CHARLES TOWN – I’ve long known that many are struggling each day to be warm enough, to be fed enough, but it wasn’t until I attended a volunteer orientation at the Jefferson County Community Ministries in Charles Town that I really came to understand just how entrenched poverty has become in our county.
I came out of the orientation wishing that I could do something; I also knew that I had to be realistic in whatever idea I decide to act on in order to be most effective. At dinner I discussed the challenge with my three children, Allyna, Celine and Shaun. Because it was winter and very cold, we thought, Why not create a blanket drive? Allyna came up with the name “One Blanket=One Smile.”
We would ask for gently used blankets and let people know that new was fine as well. We created an event on Facebook and organized the effort into two week-long drives with the goal of collecting 100 blanket each week. Several friends quickly offered their businesses as drop-off locations, including Child’s Play, the Inwood preschool where I once taught, Sokel MakeUp & SkinCare in Charles Town, Studio She in Frederick, Md., and Harpers Ferry Wellness and Massage.
Other friends mailed blankets from all over the country. We were so deeply touched, and what meant most was the incredible selflessness of so many people. It was truly so amazing to have such a wonderful and giving responses! In the end, we surpassed our goal and collected 287 blankets.
After the amazing outpouring of support, we changed our name to “One Act of Kindness=One Smile” with the goal of regularly organizing other charitable activities and events in and around our community. In February we created 75 valentines for the Children’s Inn residential facility at National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Last month, we put together Easter baskets for Forgotten Children Ministries of Jefferson County.
This month, I’m working with Christina Jones, the owner of Studio She, who came up with the idea of an “act of kindness” aimed at victims of domestic violence. The “Hot Tools Drive” will collect new or gently used flat irons, blow dryers and curling irons to be donated to women at Bethany House in Martinsburg, Heartly House in Frederick and Casa in Hagerstown, Md.
Why hot tools? Every nine seconds in the United States, a woman is beaten or assaulted. When they escape, most leave with nothing. These shelters offer tremendous support to women in these horrible situations. Our drive is a small way to give these women something to help them get ready for the new chapter in their lives.
During the week of April 13 to 20, we hope to collect 80 hot tools. Besides Studio She, other dropoff locations include Sokel MakeUp & Skincare at 123 N. Charles St. in Charles Town; Refinements at 123 W. German St. in Shepherdstown; and Harpers Ferry Wellness & Massage at 1441 W. Washington St.
Your help – with this project, with next winter’s blanket drive or some other effort – absolutely will make a difference. I like this thought from historian Howard Zinn: “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
— Reach Liz Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at “1 Act of Kindness=1Smile”