On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it has become traditional to take that day off of work or school to give back to the community.
The Kindness Connection, based in Wilmette, is offering children ages five and up, and adults in the community, an opportunity to make hand-crafted items that will go to charitable organizations both local and international, said Eva Lu-Bonn, executive director at The Kindness Connection.
Families are invited from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to the Skokie School cafeteria, 520 Glendale Ave., Winnetka, to make stamped stationary, mugs, paper dolls, get well bears, flips flops, pencil bags and key chains for a variety of causes. There is a $7 per participant fee to for materials and administrative costs. Participants can pre-register through the Winnetka Park District, or at at www.thekindnessconnection.org.
The children and adults don’t take their handcrafted items home, however. The hand-stamped stationery will be mailed to troops, the mugs are for Operation Homefront, and paper dolls will go to Reach for Change. Area children’s hospitals will get the get-well bears and the flip flops are for WE-ACT, a organization helping women in Rwanda. Pencil bags are for the Armenian Relief Mission, the key chains will go to Habitat for Humanity, and the magnets will go to nursing home residents.
“We create the projects with the groups we are helping. We hear what their needs are, and this is the icing on the cake, things that ultimately benefit their clients and and put a smile on their clients faces,” Lu-Bonn said.
The items, while small, are things that the agency might not have the time and resources to do “but think, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to give the client this,'” Lu-Bonn said. “It really is the extra impact and, ultimately, for their clients to feel that someone else in the world is reaching out to them,” she said.
Lu-Bonn is hoping and planning for between 100-200 people to show up for the event.
She does ask, however, that while no one is turned away, that children five and up are included. Kindergarten is about the age that children learn empathy for others and are best able to understand why they are giving their project away to another person.
“For that age group, we are introducing to the concept of giving back and partnering with other nonprofit and social services agencies,” she said.
Lu-Bonn was recently named the executive director at The Kindness Connection, a new role for the agency that was founded, mostly through private funding, in 2006. “We are a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting volunteering through service learning projects, working with children and other groups,” she said. “We work primarily with elementary schools, to partner with them to bring volunteer projects into the schools.These are projects that are fun, meaningful, hand-decorated, and each project goes to a local social service agency.”