time, short-term financial assistance to benefit those in Severna Park and N. AACo.  I have been a member of this organization for a couple of years and have been impressed with the thought behind the donating process and the compassion they provide to those in need.  I am hopeful this donation will truly help to “keep the lights or heat on” in a home this winter.

Week 3 Stories

Recently I was taking an Uber from our house into Baltimore City.  While in the car, I started chatting with the driver.  Turns out she’s a single mother of one, works three jobs, and goes to school at night.  She’s working on getting a degree to be an addictions counselor.  She had been driving all day on what was supposed to be her day off.  She was doing this because she needed money to help buy her 8 year-old son Christmas presents.  After the half hour ride, and hearing her story of working hard to support not only herself but her son, I realized she was exactly who we were supposed to give our $100 to this season.  I texted my wife from the back of the Uber and briefly relayed the story to her and the kids.  They unanimously agreed and at the end of the ride, I handed her $100.  She was extremely grateful.  I’m hoping she took the rest of the day off and went home to enjoy being with her son.

We were so inspired by this that we also gave a $100 donation to a program at our children’s school, Christmas Elves. There are some needy families that list some things they could use, and much like our Angel Tree in Fellowship Hall. So we purchased $100 in gift cards to be given to a needy family this Christmas season. This is such a great thing the church does.  We’re happy to be part of it!

So, after letting the envelope with the $100 sit in my car for a couple of weeks and daily asking God to give me direction, I finally got this light bulb moment while I was wrapping gifts for family members. My daughter who lives up in the cold New England, has been helping a church family going through rough times. The mom has terminal pancreatic cancer, and dad has been trying to hold it all together for the mom and their 2 young sons. But when he gets work (as a self employed leather worker), he has to rely on the income to spread a long ways because he never knows when he has to again get his wife to the hospital and to have to decline another job. I am sure the $$ I sent will be put to good use, if not for Christmas for the boys, then for utilities or rent. I am hoping the family will get a reprieve at least for the remainder of the Christmas season.

My daughter and her 4 children are also struggling, so withj joy I just quadrupled the $100 so their Christmas might be a little less stressful, too, since they are so caring of others. My retirement is sufficient for my small needs.

Learned a favorite checker in a Severna Park grocery store, buried her infant grandson the day after Thanksgiving.  I asked her if they were doing anything for him in his memory, she said “No” that they still have to get him a gravestone.  I had the $100 in a card ready for her.  She burst into tears so appreciative.  

We are matching that $100 by donating $100 in memory of the man who had ALS and passed away last week.  He started the Ice Bucket Challenge which has fast tracked some medications. Our daughter is a nurse and donated her $100 to help an autistic patient whom the hospital is helping him move on to a group home.

For many years a woman worked as an administrative assistant in my office, well beyond the time most people have retired.   Earning a very small salary, she had been the single mother of 2 children, both who basically left her behind as they moved into middle age (a son that took to drugs and hasn’t been seen or heard of in a couple years, and a daughter who moved some years ago to the Middle East). Three years ago she was effectively forced to retire by an administration that wanted a younger more educated person in her position.  She is almost 80 years old, with multiple health problems including heart disease and early stages of dementia.  She has an extremely small monthly income, and now that she has depleted most of her savings trying to support herself she is no longer able to afford the rent and utilities where she resides, is ignoring much of her problems due to the cost of medication, and has almost no support system.  Her situation is heartbreaking.  I took my Sparking Joy $100, added another $100, to enable her to pay her outstanding electric and Comcast bills, both of which she feared would be cut off.  She was in tears when I took it to her, and asked me to give her heartfelt thanks to the church and those members who so generously donated these funds.  I also want to thank them for helping me to help her.

My husband took the money and cleared out the Giving Tree for gifts for families at the school where he teaches. We were glad to spread some joy in his school community.  Thanks for making sure we got our envelope.

Before taking our envelope from the altar we had discussed how we could share some Christmas joy in 2019.  We decided to contact a young friend who is a kindergarten teacher in an impoverished area of Baltimore County.  I called and she agreed to check with the guidance counselor at her school.  She told her guidance counselor about our offer to assist a family in need this Christmas. The guidance counselor told her that a new family that had one child at the school, a 10 year old, with an older and a much younger sibling at home had just started at the school.  The grandmother who is raising the children had just requested help.  The school was not sure how they would able to help this family as a local church that assists them every year had already committed to helping 50 families and all of these spots had been filled.  Our offer to assist a family from their school came at the perfect time.  Our gift from the church, which we doubled, allowed us to provide 3 gifts for each child.  A set of clothes, a pair of pajamas and a gift of a toy, books or arts and crafts for each child were purchased.  They live within walking distance of a Walmart Super center so a Walmart gift card was purchased to be used for food or any of their other needs with the remaining funds.  We are so blessed to be part of such a generous church that allows us to spark joy in the hearts of others and lets them know that someone cares.

We gave our first envelope to a man that appears to be living in his car here in Severna Park. Normally we see him in back of Kohl’s parking lot and McDonalds there at the plaza. We left church the first Sunday and drove there and gave to him. He was sitting by himself with many other people with their families. My granddaughter and I went over and sat with him and gave him the gift. He was surprised and I told him that God is always listening to everyone’s prayers. I hope we  answered one of them.

Our second envelope went to a man who has stage 4 cancer, a wife and three young kids. He does work at my company’s office in NC and they were taking up money for him. Asked them to be sure that he saw the envelope and where this gift came from.

This is my first time participating in the intentional acts of kindness initiative, as I have been out of town in past years. I had several ideas as to how to bless someone with this gift or make a quiet difference. One of my dear friends is a secretary at a local elementary school.  After talking with her, I decided to pay the lunch debt balance for 12 students at the school.  She will pay any debt again the end of January and put any leftover monies in the lunch fund until all is used to pay for student lunches.

As I was driving away from the church on Sunday with the $100 envelope, I said a little prayer asking God to show me the right person who needed this gift. Half way down Benfield, I was led to Target to pick up the 2 gift cards for the Angel Tree. I was going to go to Walmart, but something told me to go to Target instead. As I stood in line with the 2 gift cards in hand, behind 2 people with carts LOADED with merchandise, one of the ladies asked me, “Is that all you have?” When I said yes, she said to get in front of her. So I did. Then I got a nudge that said, “Give that envelope to that nice lady who let you go in front of her.” With that thought, I turned around, thanked her for her kindness, and said something like, “Because of your kindness, I would like to pay it forward. Here is a kindness gift from my church, from the Lord, for your thoughtfulness.”

She looked at the envelope quizzically, not comprehending what it was. When she opened it, she had eyes as huge as Santa’s sleigh. She thanked me and I thought that was the end of that. She was happy and I was happy. However, the story doesn’t end there. When it came time for me to pay my bill, she said, “Oh, no, I’m going to pay it forward too and pay for your cards.” And with that, she paid my bill! Who would have guessed that paying it forward would also pay it back!

My wife and I gave away the $100 today to a family who experienced a house fire last month.  They are staying with their son and daughter-in-law while the insurance company works out payment/rebuilding, etc.  Since the settlement is taking so long and because they must pay an insurance deductible, we knew they could use the gift to help them get by and to spark joy in their lives. Our plan is to multiply the gift with $100 of our own for that same son and daughter-in-law, as they have opened their home to even more of their family members in need.

Week 2 Stories

Usually I am the one to take one of the envelopes with a $100 in it.  But this year it was my husband. He has an employee that suddenly lost her son.  He was 29 and had just recently married his girlfriend who is pregnant and due this month.  His employee has struggled with her son’s death which was sudden and unexpected.  He died in his sleep.  Had just gotten his license to start his own construction company.  The autopsy revealed he had died of fentanyl in his blood stream.  They aren’t sure how he got it.  He had a past history of drugs but had been to rehab and was sober (or so it seemed) at the time.  He died with no insurance, a wife with a baby on the way, who is not working, and she can’t collect any social security because he had worked construction for years all under the table.  He had no salary on record.

So besides grieving they are now supporting this girl who apparently has no family support and financially they have that burden too. My husband really felt bad for them and wanted to help out in some way.  He decided to add enough money to it so he could give them $1000.00. He just slipped an envelope to her at the end of the day. She and her husband called immediately after she had gotten home. They were so grateful and appreciative.  He just said “our church has this program, kind of like paying it forward” and maybe they had heard about it.   He didn’t want them to feel awkward accepting that much from us.  We felt giving them the money to decide how best to support the mother and baby would be better than giving it to the expecting mom herself since we don’t know her that well.

Dave’s employee and husband are very active at another local church.  I’m sure they been supported in many ways.  But it takes time to grieve this kind of loss.  They were a close family.  To help them in this small way to feel cared about and to be able to help them with something concrete was pretty special.

Funny thing about the $100 we took.  We had a plan as to how we were going to distribute it: to a street musician in New Orleans.  We figured we would look, listen, watch and wait until we found the right person to give it to.  We didn’t know a little angel was waiting in the ladies’ washroom that I visited just before boarding our plane.  She was singing along to a Christmas carol, and wearing a reindeer headband complete with two springy antlers.  As I washed my hands, our eyes met in the mirror and we both smiled. She took a few quick steps over to wave her hand under the paper towel dispenser for me. How could I not share the gift?  I explained what it was, and that I wanted to give it to her because she was already spreading joy. Her tears were indeed tears of joy!

And then, it got a little contagious.  The street dancer, the security guard, the waitress… we had to come home cause we were running out of “joy”!

Today, I visited the SPCA of Annapolis and handed in my guardian angel form for 200.00 to help sponsor a current shelter dog. My husband and I just adopted our Roxy dog from that shelter in July. What was so great  the volunteer who accepted my form had read about the church’s kindness program in the newspaper. She was truly touched by the generosity of our church community.😊🐕🐕

I owe you a story about my $100 so here goes. Last year was easy…I knew immediately sitting in the church pew that I wanted to give it to one of my student’s mother’s who was really struggling. This year no one came to mind so I kept the $ in the console of my car and prayed every time I saw that little envelope. My daughter and I would pray out loud as we drove to school or around town doing errands.

Fast forward to today. I’ve had this Mickey Mouse play set posted on Facebook’s Marketplace for about a week. Last night a woman asked to buy it and so I met with her today. As I was emptying my trunk into hers she told me that it was for her three grand babies. Two are twins and both adore Mickey/Minnie. She was telling me how she wants to make this Christmas really special for them because her 40 year old daughter, their mom, passed away earlier this year and that she and her husband have custody. I sat back in my car and got that God whisper “ah-ha” moment & grabbed the envelope. I quickly got out of my car, ran over to hers, knocked on her window and handed it to her. I said to her, “My church hands out money and I know that you could really use this.” I just got a message from her that she had to pull over on the way home because she was crying. She was so thankful. I told her that I’d been praying and God led me to her.

Thank you and the church so much for doing this. It is such a kind thing to do.  Next year when I am working again I plan to match it. It’s so nice to spread joy, listen to God and to be his conduit. I want you to know how much I appreciate the opportunity!

Although not as creative as many of our givers, I have taken my $100 and doubled it to send to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees). The donation will be used to provide warmer winter shelter for the many mothers with children living in the camps where they have fled from persecution and war in so many countries throughout the world. Thank you to all of the original donors who have made these acts of kindness possible!

After careful consideration the $ 100 was donated to 2019 Annapolis “Shop with a Cop”. I wrote them a note explaining where the funds originated from and received this in return: “We have to send a big THANK YOU to you for your generous donation to Annapolis “Shop with a Cop.” Your gift came as part of the Severna Park United Methodist Church Intentional Acts of Kindness Advent project. What a beautiful way to spread #kindness. 💙 We may still make it to our $5000 goal! 🎄🎁🎄 The best part — We have a great start on 2020!

On our way home from church we often see a man and woman asking for food and money near the Quarterfield exit on 97. The couple and their dog have been there for years but over the last few months, it seems as though their health is deteriorating. When the traffic light is timed right, we riffle around looking for a granola bar or other snack to share. When we have something, they are always so grateful for such a small item. As soon as we received the $100 we knew what we would do. We went shopping and purchased warm mittens and hats, soaps and toiletries, snacks, candy, gift cards, etc. When we got home we put together 2 bags filled with the items. They are ready to be given out as soon as our paths cross again.  

I used the Joy Sparkler $100 bill to purchase a week of lodging for a family at The Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore while their child is receiving medical treatment. I also added gift cards for teens staying there during treatment.  😇

I shared the story of the joy sparker, Jesus, with my son.  He just had 5 teeth pulled and is in great pain.  He is caring for his fiancee who has MS. I brought over food for him and then gave him the envelope. He was very grateful and told me how he’s  been helping his peers get through some tough times at the rehab clinic. They want to make him a counselor.  He said he would put the money towards paying for the dental medicine.  I prayed with him that it’s never too late to turn your life around.  My sister suggested that I do this for him and I’m so glad I did!

I have experienced much sadness to be involved with friends and family who are or have been dealing with cancer. It’s very devastating to watch someone fighting this malady. I have watched a few brave souls face years of treatment knowing it’s just a matter of time when their fight will come to an end. Yet the strength and courage I have seen in these people is amazing. In spite of the odds they continue to smile and have faith. I decided to pass my $100.00 on to the daughter of a dear friend who is fighting the battle. I wanted her to know there are people who care. I asked her to use the money to purchase something special just for her pleasure. It was an honor and a thrill for me to be able to present her with this gift.  I am planning to match this money but I am still looking for the right cause.   I will let you know when I find it.

After getting my Joy Sparker envelope in church, I decided to get my 2 younger kids involved in this Act of Kindness. So we went to the Public Library in our home town, Falls City, NE. There they have a Christmas tree that has items children are wanting for Christmas on it, from Santa. We got the last 2 tags and we went shopping… we got the 13 year old girl a FC Tiger hoodie & camera. The 9 year old boy we got a skateboard, 2 shirts & pants. I talked to my kids that we are using the money to help these 2 children, whose family doesn’t have enough money to get their children Christmas gifts. That our act of Kindness will be bringing Joy to these 2 kids at Christmas, plus we’ll keep them in our Prayers. We also put in some of our own money, to help these 2 kids get what they asked for. Thanks for this opportunity to spread Kindness to others!

About a year ago I decided that having a therapy dog for the Day Center at AHOH would be an amazing addition to our Glen Burnie staff.  That is a totally different story, but Cooper is now 9 months old and is well on his way to being an official AKC registered therapy dog whose requirements go well beyond printing a certificate off the internet.  In addition to getting him AKC Good Citizen trained through PetCo, I also hired a personal trainer who learned how to train service dogs while incarcerated.

This young man who is his trainer is absolutely amazing and Cooper has done really well under his direction.  A week prior to “Intentional Acts of Kindness”, I didn’t hear from him when he was scheduled to come have a training session.  This was very unusual, as he was planning on taking Cooper to the Pascal Center where he works some evenings as a counselor.  I tried to get in touch with him but never received an answer. Several days later he called and told me that he was at the hospital recuperating from an unsuccessful suicide attempt.

Here is my story:  I didn’t have any clue what I was going to do with my $100 bill.  But during the second week of carrying it around in my pocket, Cooper (my therapy dog) was visiting Pascal Youth and Family Services Center with his personal trainer.  Cooper had been at the Center several times previously.  Pascal Center decided that having a therapy dog on site to provide comfort and unconditional love would provide a therapeutic benefit to those facing difficult health challenges.  They were off to meet some dogs the next day.  That is when I knew what I was called to do as my :”Intentional Act of Kindness”.  I added an additional $100 to cover the cost of Lucey’s adoption. Many thanks to the donors who made it possible to bring joy to the lives of those who struggle to overcome the challenges of mental health illness and substance abuse.

Thanks — I got as much joy out of doing this as the recipients!  What a blessing!

Since last Sunday, I have thought of one particular person that I knew would feel very blessed and grateful to receive the gift that our church has so generously provided. A fellow teacher and dear friend of mine lives by her faith and spreads her love to her students every day. She has fallen on very difficult circumstances and it often overwhelms her. Through no fault of her own, she has lost her husband to prison and faces financial difficulty. She had surgery this past summer and had to rely on others to get her through her rehabilitation. I left church this morning and immediately went to my friend’s house, and her tears of happiness told the whole story. She told me that the money would go for presents for her special needs adult daughter. Thank you SPUMC for the opportunity to spread joy!

My husband and I would like to thank the congregation of SPUMC for the generous donation that is leading our members to do so much good out in the world! 15 years ago, my husband’s parents bought a house on Lubbers Quarters, which is a tiny Bahamian Island in the Abacos. They found a wonderful church family at St. James United Methodist Church in Hopetown on Elbow Key. It is the loveliest little church and we look forward to going to church there every summer when we visit. The people are so welcoming and friendly and it is such a neat mixture of Bahamian citizens and people who are visiting from the United States and beyond.

This September this beautiful island that our family loves so much was ravaged by Hurricane Dorian. Thankfully, St. James held up when there was so much devastation everywhere. It really served as a safe place for the community to gather and begin the rebuilding process. We are going to donate our $200 to the congregation at St. James United Methodist Church to help with the ongoing cleanup and the rebuilding of this amazing community.

Week 1 Stories

I have been exchanging small gifts with a few close friends for a number of years. Last week one suggested we not exchange gifts and donate to a charity. Since this conversation took place the day before our Intentional Acts of Kindness Sunday, I suggested to my husband that we could add to the $100 and make a donation. We selected the International Rescue Committee. The IRC has a special place in my heart as my dad was a refugee from Poland, coming to the US in early 1950s and helped by refugee organizations. Now there are more refugees than ever in many parts of the world, whose lives have been disrupted by war, natural disasters or political decisions.

We selected sending a girl in Afghanistan to school which costs $58. We know how valuable education is to get and keep women out of poverty and how fortunate we have been to obtain education for ourselves and our children. We added $200 to the $100 and made the donation on Giving Tuesday which doubled it, allowing us to send 10 girls to school for one year. Thanks to the generous donor who encouraged and enabled us to do something meaningful and lasting this blessed holiday season.

I love this idea of intentional acts of kindness! Our family is matching the $100 donation and providing gifts for a family in need. Our neighbor is a teacher at Quarterfield Elementary school. Many of her students have very little and some are even homeless. We have purchased a coat, gloves, hat, scarf, jeans, and boots for one of her students who needs them. Additionally, we will be giving the extra money to the family to purchase other items that they need for their other children. Your church is a wonderful place, and we are so glad that we found it!!!

On behalf of SPUMC’s Intentional Acts of Kindness, we have been able to bless two amazing boys Riley 5, and Owen 13, who are fighting cancer and their families through The Clayville Railroad Family. (CLAYVILLE RAILROAD OUTDOOR TRAIN GARDEN, 8269 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd Pasadena, MD  21122; (443) 386-3014). , a local organization helping children fighting cancer for over 20 years!

Your sermon on Sunday made it very easy this year to choose the recipient of our $100. “Joy” is my favorite word although I use it sparingly. I read Marie Kondo’s tidying up book and it helped us to better organize our home. It also made me realize that very few “things” spark joy for me unless they are connected in some way to an individual. It is family and friends that spark joy for us.

Of course, all of our grandchildren bring us joy (welcome to the club), but our 9 year old grandson Jackson is what joy is all about. Jackson has Down Syndrome and is autistic. It affects his ability to communicate. We all get excited when our children and grandchildren reach milestones, but it is especially gratifying and sparks so much joy when Jackson learns something new or has a breakthrough in some way. He works very hard to learn things that come easily to others his age. His smiles, his hugs, and each new word or skill he learns bring the most inimitable joy to all who love him.

We have donated our $100 and a match to GiGi’s Playhouse in Annapolis in honor of Jackson. GiGi’s Playhouse is a non-profit that operates solely on donations to offer free therapeutic, educational, and tutoring services to individuals with Down Syndrome as well as resources for their families. It opened in Annapolis in 2015 and is the only one in the MD/DC/VA area. Besides the services they provide, they bring awareness to the public that people with Down Syndrome are “more alike than different”

We are grateful to be part of a church family that encourages us to find the joy around us and thankful for the donors of this gift so that we may bring some joy to others this season.

We gave the $100 to the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Department.  We asked that they enjoy a pizza for the Christmas Eve volunteers or if they know a family in need to pass the joy on to them.

Once again, we chose to give the $100 to The Wellness House off of Spa Road in Annapolis. Our community is so blessed to have this resource available to cancer patients, their families, and caregivers. I know we were when I went through my own treatments. They embraced me when I was diagnosed, and supported me in so many ways – all free of charge. When I delivered the $100 on Tuesday, they were preparing for a fundraiser that very evening. A generous donor was offering matching funds. How wonderful that the $100 dollars became $200! God is good! We were honored to be able to be a part of this joyful project.

I have been wanting to assist our cleaning lady with some of her problems and this is the impetus to move me forward to do something for her with the help of our church’s $100 plus the additional money we are adding to her gift.  She is a hard worker who never can get ahead.  She bakes cookies, cakes, etc for sale, works the flea markets, and cleans houses. She needs a new car or at least one that runs every day instead of once or twice a week.  Hopefully this will give her a bit of joy.

2018 Stories of Intentional Kindness

Week 4 Stories

I had an idea in mind when I took a $100 bill last Sunday.  It was a responsibility I took very seriously.

Last Spring, my wife,  was treated for stage 1 breast cancer.  The medical staff at AAMC did a great job with her surgery and radiation treatments.  What hurt the most was what the cancer did to her spirit.  Someone on the medical staff referred her to the Wellness House where patients and caregivers are helped with free of charge support groups and counseling.  These services were of great help.  Another program offered at the Wellness House was one called Sailing Heals.  It has affiliated itself with sailing locations up and down the East coast.  Locally they work with the Eastport Yacht Club. For cancer patients and caregivers, they provide free of charge a wonderful lunch then sailboat sailors provide a ride in their boat.  My wife and I went on May 24th.  Everyone was wonderful, lunch was great and the ride out to the the Bay Bridge and out in the bay was the best escape from all the fear.  We stopped thinking about cancer and later during treatments we focused on the feeling of being out in the wind and the sun.  I sent Sailing Heals my $100 and explained how generous donors had provided the money and you and Severna Park United Methodist Church had come up with this program.

I am so excited to have done this.  I personally know how much this means to cancer patients. Wow!

I have spent $100 on children’s books for the six foster children adopted by my daughter’s in-laws.  Both of her in-laws had government jobs in Maryland and left them due to health issues. They moved from Crownsville to West Virginia.  They bought land and started a cattle farm, but missed their family.  Their two children are in their mid to late 30’s, so they took in two sets of siblings as foster children from neglectful and substance-abusing parents.  After several years, they were able to adopt the 3 boys and 3 girls, now ages 6 to 12!  All have special needs and are behind in school.  They go to public schools with limited resources.  They enjoy Scouts and 4H.  I have been sending the children surprise boxes of clothing, toys, books, and snacks.  And we write back and forth, though we have never met except on Facebook.  I used the $100 for about 15 books for Christmas:  Amelia Bedelia, How Things Work, Boys Book of Adventure. Mistakes That Worked, Mini Mysteries, Wish, The Mansion Mystery, and Nat Geo’s Why? 1,111 Questions and Answers.

This year my husband and I each took a $100 bill.   Chris encouraged out SPARK Music Team to take part in this mission.  We know of a young family with several children, who live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.   Their income is very low, (around minimum wage, once taxes, etc. are taken out.)  They really don’t have a lot but are very faithful.  Family does help but the parents are retired and they live on a limited income.  We became aware of this family when we were in Michigan this summer.  I checked with a family member because I didn’t want the young lady to feel strange about someone giving them money.  I was informed that this money would help out so much with past bills, groceries and Christmas joy for the kids.  After the update on this family’s situation, we decided to give both our $100.00 bills to this family. I can only imagine what their Christmas will be like.  I pray that there is much joy for them.  This mission has been amazing.  When you add additional money to the $100, one can only guess just how much more was actually given beyond the $20,000.

While trying to decide how to use the 100 bill, I happened to look at my community Facebook page.  It was then that I saw a post announcing that two little girls were selling hot chocolate and cookies.The money earned would go to provide backpacks full of supplies and needed items for the homeless.

I felt that this was a perfect way to use the 100….a win, win, win situation.  First, the money would be used to serve the homeless, who certainly need the  help and support of others. Next, it would encourage two very kind and loving young ladies who even at their young ages, wanted to help a needy population. And third, selfishly, the walk to their house would help meet my daily goal of 10,000 steps.  So, I walked to the address where their stand was set up and proceeded to “buy” a cup of hot chocolate and give them the $100 bill.  They were thrilled!

As I walked home, I reflected on the wonderful service that SPUMC is providing.  It is not only a blessing to the recipient of the $100 or those who use it for a worthwhile purpose, but also to the member that has the privilege of giving. Thank you for this opportunity,

I gave the $100 bill to The Wellness House located in Annapolis, off of Spa Road. The Wellness House is a source of healing and connection for individuals and families experiencing life with cancer. All programs and services are offered free of charge. I had experienced their welcoming embrace this year as I navigated a scary diagnosis. I took the $100 and asked if they had a particular family, individual, or program that I could designate. We decided together that the weekly Thursday afternoon tea group would be the recipient. A volunteer provides light refreshments for this social gathering. Many individuals (patients, spouses, caregivers) drop in for camaraderie, support, and relaxation. December 13 they will have an extra special Christmas tea thanks to this loving gift. Thank you for allowing me to help love and bless these people in need.

While sitting in church a few weeks ago when it was announced that once again we would have the opportunity to complete an Intentional Act of Kindness, my husband and I thought that we would like to be part of this mission.  We quickly decided that we wanted to help children in some way but wanted it to be somewhat personal.  We didn’t have to know the children or their families but wanted to find a way to help but not through any organized group.  While sitting at my desk in one of the schools where I work, I overheard some of the teachers and the guidance counselor commenting that there were children still wearing lightweight jackets to school even though the weather had turned quite chilly.  I immediately felt that this was the way we could serve those in need with the $100 gift!  When I asked the guidance counselor if there were children who didn’t have winter coats, she quickly responded that there were a number of them in need.  I explained to her what the church was doing and told her we wanted to help.  She was touched by the offer and gave me a range of sizes.  The $100 was quickly spend and we almost matched the original gift. I delivered 6 new winter jackets to the school last week so these little ones ages 4-6 can be warm this winter.  I also asked the guidance counselor to let me know if there were still any others in need in hopes we can keep them warm as well during the long winter ahead.  We feel blessed to be part of a church that is so generous and caring.

As soon as we received our envelope of money, we went as a family to the store to buy Christmas presents for Toys for Tots. We were so excited to pick out gifts for the young children in this area who may not receive much for Christmas because of their family’s financial situation. It was also exciting for us as we don’t have young children any more. The thought of those kids being excited on Christmas rally excited us. We are so thankful for whomever donated this money. They are truly a light unto the world!!

After thinking about it for several days, I finally figured a way to spend the $100 you gave me on Sunday. I was at the grocery store buying milk and behind me in line were several elderly people from a nursing home. I asked the cashier to use the money to buy their groceries. The next day I went back and the cashier told me that the money was able to go pretty far because each person was only getting a few items.

The $100 donation went to support the resource fund of a small community cancer center in Baltimore, MD. It will help to provide assistance to vulnerable cancer patients experiencing barriers to receiving care. Among other things, this money will go towards the following: Helping a patient afford the copay of a prescription, helping a senior afford needed medical equipment such as a cane or bedside commode, helping a nutritionally compromised patient afford nutritional supplements such as Boost or Ensure, and providing taxi or bus vouchers to a patient that has no other way to make it to his/her doctor’s appointment.”

The nurse navigators and social workers wrote: “We are so grateful for this gift and know that it will have a great impact on the lives of our patients!”

I took one of the hundred dollar bills last Sunday.  I checked around some of the ministries at church to see if I could use the money for them.  But none spoke to my heart.  I had decided to use the money to buy toys and donate them to Toys For Tots, but that didn’t really speak to my heart either.  I had only thought of that because I remember what it felt like to wake up on Christmas morning and have nothing under the Christmas tree.  Then I got a card in the mail from The Salvation Army asking for a donation to feed families and to give clothes and toys to the children.  This was what my heart said yes to.  Then in Rev. Lee’s class Friday morning when she said we are supposed to take care of the least of these I knew my decision was right.  That one hundred dollars will help feed 42 families in the community and give clothes and toys to the children.

This is the back story on a woman named Keysha, who our family wanted to bless with the $100 Advent windfall.

I would drive the same way, at the same time, down busy Hampton Blvd in Norfolk to take my son to preschool three days a week.  Each morning for months, whether it was raining or snow was piled high on the sidewalks, I would see the same person, with a shaved head and lots of bulky clothes walking very quickly along the busy road in the same direction I was driving.  I was always taught never to pick up a stranger, but I finally decided to stop, and that was when I met Keysha for the first time.

Keysha is in her late 30s.  She has no family, no transportation, and is mildly intellectually disabled.  She works as a companion/housekeeper to an elderly woman 3 days a week for less than minimum wage.  The other days she cleans at various gyms.  She walks everywhere.  Miles and miles per day across the city of Norfolk to get to her different jobs.  I once asked her why she didn’t ride the bus, but she said that the bus was not reliable, and she didn’t want to get fired for being late.  She shaves her head and wears baggy clothes, because she says people are less likely to bother her if she looks like a man.  If you aren’t familiar with Norfolk, just know that it is not an ideal place to walk alone.

I started to give her rides on the days we were heading the same way, and after 3 years got to know her pretty well on those quick rides around town.

When Keysha is not working, you can find her at one of the Norfolk libraries on a computer watching sermons or gospel music videos.  She is also active in her church and volunteers with them often.  She is currently a step away from being homeless, and has experienced being homeless in the past, so she feels compelled to serve the homeless community.  She doesn’t have much money to spend on anything but basic needs, however twice a year, on Christmas and her birthday, while most people are with their families, she will walk to the mall and treat herself to a movie.  She also loves coffee.  Sometimes, on cold days she would ask me to pick her up at 7Eleven..especially if they had the “buy a coffee, get a free doughnut” special.

We moved to Maryland about a year and a half ago, and I haven’t been good about keeping up with Keysha.  However, while you were speaking last Sunday about the Intentional Acts of Kindness, she immediately came to mind, and my son and I started whispering to each other about what we could mail to her.  We decided to send her gift cards for Regal Cinemas (her favorite treat), a Walmart card, and some cash for those 7-Eleven coffee/donut combos. Thanks for giving us this opportunity.  My family and I plan to continue to put her on our Christmas list from now on.

Our $100, along with bags of groceries, were delivered for a second year in a row, to an elderly couple (mid to late 80’s) who have buried two of their four grown children (one this year, another a few years ago).  The husband suffers from an inoperable brain cancer while both have multiple health issues, causing them immense stress over paying for health care/medications vs putting meals in the table.  They were also the recipients of a “blessed prayer shaw!”  Tears of joy🙏

I took on of the $100 last Sunday and today I was able to help a family near Tilghman Island with matching the $100.  The mother in the family is 30 years old and has been a waitress at a restaurant we go to frequently in St. Michael’s when we visit on the boat.  Something said to reach out to her and go visit.  When I did, she said she was not longer working at the restaurant and long story.  So today was the day and I drove to Tilghman and met her at a restaurant “Chesapeake Landing”…great seafood and nice small town, local place.  Anyway, she explained that she had injured herself one morning before going to work to the point her husband had to take her to the ER.  Somehow, she blew her left hand tendon and was in such pain she couldn’t work.  This was on November 16th.  Her husband called her boss after taking her and finding out what it was to find out they didn’t care and why she didn’t call sooner and didn’t ask what happened.  She had doctor’s notes to say a couple days off with a brace and she could then go back to work.  Bottom line the owner said never mind we don’t believe you and you are fired.  Needless to say, she was shocked after being there for more than 10 years and their head waitress and trainer.  Her husband has severe depression and PTSD and cannot work…she is/was the bread winner.  She has been trying everything and scared they will not be able to pay their rent which was due on the first.

So long explanation but I of course paid for lunch, gave her the $100 bill and then took her to the grocery store to buy things they needed and took her back home so her husband didn’t have to come out and get her.  They were both overwhelmed as she doesn’t like to take handouts, she’s a very hard worker and knows that things have a reason for happening and there is a plan.  They are even living without heat right now because she’s afraid of telling the landlord about it because she’s afraid being late on her rent they will evict them.  She’s making it work and keeping her family  together.  She never asked for any help just a shoulder and someone to talk to.  We hugged and said see you again.  She even knew about Heaven’s Kitchen from me telling her so much about it that she said when she goes to the local church to get clothes for the girls that she takes what they have grown out of to help give back.  I told her that God does have a plan for her and she agreed.  We all have hard times to go through, but God is always with us.

Whomever has donated this wonderful gift to share with others is truly a blessing.  I wasn’t sure who or what I was going to do with the $100, but I knew God would lead me…and he did.

Week 1 Stories

Thank you so much for the opportunity to participate this year!  When we got the envelope and I explained to my 6 year old the purpose of this mission. I asked her how we should spend it.  She immediately said, “On Grandma Jane’s girls (in Sierra Leone)!”  I told her that was a wonderful idea and that Grandma Jane (Rev. Jane Lahai from Sierra Leone) would be proud, however, our church already so generously supports the school and that we could try something new with this.  I gave her three options: Support local refugees (we actively collect items throughout the year to take to the Burmese refugee community in Baltimore), the crisis in Yemen (I explained there were children dying because they didn’t have enough to eat), and the migrant caravan.  She immediately said she wanted to help the kids who didn’t have enough to eat so we donated the $100 to support the work of the IRC (International Rescue Committee) in Yemen. 

So my story is simple. I know a single mom through the preschool that I work at. Her son is a student in my class. He is such a great kid. I honestly wish I could adopt him. Anyway, when you introduced the envelopes this past Sunday he and his mom were the first people that popped into my mind. So on Tuesday I sat down and wrote her a letter because I just didn’t want to hand her the money without explanation. It is a delicate balance being a teacher. I didn’t want to insult her in any way…so…I wrote a letter explaining how much I admired her courage and determination to provide for her son and hold everything together as a single mom. I shared with her that I had gone through for a period in my life when my husband left me to “go find himself” and I had to be the one to carry the load of raising my daughter all by myself.  I slipped it into her son’s lunch bag along with the envelope with the $100 as a show of affirmation for all that she was doing and the challenges she was facing and sent it home with him. When I spoke to her this morning about the letter she said it brought her to tears. For two reasons…1)  she had just opened it this morning but the night before she had actually been to SPUMC for the first time! She works about 10,000 jobs to make ends meet and she just happened to deliver food to the church band last night. She said she met some “really nice guy” named Chris. and 2) She has been struggling, in more ways than I had ever imagined as you can see by her note. So if you put our notes together you will get the picture. I am just glad God chose her. She is so deserving.  What a fun and meaningful way of spreading Christmas joy.

ps: In my discussions with her today and in talking about the band I told her that the music at our church is awesome. She asked if we had childcare. I told her yes and that my daughter loves church & talks about VBS all the time. I also said – if you can’t get your little guy to go you can always bribe him with donuts! She said that is funny because when she visits family in Florida they have donuts at the church they go to, so her son is used to that. When they tried a few churches in the area he kept telling his mom, “well this church isn’t right mommy because they don’t have donuts!” 🙂 So maybe, just maybe they have found a new church home. (NOTE: the recipient of this act of kindness wrote us a four page letter of heartfelt thanks explaining their situation and what a blessing this had been).

I just wanted to let you know that I purchased a Food Lion gift card with the $100 and gave it to two sisters (and their family) who attend Arundel High School. See the following from one of the school’s guidance counselors. I hope it will help them have a good meal!

“This family has four kids and all of which are going through social, emotional and mental issues. The kids have been in and out of school and every year have struggle with attendance and structures. The family is currently on food stamps, literally driving a family car where you can see a hole through the floor. Funds are scarce and there is not enough income to cover the daily functioning or upkeep of the household. The gift card will go towards purchasing food and other necessities for the family.”

Again this year my wife and I have matched the $100 Intentional Act of Kindness and sent it as a donation for refugee relief through the United Methodist Committee on Relief. This work is more important than ever and we are very grateful for the chance to support it this season.

My husband and I wanted to let you know what we did with our $100.  My neighbor sponsors several families through the Ulman Foundation, who supports young families affected by cancer.  We helped sponsor a family that lives in Edgewater, MD. The father, is a military veteran who was medically retired due to combat-related disabilities stemming from his time in Iraq.  His wife is a cancer survivor but they recently found out that her husband has metastatic cancer with many tumors in his stomach and lungs.  He is currently unable to work and they have three children 7, 9, 11.  I was able to purchase all of this below for the two girls, ages 7 and 9. They each got two outfits, socks, hats, gloves, and hair accessories. I know this will help them out and put smiles on the kids faces. Thanks for giving us this opportunity to help.

I would like you to know that I just mailed our $100.00 today to our niece and her husband, who live on Dover Air Force Base in Delaware with their four children. The reason I chose them  for my $100 dollars is that last week their youngest child, who is just 20 months old, was attacked by their large family dog ,which was considered to be very gentle up until the time of the attack. The circumstances of what initiated this attack are not known but little Camden was bitten in several places on his face and neck.  He had to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance, immediately going through emergency plastic surgery to repair his little face and rebuild his jaw.  The doctors said he is very fortunate to be alive, as one bite was just 2 inches from a major artery.  His parents had just lost a baby earlier this year and the thought of losing their son was just unbearable for them and all of us.  They are feeling very blessed to still have him with them. They have been through a very difficult year.

The thought of this sweet baby going through this horrific experience is just so heartbreaking.  He is a cousin to our little grandson who lives with us. They, as well as a third little cousin, were all born within 3 weeks of each other.  Whenever I look at our grandson’s beautiful little face it breaks my heart to think of my great nephew and the long road to recovery this precious little boy has ahead of him. We are hopeful that this generous donation, which my husband and I also matched, will help out with doctor bills, medicine or anything they need to help make him feel comfortable and happy.  We would like to thank you and our church’s generous donor for helping our niece’s family, as well as the many other people who will be helped by their gift.  God bless them.

As a family we talked about how we would be generous with our gift of $100. We decided to match the gift and give $200 to the American Diabetes Association because our niece/cousin has juvenile diabetes. We have seen how it has changed her life adding great challenges. We hope that this donation helps them to find better treatments and ultimately a cure.

I had no idea what I would do with the $100 when I left church on Sunday, but I prayed for guidance, and my prayer was answered very quickly. I was shopping in Home Goods today, and overheard a phone conversation that a woman in the next aisle was having. She was telling someone about a friend who had lost everything in a house fire and was really struggling. When she finished, I introduced myself, described the Intentional Acts of Kindness, and offered her the $100 for her friend. She immediately began to cry, telling me that her friend, his wife, and 90 year old mother were now homeless and trying to salvage a few mementos from the ashes of their home. She described him as a faithful Christian and someone who had been like an older brother to her throughout her life. She was so grateful, that she immediately called him to tell him about the gift, which she intended to drop off as soon as she left the store.

I never got her name, but she asked for my name and the name of the church so that thanks could be sent. NOTE: We did, in fact, get a very grateful phone call from this woman the next day.

I took one of the envelopes for$100 and made a donation to my employer Edward Jones’s Disaster Relief Fund.  The fund helps support Financial Advisors and Branch office Administrators that have been affected by the fires in Southern California.  Several of them has lost their homes or their offices they work at.

My husband’s $100 went towards a family meal at Brent’s House in Denver, Colorado by Children’s Hospital there.  It is where Little Theo’s family is residing while he undergoes his bone marrow transplant. My $100 went to a needy family of 7 in the area that our grandchildren’s preschool is outfitting. And finally, our daughter’s $100 went towards a better playground at our grandchildren’s preschool. We also sent in a donation to the preschool.  Do love this! Thanks for your encouragement and allowing this to happen!

I did not originally intend on taking the money this morning. But last night there was a posting on Facebook that changed my mind and I knew I needed to participate. We have relatives in Oregon on my husband’s side that we have not seen in many many years. Facebook can be positive in that we at least have some connection with them.  Their son had posted a picture of a Christmas tree all decorated and lit up. He was thanking his Mom for providing the tree because he was not going to be able to provide his two small boys with a Christmas this year. He is going through a rough time. So this money will help with whatever else this family needs. We will match the 100 dollars as well. Feeling blessed to be a blessing!

Keep those stories coming!!

Send them to

2017 Stories of Intentional Kindness

TWO YEARS AGO in 2017, stories about our Intentional Acts of Kindness Project spread all over the US! In addition to being on the cover of the Capital Gazette on Christmas day (with a full color picture!), it also appeared in the Baltimore Sun. It was on the front page of the Metro section in the Washington Post the weekend before Christmas and that story got picked up by the AP and appeared in papers all over the country (LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Charlotte Observer, et al). I guess people love a feel-good story at Christmastime, huh?

Week 5 & 6 Stories

After receiving the $100, one of the initial ideas I had was to donate this money to the Appalachia Service Project. For those who don’t know, ASP is a Christian ministry that sends both youth and adult volunteers to repair homes in Central Appalachia. I have had the privilege of volunteering with ASP for five years and each year it is such an eye-opening experience. It’s impossible to truly understand the beauty of the mountains and the people who live there without experiencing it first-hand. One of the most amazing parts of this trip is having the opportunity to interact with and really get to know the home owners. They are such amazing people who never seem to take anything for granted.

After more thought and input from my family, I decided to send this money along with a letter explaining where it came from to the most recent family I served on ASP. The owner of the home was a single mother with three children. She was usually at work during the day but always found time to talk to us when she was home. They were very grateful for everything we were able to do but there was clearly more that could be done. I know this money will go a long way for her and her family.

This was such a great idea and I’m very thankful that I was able to take part in it.

Our foster child’s mother  has been living in different rehab centers for over two years.  She feels unsafe living in Baltimore city, which is where she has been living.  The little boy we had been caring for returned to live with his mother in the city earlier in the year.  She had been saving money to fix up a basement apartment in her mother’s home so that  she she could move there.  We gave her the $100, and they moved into that apartment this week!

I donated $100 to the United Service Organizations (USO). The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. My son is in the Air Force and has enjoyed the hospitality of the USO airport centers as he is traveling. They provide a clean, safe place to rest between flights as well as food and drink. Not part of the federal government, the USO relies on the generosity of individuals, organizations and corporations to support its activities, and is powered by a family of volunteers to accomplish our mission of connection. There are USO centers at or near military installations across the United States and throughout the world, including in combat zones, and even un-staffed USO service sites in places too dangerous for anyone but combat troops to occupy. I am very grateful of all the services the USO provides to our soldiers. It is nice to know that wherever they go, the USO will be there to support my son and his fellow service members.

I also donated $100 to Hodgepodge Pets, Inc., a small, dedicated, family-run animal rescue, in Parkton, MD. Feeling called to help the helpless, this family has rescued, fostered, or placed in new homes, over 300 animals in the last 30 years. The mission of Hodgepodge Pets is to be good stewards of the animals placed in their care and to the people of the community whom they serve. They focus on rescuing, fostering and placing animals for adoption, senior-pet pairing, and help for our military families facing a pet-related crisis. They carefully screen all potential adopters and do not charge an adoption fee. Hodgepodge Pets is working to have programs to foster more pets for military families during training or deployments, and to pair overlooked, hard to place, older pets with senior citizens. They would also like to offer pet therapy for at-risk teens and those suffering from PTSD. Their dream is to not only continue with their rescue work, but to expand to bless even more people and pets. For more info you can go to their Facebook page or website.

Week 4 Stories

My wife and I prayed for guidance as to who should be blessed with this gift.  Then we saw a newscast about the Helping Up Mission and knew this was our sign to give to this cause.  As a former Executive Director of the MD Child Support Enforcement Administration, I was reminded how impressed I was with this organization and how happy our organization was to help Helping Up Mission residents resolve their child support issues.  What impressed me the most was the inclusion of a spiritual component to the recovery process.  What better place to direct the SPUMC gift than to an organization that guides their residents through a recovery process that includes a spiritual connection?  In addition, we have decided to match the $100 gift from the church with a $100 gift of our own.  Please keep up the great work and we pray for your continued success.

We consider one of the side benefits of this project is causing people to take time to think of different ways they can volunteer and ways they can improve the community in which we live.

Note:  The Helping Up Mission is a residence program in Baltimore that provides men fighting issues of addiction and homelessness, with food, shelter, and a reason to believe.  The following statement is made on their volunteer page: “God’s healing flows through the hands of His servants, and we all have a role to play. Together, we can restore men fighting addiction and homelessness, so they can lead productive, responsible lives.”  When I was involved with this organization, many of the staff and volunteers were past residents giving back to the program.

I was able to deliver this gift to a very deserving young woman who has recently become a single mother with 2 children and is struggling to make ends meet.  She is working and looking for additional jobs.  The look of wonder on her face and the tears in her eyes said it all.  She was overwhelmed and oh, so grateful!  Thank you for giving us this opportunity to be part of this ministry.

Thank you to the wonderful person who was so very generous by giving money to so many people to spread kindness, love, and joy to so many others in our world this Christmas.  It took me a long time to decide how I would use my $100.  It was not as easy as I thought it would be to choose just the right way to spend the money.  I did as so many others had done.  I went to the internet to research the best organizations who use their money in ways that do the most for the good of the people depending on them.

As a cancer survivor and a leader of a cancer support group, God led my heart to St. Jude’s Hospital and I gave the entire $100 in honor of two year old Gianna Dorn.  Gianna was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer which was everywhere in her body except her bones and brain prior to her second birthday.  Cancer is a very frightening disease for adults; but, it must be even worse for a child.  There are strangers doIng painful things to their bodies, in scary hospitals that are noisy and smelly.  Their families are crying and they do not always  get to go home for Christmas.  St Jude’s hospitals treat Children with cancer at no cost to their families.  The children and their families are treated with kindness and love.  Thank you to who ever allowed me to give the gift of love to this wonderful hospital in the hopes of helping other children.

After taking an envelope and praying for inspiration, we have decided that for our Intentional Act of Kindness we would donate to the Helping Up Mission in Baltimore.

As we drive to work every day through the downtown streets of Baltimore, we see countless numbers of homeless people who seem to sit and gazing into the sky with no hope of a “normal” life. These people sleep year around in tents that form a make-shift community under bridges. They appear to lack many hygiene and healthcare benefits. The struggles of these individuals sadden us and we wish for their recovery.

The Helping Up Mission has many success stories providing recovery and employment as well as positive religious direction and as taken from the website – “At Helping Up Mission, we believe God’s love can set men free — from drugs and alcohol, from poverty and homelessness, and from any other self-destructive behavior.” It makes us happy to know that this gift will go to such a good mission.

Week 3 Stories

Going to the Longest Night Vigil was a great experience, and it really opened my eyes to the situation of homeless people in Annapolis and our county. It’s made me determined to help people I see on the street when I can, and to not be afraid. I am very glad I was able to donate to the Arundel House of Hope, as it’s going to a cause I really believe in. It felt really good to make the leader of the Winter Relief program so happy.

(From one of our Youth)

I wasn’t in church on the day that the $100 bills were given away, but I have been challenged by the stories to be on the look-out for a fresh place to give, and expand my awareness of how to use the gifts God had given me.  So, the other night, I was at a small gathering for a friend’s birthday, and met a new friend, Mary. Mary lives in Baltimore and is an active member of St. Leo’s in Little Italy.  We were sharing stories about our churches, and she had some funny stories to tell about being one of the youngest members in her church (she is about 50!)  I told her about the $100 challenge, and one of my favorite stories – the one about the pizza party at St. Vincent de Paul’s.  She said she new that church well, as she is active in an organization called “Back on My Feet.”  The group joins with homeless folks in Baltimore and they run together!  They also hold fundraisers and offer all sorts of other support like job placement, sobriety support, etc.

So, I made a donation and I am going to join their run on the evening of 1/2/18 which heads out from a location in Federal Hill.  (I am assured that the group has walkers as well as runners, so I hope that is true!!). So, thanks to the donor of the $10,000, to you and to SPUMC for continuing to help us stretch and grow!

I was excited to participate in the Intentional Acts of Kindness project and I’m happy to share how I used the $100.

A few days before the Sunday in church where the $100 bills were distributed, my mother had been telling me that she had become friendly with a young family that moved in across the street from her. They had 2 young daughters and a newborn son. The mother had mentioned that her baby son had hardly any clothes to wear since only some of the hand-me-downs from his sisters would work. My mother and I both planned to ask around for hand-me-down boys clothes. I decided to take one of the $100 bills and buy new clothes for the baby. The family was very appreciative!

I had some money left over and I used it to buy baby supplies for a baby item drive that a coworker’s high school daughter had organized as a service project.The baby items were donated to an organization that supports young mothers in need.

Having worked in the county school system as a teacher, I recognized the needs of families and their struggles especially during the Christmas season. I immediately thought about my school and knew who would benefit from the $100.00 gift.  The counselor was contacted and because of my matching gift two families were chosen. Both families wanted to use the money for groceries. It was converted into Visa gift cards so the families could shop at the store of choice. I am confident this act of kindness enacted through our church has had a positive impact on their lives this Christmas.

My family volunteered last Saturday to help prepare and serve a holiday meal to the homeless (this is through the Happy Helpers organization..)  One of the attendees is a single mom who has a special needs child – she’s been attending for years and now has a place to live, but putting food on the table and meeting the basic needs of her child is always challenging. This story touched our hearts and we gave the $100 to her. Needless to say, she was beyond happy and grateful. It was truly a blessing to be able to go “above and beyond” for this mother and her son, and I believe she believes that this gift came “from above.” Thank you and God bless the generous donor of this money.

The $100 was given to a family in Elkridge who lost everything in a house fire.  The daughter is a student at Thomas Viaduct Middle School in Howard County where my wife works and heard about this family.  She talked with the guidance counselor and arranged for the principal to give the money directly to the student’s father.

I successfully synched up with one of the teachers at SP Middle School who had a mother and son that are in need of assistance.  I was able to take the $100 and with matching contributions from friends in SP and myself,  grow it to about $350.   I texted nine friends and explained what SPUMC was doing and all nine contributed, with one of them contributing $100 of their own.  I was blown away.  When Sherri called the woman to let her know, she started crying and was very thankful.

I also was informed by my teenage son that he too grabbed an envelope and had been trying to figure out what to do with it on his own. We decided to combine all funds and provide a Walmart gift card to this need family for about $450+.   I think the Kindness Project was a great idea – maybe next time stipulate that you have to be 18+ years old or have parental permission to participate  🙂  In the end I’m happy that I was forced into it because it looks like a local needy mom and son will have a good Christmas.  Thank you for the opportunity.

After taking an envelope, our family discussed ideas about how we use the money.  We agreed helping with Heaven’s Kitchen would be a good family event so we decided our contribution would be homemade Christmas cookies.  The idea was each person could take a bag for themselves and an extra to share.

We spent three  nights last week making several cookie varieties, made several mistakes that we had to eat on the spot, and then wrapped in bags Friday night. 80 bags were delivered and handed out as part of a bag of personal items, donated clothes, children book gifts, all following a good hot meal.  Adding to the whole mid day event was Chris and his holiday carolers and a very healthy support crew led by Chip. I enjoyed being there with most of our family, meeting locals that came to visit, other  helpers,  and I was thankful not to be fired from a volunteer job.

I took one of the envelopes and right away knew of a student I could help who is living in poverty. My fourth grade teammate and I took him shopping for a new outfit (sweatshirt, pants, socks, underwear, and shoes), toy to open on Christmas and a gift for him to give to each of his parents. He had such an amazing time and kept saying how it was the best day of his life. He came in the next day dressed in his new outfit with a big smile on his face.

After shopping we took him to grab some dinner and brought him home. His parents were very appreciative and kept thanking us for doing something so kind for their son. Thank you for allowing us to spread joy and giving in a personal way.

We decided to give the $100 (plus some more that my husband and I added) to support a refugee from Africa who is being assisted by Bowie United Methodist Church. I have been re-reading a book that I think is excellent, but difficult reading — Black Earth:  The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder, and was reminded that “to save one soul, saves the world.” I’m hopeful that his rescue, a miracle as described by his pastor, will not only be a rescue of one person, one refugee, but perhaps others in his family.  Our gift will support a cell phone so he can talk with his father and sister.  I prayed about this, since I know others contributed to organizations, but I wanted to help — and the cell phone need had not been funded by Bowie.  The pastor described this gift on her Facebook page as “a visit from an angel.”  She knows the story of how we received the $100 and thought it was wonderful. So do we!

Here is what the pastor, Rev. Margaret Clemons, wrote to her church recently about this outreach:

As the year ends, we reflect on the miracles and blessings God has given us, even as we prepare our hearts for new possibilities of grace God has yet to give. 

I would like to share a miracle which Bowie UMC was given.  The miracle is a young man from Africa.  He came to this country because that government wanted him dead.  You see, he is a Christian, of the “wrong” tribe, and taught children how to think critically about the world while he taught them “reading, writing and arithmetic.”    For being who God created him to be, he was considered a threat.  His pastor helped smuggle him out of his country.  It is only by God’s grace that this young man is alive.  In his country, he had seen many of his friends and family, including his own mother, murdered.  Coming to this country, knowing no one, he admits to times of feeling such despair that he prayed God would take him to his eternal home.  By God’s grace, he found his way to Bowie UMC.  We were able to get him a safe place to live because a good Christian couple opened their hearts and home. 

This young man’s faith is enormous, in the midst of great sorrow and pain.  He had to leave his father and younger sisters and recently found out that they, too, are now refugees, but now are safe.  I hope you will have an opportunity to get to know this amazing young man.  He has blessed us more than we have blessed him.  Please keep him in prayer as he discerns his future, awaits asylum (yes, he is here legally), and grows in faith.  

Through grace by faith, God led him to us.  By grace through faith, God has opened our hearts a bit wider, given us eyes to see with new vision the world at large and allowed us to experience how faith can sustain us even when we think all is lost. 

My granddaughter Mattie, 12 years old, has a huge passion for helping people with a need. With that in mind, I took one of the $100 bills so graciously offered by a member. As expected, the idea sparked great discussion at our dinner table.  Mattie really wanted to see if we could help a family from her school. Sure enough, the principal told us there are several families who could use the gift for Christmas for their kids. We did not get the particulars, but she assured us that the family she had in mind would truly benefit from the gift. That was all we needed to know.

I am writing to share the good news for our Intentional Act of Kindness.  Our family purchased (3) winter coats for children staying at Sarah’s House which is a temporary shelter for those who find themselves homeless.  The generous gift by our church donor is helping hundreds of folks in our communities.  It is so awesome and “wonder’ful!

Thank you for the opportunity to share all that is good.

I often shop at the Weis supermarket in the neighborhood and have found an employee that has always been professional and helpful. This may seem like nothing but sometimes I go to the store in sweats and don’t always look my best but he has always been professional and helpful. I had not seen him for months but last week after service, (I had prayed in service for the direction of the Lord as we were told to be intentional in this giving), I looked up and there he was. He immediately asked if I was Christmas shopping just for conversation. I let him know I was just picking a up few things. I asked about his Christmas shopping. He hesitated a bit then let me know he needed to get gifts for his two daughters. We talked about his daughters for a while. Although he never specifically said he needed help, I felt like this was my moment to show the love of Jesus as we were told to do. I explained the donation at church and offered him the envelope. He was so grateful and appreciative. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to give back to someone who possibly is having a tough time but remained professional. To God be the glory.

When I read that the church was giving money for people to use as an Intentional Act of Kindness I misread the announcement and thought that it read International Act of Kindness. I got very excited because my niece recently got engaged and I knew that her fiancé is very involved with an organization in Guatemala. I decided right then that I would get that money for his cause. This meant I would take the time to learn about the organization, get to know more about my new nephew-to-be, and donate the money to the organization he is very passionate about.

Believe Guatemala is a non-profit, Christian organization, which seeks to empower and educate families in poverty stricken communities in Guatemala City. They believe God wants more for His people and that He calls us to be a part of His restoration process. They have a newly built Restoration Center that serves over 1,200 families in a community at the City Dump by providing educational programs, Bible studies, community outreach, and leadership training. Their Christ-centered programs are aimed at providing opportunities to break the cycle of poverty and reveal God’s love and purpose for all His children. I already knew that niece’s fiance periodically goes on mission trips to this Center and works with the children there.

After attending church the next week, I realized it was not limited to being international (LOL) and my heart was pulled to look for a local organization to support. I wrestled with this for several weeks. This morning when I woke up it was clear.

So many lives are affected by addiction and I have a particularly close friend who has lived in many group homes in the 4 years that I have known him. Currently he is at Helping Up Mission in Baltimore City. Helping Up Mission provides men fighting addiction and homelessness with comprehensive recovery services, including: Meals, shelter, clothing, and other basic needs,Spiritual development, classes, and counseling that change hearts, integrated healthcare, education, workforce training, and life skills.

This is his second time at this particular mission. They offer many services and I pray that this time his heart will be permanently changed to give him the strength to stay clean for himself, his daughter and his whole family. In the last five months I have seen him stay clean, quit smoking, and start exercising. He appears to have a new attitude this time and I pray this is so.

So what did I do? I multiplied the gift. I have agreed to support a child named Rosa in Guatemala on a monthly schedule and have also begun to donate monthly to Helping Up Mission in Baltimore as well. I pray that God will bless these donations to do his work.

The $100 provided to me was given to a father of 8, ages 1-18, who lost his wife around 2 months ago. Mom found out about her cancer when she was being tested for pregnancy at the beginning of the 1-yr old’s gestation. As devout Christians, they chose not to aggressively treat the cancer due to the probable effect on the new fetus. The baby was born healthy, but Mom succumbed  to the cancer. The local business where she had been working has rallied around the family and have provided presents for all 8 of the children. I sent the $100 to the father to be used for utility or any other bills that might be due.  Hope in eternal life is wonderful, but what a joy to give someone hope for their day to day life here!

We gave our $100 to Benevolent Baskets, an organization near and dear to my wife’s heart.  The money was going to be used to provide basic needs to formerly homeless women. Before the money could be distributed the Founders of Benevolent Baskets had a meeting with the Salvation Army to discuss Benevolent Baskets partnering with Salvation Army.  The people of Salvation Army were late because of a fire at their Havre De Grace facility. The fire had either destroyed or severely damaged the toys they had been collecting for Christmas.  They received Severna Park United Metholdist Church’s $100 donation and they were thrilled. They went on to explain that the doctrine of the Salvation Army is based on the teachings of John Wesley.

I hesitated to take the challenge of collecting the $100 bill to help someone or some project. To me this task was daunting. There’s a parable in the Bible where the master gave his 3 servants different amounts of talents (money) to invest his money while he was gone. The first 2 servants did a great job of making a profit for him while the 3rd one just buried his money and did nothing with it. I didn’t want to do this challenge thinking I would be like the 3rd servant and not find a way to help someone. It was like a test for me – could I do this with God’s guidance?

But with an act of courage, after the service, I slipped up to the altar and  took an envelope, praying that God would show me the way. After praying on this for over a week, the same name kept coming to me, a friend who is going through a horrific divorce with 2 children. Her husband has been abusive, but she continues to smile, never bad mouths the man, continues to work to feed her children, and keep the family together in a loving relationship. I know she is having trouble with bills as she is paying for everything right now, but she keeps forging ahead. She does have a strong faith and that is helping her to keep a smiling face and strong belief that things might just work out in her favor. I know she wouldn’t take this $100 as an act of charity, so I slipped it into a Christmas envelope and hid it in her Christmas tree. I don’t know if she has found it yet, and I don’t know what she will do with it. But whatever she chooses, I know it will light up her spirits, lighten her load, help her children, and give her the hope she needs during this season of abandonment and debt.

There was a lady at work that I know who is very loving and kind but really does not make very much money. I saw her crying at her desk one evening as I was about to leave and I walked over to her. She was having extreme pain in her right side that she had for three days but didn’t have any money to go to the emergency room. I got a wheelchair and took her over to the hospital where she was treated for a gallbladder attack. A week later she came back and I bought the “Jesus always” devotional book for her, put the money in a card to tell her that she was loved and put the card in the book.

I kept praying about this for two weeks and asking the Holy Spirit if there was someone else we should consider but I could never get her out of my mind. I haven’t seen her since she opened her surprise so I’ll have to give you a little update later.

I think it was a beautiful idea and I’m glad the whole congregation was included!

I took one of the $100 bill envelopes a couple weeks ago. I chose to give it to a friend who is suffering from financial troubles and she was very grateful.

Week 2 Stories

Ever have one of those times when God taps you on the shoulder to do something for His kids and you kind of shrug it off because it isn’t the best timing and then regret it later?  Well that is exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago. My friend Joe and I were having a look at the historic Shot Tower in Baltimore on a Sunday afternoon with plans for dinner after when I noticed that there was a sizable group of homeless folks hanging out in front of St. Vincent De Paul Church. God seemed to say why not get some pizzas for everyone and sit out on the church steps and have a meal with these folks.  The thought pulled me hard but not enough to act immediately.  When Joe suggested a place for dinner, I didn’t share my God moment with him and we just went on our way a few blocks over to get some good food on the upscale part of Baltimore’s East Side. The opportunity to share Gods love was lost and I knew it immediately — that thought returned a couple times later that evening but was soon eclipsed by the fast pace of life.

So there I am sitting at church a week later when you make the announcement that we could pick up a crisp $100 bill with the only stipulation that we do some good with it — God was quick to remind me of my missed opportunity and I immediately started making excuses in my mind about not having the time to spend an afternoon in Baltimore when my feet started moving me towards the altar to pick up the envelope.  I surrendered to God’s nudge, took the $100 and called my friend Joe who isn’t a member of our church to tell him about the missed opportunity, generous donation and asked if he wanted to join me on our mission to throw a pizza party for the homeless — he enthusiastically agreed.

We planned the party for this past Sunday afternoon and with some matching donations came up with two cases of water, ten Dominoes pizza’s of differing varieties, 8 boxes of chicken poppers and a case of Orange Crush at Joe’s suggestion. We ordered the pizzas online and waited for the delivery out in front of the church and began to chat with one of the local residents named Mark. Mark was a Ravens’ fan who was quick to give us the scoop on some of the residents and their circumstances.  When we told one of the residents that we had ordered Dominoes pizza he said jokingly that it had been so long since Dominoes had delivered anything to that neighborhood that he thought they went out of business.  I started to worry that he may be right since they were already 30 minutes late ;-).

We got out the water and Orange Crush and immediately realized that the soda was much preferred over water and the crowd quickly took charge of distribution in a surprisingly fair way making sure everyone got a can.  Not long after, the pizza showed up and again the residents helped distribute the pizza to everyone and Joe and I grabbed a slice and began to break bread with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  I told one resident about the generous donation to SPUMC that made this possible and he was touched and very grateful since it turns out that they never get pizza and most folks that bring them food and supplies just drop things off and rarely stick around to share a meal.

Joe and I hung out until most of the pizza was gone. There was lots of heart-felt thanks and a spontaneous hug by a woman who appreciated us hanging out with them or maybe  she also really loves pizza ;-).  The residents then cleaned up the trash as best they could and thanked us again. As Joe and I drove out of Baltimore that night with a bit of a chill from the cold night there was the warmth, too, that seems hard to describe — perhaps it is the gentle pat on the heart from our Father for being about His business and spending time with His other kids. I knew then as I know now that I gained more then we gave that night.  $100 turned into $200 and then transformed into ripples of Gods love in this sometimes troubled world.  Please pass on our thanks and appreciation to the donors whose faith made this amazing experience possible!

There was a student in my class (“A”) who was documented as being homeless. His mom has 3 school aged children and 2 older children (18 +). Mom was living in Baltimore city with the 3 younger children and her mother, who was helping to pay for the apartment. Her mother, however, has a drug addiction and started using again recently, causing her to lose her job. Without her income to help pay the bills, the family was evicted. So, A’s mom was taken in by her aunt in Severna Park, temporarily. She was receiving assistance from SPAN and was starting a job training program. One of the complications, according to the People Personnel Worker was that her 2 older children were constantly taking her resources and making it difficult for her to “get ahead.”

Her 4 year old, “A” qualified for immediate admittance to our Pre-K program. We were very fortunate to have “A” in our program for the short time that he was with us. He was such an eager learner, so incredibly happy to come to school and see us every day, and a great example for our other students. It was truly a blessing to be around him!

My co-worker and I wanted so badly to help this family! It was perfect timing when you told us about the family that donated the $100 bills! I thought the gift of letting them shop for food (any food they wanted!) would be a perfect way to use the $100.

Well, “A” didn’t come to school last Monday and on Tuesday his mom came in to withdraw him, saying they were going to Sarah’s House, a shelter for women & children. I have been working with the PPW to find out how to go about getting a donation to a specific person at Sarah’s House. I will be dropping off a gift card to Walmart (since they are supplied meals at Sarah’s House) so that mom can buy some things that they need or want and also taking some fun snacks and things for the children. “A”’s mom seems to be trying very hard to make a good life for her kids.  Please keep this little family in your prayers!

p.s. The PPW extends her thanks to you, too!

For my intentional act of kindness, I choose to honor animal shelters.  We have a shelter dog and cat that have brought us so much joy over the years.  I had been reflecting on these two animals so I knew where my $100.00 was needed.  At my local YMCA they have an animal tree with pictures of cats, dogs, currently being housed at the SPCA in Annapolis.  The animals are looking for donations to feed them and provide bedding and treats. All the food I purchased with my $100.00 plus our family monetary donation are now under the animal tree. In our family, the animals are just like our children.  What a great experience this act of kindness has been. The cashier person at PetSmart  was so touched by this story of the couple’s generosity, she cried. I invited her to join us one Sunday morning to participate in a worship service.  I know all the dogs and cats will be eating well, soon! p.s. You should have seen our cart from PetSmart — it’s amazing what how much good $275 can do!

My youngest daughter’s preschool started a drive to collect gently used purses to hand out to homeless women in Baltimore. They are also collecting items that these ladies can use to fill the purses with. I collected my purses and bought some supplies to donate. When I spoke with the director last week, she said that she had around 100 purses and not nearly enough supplies. This kind woman is taking her time each weekend to drive around Baltimore and personally hand the purses out!

I knew right away that I would use this money to buy 100 items to donate. Things like soap, shampoo, maxi pads, antibacterial cloths, etc. I can’t even imagine what these people without homes go through, especially on a blistering cold day like today. I feel blessed to be able to contribute and hopefully make a small difference in their lives.

I’ve been debating how to donate the money I got last week at the 8am service, and have spent more time than I’d like to admit poring over nonprofit ratings, trying to find something especially meaningful.  This evening I came across a “Go Fund Me” posting on Facebook, soliciting support for a family from Myersville, MD who lost everything, including their pets, in a house fire yesterday.  It moved me, and I matched the funds and donated $200.00 to help them, in the name of Severna Park United Methodist Church.

This has been an eye-opening and soul-searching experience for me.  There is such need in the world, and while my husband and I do donate to many organizations and causes, I don’t remember the last time I gave it so much thought.  Thank you for injecting something so real and meaningful into this Advent season.  The ripple effect will certainly be far-reaching and impactful, not only to the recipients of the donations, but also in the hearts to all who were privileged to take part.

After praying about this for all of last week, I felt two strong urges – one was to give this money to help a child in need to have a merrier Christmas, and the other was this sense that sharing the love of Christ didn’t only have to be with someone who had a financial need; that “need” comes in many different forms.  Some people may need to know that they are valued, respected, that they make a difference, or even just to be “seen.”

As a teenager, I once worked as a waitress and found it one of the toughest jobs I ever had.  So I decided I wanted to give this money, along with a note, to a hardworking waitress.  We often go to breakfast after church, and so today I decided that whoever our waitress/waiter was would get the envelope I had prepared.  We knew a lot of the servers at the two places we most often go, and I just trusted that God would put us at the right table, the one with the person He wanted me to give my envelope to.  I had placed the cash inside a Christmas card with a note that I had been asked to pass this money on as a blessing for someone, and that I had chosen her. I also said that I hoped that beyond the money, that she would be blessed by feeling the love of Christ though this gift all throughout this holiday season, and I thanked her for doing her job so well.

I put it with the paid bill as we left the restaurant so I have no idea how it was received, but I hope that this young lady was both surprised and happy.  I wrote her name on the envelope and I do hope she feels noticed, valued and at least a little special. I hope it made the rest of her shift a little easier.

The funny thing though is that I spent most of the week searching for a new opportunity beyond the Angel Tree at church to purchase Christmas gifts for a child – I really wanted to find a child at a less fortunate area school that had expressed a need.  Nothing specific presented itself and then I had the waitress idea, so I was all set to go with that.  Then this morning, as I was checking Facebook before leaving for church, I found that opportunity I was looking for.  A woman in our neighborhood had posted that there were just a few open slots for kids’ wish list items for a local school that she was organizing donations for.  I looked at those and they were all less “exciting” things for older kids, things like clothes and shoes.  All the fun toys for the young kids had been assigned.  Well, I knew that these older kids needed things too, and I could help, so I signed up for a bunch of items on that list to provide.

There are so many aspects of this effort that I am in awe of:  of course the generous donation of the $10,000 to fund this is absolutely amazing, and I just wish I had thought of it!!  That was why it was such an easy decision to match the original $100 with this money of our own.  But what was the coolest to me was how I was on “high alert” all week, looking for people or opportunities to help.  That was a great lesson, I think we should always be in that mode, always on the lookout for who God may place in our path, and for things He calls us to do.  I am going to strive to be in that spirit more and more, to have eyes to see people’s needs more routinely, and to help in any way I can.

And I am also going to look beyond the obvious kinds of need, because I do think I have a tendency to label need too neatly, and I think it’s bigger than that.  I am praying that my vision is bigger and broader, and I can see people more as Jesus sees them.

I am so grateful to belong to this church, to be part of a community that is so loving and giving. All of you make me a better person.  Merry Christmas!!

My wife and I added another $100 and acted as silent Santas at the lay-away department at Kmart. That was fun!!

I split the $100 into five $20 bills and have given away $80 so far. First, I decided to help a severely handicapped man who was collecting money for a family of 5 in Grand Central Station. I also reached out to 2 men who were asking for money on the street and did not appear to be addicts of any type (unlike some others we saw) – one  said he would use the $20 for shelter.  I also gave $20 to our bus driver who said he had 2 daughters getting married, and was soon to be laid off at end of December from the bus company because they were downsizing. I still have $20 to give to someone and I’m keeping my eyes and heart open but thought I’d update you…

We used the $100 for a  7 year old boy who is struggling with inoperable optic nerve brain tumors.  He lives with his single mom who asked for help this holiday season with getting a few gifts for her son.  With winter fast approaching, Kevin’s wardrobe is limited since his mom has no income and they concentrate on making ends meet with purchasing supplements for Kevin. Since chemotherapy is not an option for Kevin, he uses dietary and other non-conventional holistic healing methods to prevent the tumor from growing. We purchased a pair of snow pants, gloves, and hat for him to be able to enjoy playing in the snow. He’ll also find a few other gifts under his Christmas tree this year, with the hopes of bringing him some holiday cheer. Our young daughters really enjoyed helping this young boy by using the $100 towards a good cause.  Seeing them give to others is rewarding for all. We are blessed to have been able to help with the “Intentional Acts of Kindness” task and so thankful for the generous gift of love that the church donor offered to all.

My wife, daughter, and I just started coming to Severna Park Methodist Church about 2 months ago. My wife and I always said we wanted to get back into the church (we haven’t been in a long time). The handful of times we came I honestly told my wife like I felt like the church spoke too much about money. It’s kind of funny how things work out because of this Intentional Acts of Kindness came about and the Church was giving us money to give to a noble cause! I thought and prayed about how I thought this money would be best spent. My aunt put a post on Facebook about how money you donate to certain causes actually goes directly to the cause. St. Jude’s Children Hospital was one of the programs where 100% of the money goes to children with cancer and helping pay there medical expenses. The next day I received a letter in the mail asking me to donate to St.Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I just put the donation in the mailbox tonight and feel this may help a child in need. Thank you for putting this Intentional Acts of Kindness Project together, we will see you Sunday!

I wanted to share with you on how we shared the love of Christ in the “Intentional Acts of Kindness Project.” It has been almost 2 weeks since we took this challenge that was offered to us at church. I have been praying God would direct me in who to share this gift with. At this time of year their are so many in need. I just felt it was meant for one individual but, I did not know who it was. Yesterday, I was speaking to a very dear friend of mine and he shared with me the difficultly one of his relatives was going through. It is a heart breaking story, the minute he finished the story, I know this is where God wanted me to help. My husband and I are matching the $100.00 gift. Here is a bit of the story:

This lovely lady has had a very tough life, she and her brother were left as toddlers on their grandmother’s front porch in rural Kentucky with just a bag of a few of their belongings. They were raised by the grandmother. Later in life she married but, it was not a happy marriage and she was left alone again. They did have a son together but, he, too, was a major disappointment later in life, when he began to steal whatever he could from his mother. She did find a job that gave her a great deal of satisfaction and helped her pay the bills, She worked as a nursing assistant and would sit with dying people in their home or nursing homes. Due to some health issues and back problems, she had to stop working. Two weeks ago she developed pneumonia and went to the ER for help. They admitted her for observation and while she was there she had a major heart attack. Test revealed she had 90% blockage and required stints. During the procedure, they nicked the aorta and she had a major bleed that required another procedure.

She is still in the hospital and hopes to be released later this week. Her unemployment check is her only source of income and it is less then $900.00 a month. The Doctors have advised her to apply for Disability and not return to work, but this will take a while. She lives alone in a small, run-down apartment in Cincinnati. She only has one relative that lives close by. She is feeling very lonely and has many concerns on how she will survive. My dear friends are leaving on Thursday to drive to Cincinnati to be with her when she is discharged and try to help get her back to health. They will be taking this gift of love to her.  Please keep her in your prayers and share with whoever you can. I believe God will give her strength and help her through this very difficult time.

I was driving along East-West, past Orphan Grain Train ( as I’ve done countless times before.  I stopped in to see what it was about, where I met Ron Phipps who gave me a tour. It was a busy day – volunteers sorting and packing items in boxes donated by McDonalds. They collect and ship supplies – clothing, tools, school materials, bikes, sewing machines, etc – to locations around the world, requested by pastors at those locations. Places such as India, China, and wherever disaster strikes in the US.  I gave them my $100 and offered to help load the next container shipment on Jan 5 (10am) going to the Far East by ship. Many years ago, OGT started shipping grain from Nebraska overseas for orphan kids.  Now they collect and ship a variety of things from many locations  throughout the US.

I decided to match the gift and pay it forward.  I reviewed the Doctors Without Borders website and learned about the good work they are doing to save lives all over the world.  I was moved by the many poor and suffering people (especially kids) you never see on the evening news, that really need help.  $100 over there goes a long way to alleviate disease and malnutrition. Giving away $100 bills is not as easy as it sounds.  But I know others will benefit who really need help.  I am glad to participate.

I gave the $100 bill to an employee at the company I work for. This gentleman married later in life (early 40’s), and for several years he and his wife struggled with infertility.  Giving up hope,  they adopted a daughter from Mexico.  Lo and behold a few years later, they did have a child of their own, and now have a total of four young daughters. This co-worker (now in his early 60’s) is one of the hardest workers in the company and often spends his weekends doing side jobs. He and his family recently moved into their own home, and though he take pride in finally owning a house, the financial responsibility has been a bit draining. I know the monetary gift will bless them during this Christmas season.  He was so appreciative and grateful for the gift.

I am thankful to be part of a church that is so mission oriented and generous.

I shared my hundred dollars with a friend who is facing many challenges: she has had open heart surgery, is dealing with a severely shattered foot and recently her grown son lost his job, separated from his wife and moved back in with her. She is also helping to raise her grandchild. She is one of those people who is always helping others whether it is driving them to a doctor’s appointment or just showing up as a friend. What a wonderful and kind project this is. Prayers to the givers of this act of kindness that made this possible.

This weekend as we traveled to Pittsburgh for a family event, we stopped at Bob Evans to have breakfast and met Linda, our server.  When we asked her, she told us that she was almost ready for Christmas. Linda shared with us that her family, including15 grandchildren would be visiting with her for Christmas and she told her children they would not be getting much for Christmas.  After our meal, I approached Linda and told her that we had a tradition of giving during the holiday season and that we wanted to help make her holiday a little brighter.  Linda gave me a tearful, big hug when I handed her the $100 bill and said it would make a big difference. My husband and I have decided that we are going to give $50 each to our young adult children (5 young adults, ages 26-18) with the same instructions.

My family and I took two of the $100 envelopes.  Our daughters were in worship the Sunday the Intentional Acts of Kindness mission was announced and they were SO excited to participate!  When we got home from worship, we sat around our dining room table and talked about how we could be intentional with this great gift of love and generosity.  We listed about 5 or 6 things, then picked two: First, we decided to go to a local grocery store, go into one of the checkout lines, and offer to pay for groceries for someone who really needed it.  We prayed about this choice and sat with it for awhile.  Then, the Holy Spirit nudged my husband one morning when he was on vacation from work.  He and I heard sanitation workers/recycling crew on our street picking up leaves.  He went to the window and watched them hard at work picking up hundreds of bags of leaves.  He said to me, “They work really hard.”  He sat down and thought for a minute.  Then, he hopped up and said to me, “Oh!  The $100!”  He was so excited he flew out of the house and followed them down the street to catch them.  He said when he got there, he called one of the workers over, explained what our church was doing, and gave him the $100.  My husband said the worker laughed with both shock and delight, kept saying thank you and ran back to the truck to finish his work.  

Our second way to spend $100 actually is in southern New Jersey.  My husband has gotten to know a family there, due to his work, really well.  The mother is a single mother doing her best to make ends meet for her two children.  She shared with my husband that she doesn’t really know what she believes and grew up not celebrating anything – birthdays, Christmas, Easter, other holidays, or weddings.  As a result, her son has missed out on the joy and wonder of Christmas and the true meaning it holds.  The woman’s son told my husband, “I guess I won’t get anything for Christmas because we don’t celebrate it.”  As a family, we thought that the gift God gave us (through someone else’s generosity) would be a great way to show the woman’s son the love of Jesus, God’s extravagant grace, and the true meaning of Christmas.  So, my husband is taking the $100 to purchase some much needed items (and fun things too!) for the woman’s son.

Our church’s Intentional Acts of Kindness mission has also led to everyone in our family intentionally looking for kind ways to act each day to demonstrate God’s great grace and love. Recently, I had a dentist appointment.  The dental hygienist and I were talking and she shared that her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.  She shared her sadness, concern, and fear that her mother may not be well enough to attend her wedding next month.  The hygienist also shared concern about her spiritual journey and members of her family who do not see the need in knowing God or attending worship.  I talked with her and shared some of my own faith journey, and reassured her God holds it all and works everything for our good – no matter what it may look like.  After a few minutes of silence, she said, “Thank you.  Thank you for talking with me.  It made me feel better.”  I was thankful to God that God used my witness and voice, in that moment, to bring some comfort and peace to her which is what the Advent and Christmas season is about.  When we surrender to be Jesus in the flesh to others, we become God’s peace and God’s good will for all.

For some time I have wanted to try to make fidget mats. I am using the $100 to purchase materials and notions to make several sample fidget mats, which I will then give to the church. I will include written directions and some kits with materials and notions for other sewers in our church to use. The fidget mats can be for adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s or for toddlers. I will probably start with adult mats. The Dorcas and Heartfriends UMW Circles are both crafty and may want to take over this project.  Moms Connect may also have some interested sewers. I can think of senior members of our church who may enjoy these and our church has no dearth of toddlers!

So far I have purchased zippers and grommets ($21), but need to get broadcloth or duck cloth (cotton cloth that has been washed and shrunk for strength) as well as Ultra Firm Pellon for filler. I will also use my own ribbon, Velcro, and fabrics from my quilting stash. [If Chris Dillard would stop using so much of my time, I could really get going on these!  : )  Gotta love my music director!]  Thanks to the donors for this awesome opportunity!

I didn’t get one of the hundred dollar bills from church last week because they were all gone by the time I asked for one. But I decided to be part of the Intentional Acts of Kindness Project anyway and simply pay attention to the people and situations I encountered. On my way into the drug store yesterday, there was a young man begging for money to get something to eat. I stopped to talk with him and ask what his story was. He told me that his mother had kicked him out of the house and that his girlfriend, at home with their baby, had told him that she needed him to do something to help support their child or get out, too. I knew I had three options. I could simply tell him I would pray for him or I could give him the $10 bill in my pocket.  OR I could give him the $100 bill that I happened to have in my wallet (a pretty rare thing, but I had just been to the bank two days before). I felt the nudge to be extravagant with grace and so chose option 3. When I gave it to him along with a blessing and short explanation, he was both stunned and speechless at first. Then he hugged me and thanked me several times before practically skipping into the drugstore to get something for the baby. I’m convinced that were it not for our Intentional Acts of Kindness Project, Options 1 or 2 more likely would have won out. I’m glad they didn’t.

Week 1 Stories

I have been eager to report how the $100 was used to bless a good friend of my mother’s who has been very sick since January. She was only recently diagnosed with a rare form of peripheral T-cell lymphoma and began chemotherapy on Monday. Her support system consists of friends, colleagues (she is a kindergarten teacher), and her son. Unfortunately she is no longer able to drive, and has requested long term disability, being unable to return to work this school year. Needless to say, this woman has endured many trials this year, thus my eagerness to bless her with the generous gift you spoke of on Sunday.

I called my mom as soon as church was finished; she was eager to meet at Target that afternoon to put together a care package for her. We used the money to buy a new set of sheets, sweat pants, warm socks, tea, ginger ale, and soup. She has been mentioning needing new sheets because her night sweats are so severe that she is having to wash them daily. Her legs have swollen because of the enlarged lymph nodes, thus the need for some comfortable pants to wear.

She doesn’t know Jesus. I believe God spoke into my heart when you presented this project to the church as an opportunity to tangibly reach her.  You see, if I had used my own money to get these for her, she wouldn’t have accepted any of it…she would have insisted on paying me. She would only accept this because it was given as an act of kindness from someone anonymous. When my mom took all this to her, she said that a church paid for the supplies as an act of kindness. She was humbled; she made sure to let me know that she intends to pass along the kindness once she’s feeling better.

People come to experience the love of Jesus in many ways. I have found kindness to be a bridge between talking about who Jesus is and actually seeing or feeling Jesus. This gift gave us the opportunity to show a friend who has suffered greatly, that the love of Christ exists for her, and that He cares enough to provide her with new sheets!

I was humbled by the notion of this project when you spoke of it on Sunday. I’m so thankful I listened and acted on being a vessel of God’s love. What a wonderful Christmas gift this was. Thank you.

As a professional fundraiser, I was blown away by the amazing $10,000 donation providing others with an opportunity to “give.” Working at Johns Hopkins, each and every day I see the struggle on the faces of parents that are dealing with sick children and family members. During the holidays, the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center (JHCC) hosts a Snowflake Station where individuals can donate gifts so that parents can “shop” within the hospital walls and not have to be too far from their children’s bedside. As a working mom, I know how tough it can be to find time to shop for all the holiday goodies. The thought of having to take care of a child who is sick in the hospital, manage a job, a household AND shop for the holidays, just makes it that much more important to support the JHCC Snowflake Station.

As a result of the generous support of one of our SPUMC members, my daughters and I were able to spend the morning yesterday buying an array of toys to donate to the JHCC Snowflake Station. The look on the face of the staff when I dropped off the gifts this morning was priceless. As was the excitement my girls expressed when purchasing toys for these other children.  As a family and Johns Hopkins employee, I am SO thankful for the generous $100 Be Intentional Gift.

When you explained about the $100 bill I didn’t feel moved to take one. I was incredibly moved by the concept and the family that made it possible, though! I whispered to my husband that I wasn’t going to take one, but we could take a name from the Angel Tree instead. His reply was, “Are you kidding me? You are always talking about people you know that have a need for the $ or the light of Christ in their life.”

So, I took one and prayed about who He would like me to share it with.

The Lord put on my heart a co-worker of mine who has been blindsided by her husband’s demand for a divorce after almost 30 years of marriage and the revelation that they are in deep deep debt. This woman is a woman of deep faith.

I chose yesterday to give it to her with a note that explained the inspiration for the outreach. I also said that I felt the Lord wanting me to use it as a sign that He is hearing her prayers and the prayers of others on her behalf.

She came to me this morning and shared with me that before she opened the card yesterday she had received an email from her attorney that things were worse than they had expected. She was so upset she had to leave school. She sat in the parking lot of the Safeway and cried and cried, feeling alone, desperate, confused, and scared. She remembered the envelope and opened it and read my message. She said a peace came over her. She saw the $100 bill (although much needed which I was unaware of her financial situation) was more a physical sign of God’s everlasting love and protection for her and her family.

I took one of the envelopes with $100 in it to give away.

I was excited about this project when you first announced it and thought it was a genius idea. I started thinking right away how I would use it.

Turns out choosing was a lot harder than I thought. I can give my own money away easily but I felt a lot of responsibility giving away someone else’s. I toyed with so many different ideas then found myself obsessed with looking for someone deserving in my everyday errands. Ha ha I was distracted driving thinking should I pay someone’s bill?  Should I buy something and give it away?  I decided in a year where there has been so much division it seemed appropriate to donate to a person or group promoting community and doing it with love.  Feeling focused on that I’m happy to report many people are doing wonderful meaningful work.  Choosing was still difficult.

In the end I chose to donate to the Mufindi Orphans project in Tanzania. It was recommended as needy and deserving by my niece who had worked for the Peace Corp and started in Tanzania. She knows the people involved from that experience. She was recently encouraging people to donate on social media so I asked a little more about the project.  She told me they have done and continue to do amazing things.

I also decided to match it and contributed the same amount to a local organization called Creating Communities started by Rob Levit.  I have volunteered at his Arts Mentorship Academy held at Maryland Hall for several summers until my own work schedule conflicted.  I can say firsthand that money donated to them is not wasted.  Rob Levit’s program is unique and just what those kids who attend need.  It is a very deserving group.

Please thank the donors for the opportunity to be involved in this Kindness Project. I can’t wait to hear what others have done.  I’m sure there will be many creative ideas.

I was so inspired by the $100.00 bill program that I decided the first thing to do was to equal the $100.00 and give $200.00. This is such a SMALL thing to do, BUT, if all of us did the same the same, we’ve doubled our giving. I love this church. I am going to meet my recipient tomorrow morning, a recently blind fellow brother in Christ, my age, that needs our help.

I asked our seven year old daughter if she wanted to get an envelope and participate in Intentional Acts of Kindness.   She said yes.  She was shocked that there was really a $100.00 bill in the envelope.

We thought for a while to come up with a tangible way for our 7 year old  to really experience the giving.  We decided to pack “gift” bags for the homeless in Baltimore City.  She packed 2 pairs of heavy socks, 7 sets of hand warmers, and McDonald’s gift cards into the bags.  We were heading to Baltimore on Thursday evening so we stocked up and away we went.   She  was so excited when a man approached our car seeking change.  She rolled down the window and called him over. “Here you go,” she said.   He said, “Thank you, God bless you and have a good night.”    She said, “You too!”  As we pulled away she said to us, “This was the best night ever.” We are looking forward to giving out the rest of the bags.

This very generous gift  was inspiring and I truly appreciate to opportunity for the teaching moments it has provided us.

We spent several days considering what we could do with our $100. Here’s what we decided to do.

I purchased a Walmart gift card and I liked the idea so much that I purchased a second $100 gift card. I contacted the principal at Park Elementary School in Brooklyn Park. I shared our Intentional Acts of Kindness campaign with her. I asked her to use the gift cards to purchase gifts or food for several families or give the gift cards to two families. My husband and I attended that school and we know there is such great need in that community. We loved growing up there. The principal Sandy Blondell was so thrilled and grateful.She shared her concern about the unemployment, addiction, and housing issues in the community. She also grew up in Brooklyn Park so we had a great connection. Thank you and the very generous donor for the opportunity to give back to our old neighborhood.

I just wanted to let you know that I gave the $100 “wonder initiative money” to a program where I teach at Arundel High School. I received the following e-mail and instantly thought the money would be put to good use for these students in need.

This year,we have MORE students in great need of assistance whether it is for winter clothing items or new shoes. We also are hoping to serve the entire family to ensure siblings are taken care of, as well. The SGA, Arundel Athletic Boosters, and a local community church (Nichols- Bethel UMC) has generously already committed to providing some essential items for every student. If you are willing and able, we would love and appreciate your help to make sure our students are clothed, warm, and feeling special during the holiday season which can be difficult for some kids.”

I think this was a great idea to “pay it forward”!

When I received the $100 from SPUMC to do something to help others I decided to see if I could help a homeless family. I contacted Dr. Pam Brown, the Executive Director of the AA County Partnership for Children, Youth and Families to see how I could do this.  She passed on the information on 2 families who had an immediate need for money. One was a single mother with two daughters who had given up her home in another state and moved here to help her sister through a rough time only to be abused and left without a place to live. The second was a young woman who has been diagnosed with PTSD, having also been abused, and is now living with her daughter in their own place. They needed help with a security system for their apartment because of her diagnosis.   I could not select which one so I sent $200 so they could each receive $100.  I would like to thank the donors of the gift to SPUMC who inspired me and gave me the opportunity to have this very fulfilling experience.

I am pleased to participate in the Intentional Acts of Kindness Project.  Thanks for organizing this, and please extend my thanks to  the donor who made this project possible.  Yesterday happened to  be a special giving day in the UMC, “Global Migration Sunday.”  The plight of refugees and migrating peoples is a concern to me, especially given the current political environment. So I am using my $100, plus adding a matching gift of $100, to donate $200 to the Global Migration Sunday appeal.

Today I presented the envelope with the $100 bill to “George”…he likes to be called The Dude. He has been living in his old car for several years in Cypress Creek Parking lot, Woods Church access drive and elsewhere in the area, like behind the Donut Shack. On occasion I have talked briefly with him and learned he is 59 and not a veteran. Woods Church helped him a couple of years ago to have his car inspected and licensed. Last winter I gave him a new blanket.

George has public places he goes during the day to stay warm and clean up. Today he told me he appreciated the gift money because the heater fan in his car gave out and he was getting by on “solar power” and this would be a big help. There is more to his story and our relationship but this should give you a good idea how this gift went to a deserving individual in real need.

I go out almost every day to pick up a salad at one of the grocery stores (Shoppers and Giant) near my office in Annapolis.  Both serve very diverse neighborhoods with people of many ethnicities and senior citizens, as well as hire disabled employees.  I see many of the same people each time I go and I believed that I would find someone that needed the money.  As I began my search, I found that my decision making was more difficult than I thought it would be.  I wanted to make sure that the $100 would make an impact and was really worried about making a mistake.  I spoke to my wife about this yesterday and she quickly set me straight.  She told me to pray about it and my path would be clear.  Excellent advice and even though I knew that, I got wrapped up in the choice and forgot that the purpose was to show someone the love of Christ.

As it happens all the time, prayer works in mysterious ways and as I headed to the Giant for yet another salad I saw a homeless gentleman near the entrance.  He had a bed roll, a backpack, and wore a light winter jacket.  Immediately I knew this was the person I needed to share the love of Christ with.  I kept the $100 bill in the sealed envelope and headed over to talk to him.  As I approached, he started to walk away but I managed to catch up to him and told him that I wanted him to take this envelope (no mention of the money inside) in the spirit of Christ and told him “God Bless You.” I shook his hand, which was weathered and cracked, gave him a hug, and told him to be safe.  He had a curious look on his face, responded with a thank you, and headed toward the parking lot.  I headed inside the Giant, and once inside, glanced back through the windows.  I saw him opening the envelope, pause for what seemed a long time, and turned back toward the Giant.  I did not stick around and headed to the salad bar, only guessing what must be going through his mind.  I have no idea what he will do with the money and really do not care other than I hope it goes for nourishment and clothing but that is his choice.

There is so much need in this world and we can do so much more than we do.  This project is very special and gives us an opportunity to show the community there is good out there.  It was surprising to me that I tried to make the giving more difficult than it should have been.  It made me realize that need is everywhere and giving should be without hesitation or overthinking the act.  As in many cases, the giver gets as much as the receiver…

I already gave the $100 from church yesterday to a mother to use to buy Christmas presents for her children, who are students at the elementary school where I am the school nurse. We have many needy families here, including homeless families. We made one mom really, really happy!