The Seeds of Giving
“The seed of my giving journey was planted at a young age. After my mom went back to work as a teacher, most weeks my dad would do the grocery shopping. He always shopped at Sam’s Club because we are Italian and we like to eat…a lot.
During most trips, he would buy two big packages of peanut butter crackers. My mom would take these snacks to her school and share them with her students. She would bring other snacks as well, but for some reason, completely unknown to me, these peanut butter crackers fixed themselves into my memory. She would take these food items to work with her at the inner-city junior high school because most mornings her students came to school hungry.
They hadn’t had breakfast and most often they hadn’t had dinner the night before. It is mind-boggling to think back on all of the kids who ate because of my dad’s trips to Sam’s Club. Peanut butter crackers. Go figure. They didn’t write a big check or even tell anyone they were doing it…it was just part of their everyday practice as human beings. It was just the way our home functioned.
Thinking over my childhood years, there were several small acts of kindness I can remember, but those peanut butter crackers were significant because they illustrate how learning kindness begins with how we treat each other in our own families and communities, how we selflessly give to each other, and how we respect one another. The action of charity starting at home helps reveal to our children that through ‘peanut butter crackers’ giving, being philanthropic can be easy and impactful.
We need to make this idea of practical charity a practice in our homes. Finding small ways that fit our lifestyle and means to help others in ways that can make a big impact. There is no way to know how many children’s bellies were full because of those peanut butter crackers but I say even if one kid didn’t feel hungry anymore, they made a big difference.
Fast forward, I experienced firsthand how a small, everyday act of kindness can make a huge impact on someone’s life. My daughter had to undergo emergency surgery at only six days old. Receiving that news is a feeling that is hard to describe. When they wheeled her little 6-pound body away fear, darkness and pain were only some of the emotions I felt at the time. Sophia spent ten days in the NICU and during our time there, a stranger knit beautiful lavender hats for the babies recovering.
I had spent days watching my daughter, unable to hold her, feed her, or even dress her. These simple things we take for granted. When the nurse put that warm, beautiful hat on her head I can remember the feeling of light in what was the darkest time of my life. Sophia wore that little hat throughout her recovery. That act of selfless generosity touched my heart forever, and I knew one day I would pay it forward somehow.
After we brought Sophia home, I was determined to figure out a way to help others who were going through difficult times. It brought me back to my childhood, and the notion that even if I could make a difference in the life of one person I would be doing something good in this world. When my husband and I hosted friends at our house, I would ask guests to bring new essential items that the Children’s Hospital needed.
Instead of bringing a food item or a hostess gift, I would ask our friends to bring baby bottles, blankets, and toys. Our friends really loved the idea and would love to shower children they didn’t know with items they truly needed to comfort them during a hospital stay. I am happy to say my daughter is 10 years old now, happy and healthy, but I will never forget how the act of kindness impacted my life.
Founding Party In-Kindness
A year after my daughter was born, I met Shani through a mutual friend. We lived in the same neighborhood and connected on both being Bay Area transplants (myself being from Rhode Island and Shani being from Chicago), having children around the same age, and wine! One day, Shani and I were hanging out at a normal play date with our kids when we started talking about our desires and dreams for the future and for our children. We related on our upbringing and how the access and abundance was pretty different for our children.
As we chatted, I shared that I wanted to start a charity and how there could be a small easy way for people to add giving to their lives. Shani always knew she wanted to be a part of something that could not only have a large impact on her and her children’s lives but the lives of many in need. After a few more chats, we felt that we had to bring this concept of giving to our community. Thus, we began a partnership as co-founders and Party In-Kindness was created in 2014.
Party In-Kindness (PIK) is a charitable organization, serving the East Bay and Nashville areas, that helps bring the party host, their private gathering, and a charitable purpose together. We want to turn any occasion into a reason to give and provide new everyday essentials to families in need. No matter the size of the occasion, our goal is to encourage fun and easy giving that connects people, making the smallest act of kindness impactful. Through donor parties, we are able to provide items such as art supplies, toys, toiletries, and food to struggling families to name a few. Donors contact us when they are hosting a party, and we help them select a charity that is meaningful to them.
We felt it was important to let people choose a cause they connected to. In the process, we contact the charity to see what their needs are as we are aware that many can’t store excess supplies. Then we help donors with wording and conveying the request for new donations in lieu of gifts on their invitation. During the party, guests get to see the collective giving they participated in by bringing a donation. Once the party is over, PIK picks up and delivers the donations for the party host.
‘Since Party In-Kindness (PIK) first began, we’ve made birthdays and celebrations about giving. PIK truly listens to the cause we feel passionately about, and will match us with a charity that’s the right fit. The folks at PIK take care of the rest by collecting and delivering all donated items. Even our kids get excited about making their parties a PIK! Instead of asking for more toys, they ask what kinds of things other people need. Collectively, the small events have led to huge amounts of giving!’ – Party In-Kindness Donors; Jen and Amein Punjani
When we deliver the donations to local charities, they are always so grateful and touched by our efforts. We have built great relationships where they call us if they are in need and we provide those requests to our donors.
‘Trinity Center is a doorway to opportunity providing essential safety nets, services and a pathway forward for vulnerable populations. Party In-Kindness has been a great partner in our mission to uphold the values of dignity, respect, inclusion, equity, and vibrancy of life for all. Their on-site activities have been marked by joy, friendship and meaningful service. During the pandemic they purposefully stayed connected and found fun and creative ways to provide needed support. We look forward to working shoulder to shoulder with Party In-Kindness in new ways. We are so grateful for Melissa and Shani! Thank you for who you are and all you do!’ – Trinity Center Development Director; Pamela Arend McGrath
In addition, we host donation drives to bring the community together by supporting causes that supply new backpacks filled with supplies, meals and after-school snacks, holiday gift wishes, and much more. We also provide families the opportunity to volunteer and assemble these essentials at our Family Volunteer Events. We found that many charities have age restrictions for volunteering. Since we had young kids, we wanted to find more ways to get them involved.
We wanted to incorporate giving in our everyday lives, just as my family (unknowingly) did for me. Now every year, Shani and my kids turn their birthday parties into a ‘Party In-Kindness’ asking friends to bring donations for causes they care about, in lieu of gifts. During the holidays our kids see all the toys that come through the house and automatically know they are going to another kid who really is doing without or struggling. I can only hope our efforts continue to ripple through them as they grow, become adults, and have children of their own.
Over the past eight years, Party In-Kindness has distributed over 30,000 in-kind donations to over 30 nonprofits. We have hosted over 200 events, and raised over $130,000 which has been distributed to those in need. Party In-Kindness is continuously working to encourage giving on every level and spread kindness in our community!
If interested in becoming involved please visit our website: www.partyin-kindness.org.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Shani Hall and Melissa Smith of Bay Area California. You can follow their journey on Instagram and their website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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