What is a Random Act of Kindness and how did it start? In 1982, Anne Herbert wrote “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a restaurant placemat in Sausalito, California. This began Random Acts of Kindness (RAK). A Random Act of Kindness, as defined by GoodTherapy.org, “refers to selfless acts, both large and small, that are committed unexpectedly, without prompting and with no apparent ulterior motive.”

Twelve years ago, Mary Whitacre enjoyed reading the book Changing The World Through Kindness and she shared the book with a group she was a part of at church. . However, it actually took several years for her to put what she learned from the book to work. She attended a New Beginnings Event for the Domestic Violence Shelter and saw the list of items that were needed for the shelter. She doesn’t quite remember how it went from sharing the book, to seeing the list, to “it would be really cool to give someone what they need when they leave the shelter.”

The Domestic Violence Shelter put an emphasis on the fact that the women and children leave abusive relationships with nothing in hand. It’s very hard to start a new life with nothing. The New Beginnings Fundraiser provides the shelter much needed funds, but Mary wanted to know if there was anything she or her group could do that would allow the fundraising money to be used for other things at the shelter. She brought it up to the committee at church and they agreed that they weren’t doing the outreach in the community that they really wanted to do and were all for helping the survivors at the shelter. Mary began by speaking at church and asking members for donations to fill baskets to give the women at the shelter when they were moving out on their own. It started with some towels and basic supplies. It has grown to church members filling 3 baskets for each woman who leaves the shelter. Mary leaves the empty baskets at the church and after a quick message to the group, the baskets will be filled within a couple of days. These baskets consist of the basics, including canned goods, dishes, electric skillet, towels, and pillows, but the group also wants the baskets to be special. They also include some items to give them a boost like good hand soaps, jewelry, and nail polish. Something that says the recipient is important and valued. Mary also writes a note and puts the quote, “To be truly successful, you need to contribute to the success of others” in each basket. She also lets them know they are hoping and praying for their success.

Mary speaks at church and gives updates on the baskets. She always has people asking to help. One time she showed up to pick up the baskets and there were several toasters sitting there. “I have no idea where they came from, they just appeared.”

Mary is also part of a group that helps move furniture that is donated to Muscatine Center for Social Action (MCSA). Many times people want to donate it, but they don’t have a way to get it to MCSA. Mary, along with several other people, are ready and willing to help when needed. They take these items to a storage unit for those moving out of MCSA and may need furniture. They are also able to help when people move in or out of MCSA. Mary’s group has the truck to use to move, and MCSA gets moving help from people living at the shelter.