Acts of Kindness Weekend: Spreading Caring Across Central New York

What a wonderful weekend of kindness and caring Sept. 11-12, 2010 became in the Syracuse area! Children helped repair bikes, painted a mural and baked cookies for firefighters. College students painted, cleaned and carted clothing and materials from one place to another. Others tried to beautify the creation by cleaning up, planting trees and clearing brush. Hundreds came out to honor 9/11 by doing acts of kindness and having fun activities at the hubs spread across the city. It was a weekend of support, sweat, and smiles

Nearly 100 organizations participated in A-OK! Acts of Kindness Weekend. Saturday was a glorious day, and even Sunday’s drizzle didn’t dim the spectacular weekend of volunteering and connecting across Central New York.

A-OK! Weekend 2010
Creative activities bring together young and old
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People who didn’t know one other rolled up their sleeves and stood side by side to paint classrooms at a day care center, refurbish a North Side neighborhood, plant 3,900 daffodil bulbs and perform many other acts of kindness. Among the heavy lifters were Syracuse University, 100 Black Men and Le Moyne College, as well as people like Mike Behnke, president of the Syracuse Parks Conservancy, who gathered dozens of volunteers to help make these efforts happen.

More than 100 people came out in the rain to the closing celebration at Hendricks Chapel on the Syracuse University campus to hear stories of all the good things that happened and to share picnic food. Entertainment for the event included new Americans singing and dancing and the gospel singers, “Five to Life.”

The work doesn’t end here.  “Treat every day like it’s this (Acts of Kindness) day,” said one of the participants at the closing celebration. Please join with us as we continue to transcend boundaries, and help us make our community a healthier, safer, more inviting, and better place to live! Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner declared Syracuse a “city of compassion,” part of the Campaign of Compassionate Cities and the Syracuse Common Council issued a proclamation of support, as well.

This amazing weekend of caring was coordinated by Women Transcending Boundaries, who got the idea from the expansive volunteer effort, Big Sunday, in southern California. The A-OK! anchors (leaders) and WTB members thank everyone who joined us in the amazing project. Special thanks goes to the CNY Community Foundation and Syracuse New Times for their support. Other major contributors include the Gifford Foundation, the Sugarman Law Firm, Wegmans, Bond Schoeneck & King, Liverpool Credit Union, and the Barney II Foundation.

Projects and volunteers

For a map of project locations, click here; to download an illustrated .pdf report, click here.

100 Black Men of Syracuse: working with the Syracuse Parks Conservancy to do beautification at city parks.
ACTS Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse: promoting a full-service grocery store on the South Side.
ALS Walk: raising money for medical research. Le Moyne College students volunteering.
Beaver Lake Nature Center: engaging city youth to volunteer at the annual Golden Harvest Festival.
Bikes for Peace: holding bike repair clinics, offering bike safety instruction.

Books Are Food for Thought: delivering donated books to South Side Church of Christ for children who receive free meals.
Brady Faith Center: landscaping around the Center.
Butternut Community Policing Center: building a game room downstairs.
Butternut Style: sprucing up Butternut Street around the Butternut Policing Center.

Center for New Americans: Members of King of Kings Lutheran Church in Liverpool organizing the warehouse and donations.
CNY Community Foundation: sending volunteers to Butternut Style and the Butternut Policing Center.
Community General Hospital: sending health professionals to offer blood pressure screenings at Hopps Memorial C.M.E. Church.
Crouse Hospital: sending health professionals from the hospital to offer blood pressure screenings at Sunnycrest Park.
CYO on North Salina Street: painting gymnasium walls and resurfacing floors

Dunbar Association: collecting professional attire for Jobs Plus participants interviewing for jobs.

Eastwood Neighborhood Association: providing lunch for volunteers working in Eastwood.
Eastwood Parents Network; organizing children’s activities at Sunnycrest Park.
Eastern Farm Workers: transporting, sorting, and organizing donated clothing by LeMoyne College students
Elmcrest Children’s Center: Youth preparing and serving a dinner for police and fire department personnel.
Exploring Spirituality: telling stories from different faith traditions.

Fair World Market Place: collecting food for a food pantry.
First Tee of Syracuse: providing golf coaching.

Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University: hosting a closing celebration.
Home HeadQuarters: collecting care packages for incoming refugee families.
Honey Tree Day Care: painting a classroom and hallways, with LeMoyne College students volunteering.

Housing Visions: hosting a Block Party for the 600 Block of Catherine Street.
Huntington Family Centers: cleaning out a recently-purchased building.

Imagine Syracuse:  setting up an information table at St. Lucy’s Church about organ donations.
Imagine Syracuse: Young Musicians: collecting donations of musical instruments for the Young Musicians Project.
Imagining America: setting up the Art-in-Motion Open Hand Theater street show in Armory Square.
The Inner Beauty Parlor
Teens: making friendship bracelets
InterFaith Works: setting up tables for children to make cards to send to children and families impacted by the oil spill on the Gulf coast.
Interreligious Food Consortium: providing bins to collect food donations.
Islamic Society of CNY: collecting food for food pantries; cleaning up the neighborhood; offering free meals.

Jowonio School: constructing a children’s labyrinth; tidying up outdoor play spaces.

KJ’s Angels Memorial Fund: planting daffodils and removing leaves and debris from the common area in the Oakwood Cemetery.
King of Kings Lutheran Church: partnering with the Center for New Americans.

La Casita Cultural Center: organizing a story-telling event at St. Lucy’s Church.
LaVallee’s Karate: collecting “Wish List” items for the SPCA.
Liverpool First United Methodist Church: honoring first responders with a free lunch.

Mothers Against Gun Violence: working on a South Side creek cleanup.

Newell Street Garden: building a fence.
Nottingham Senior Retirement Center residents: reading to children at St. Lucy’s Church.
NIA: teaching healing dances at various sites.
Northside Learning Center: painting a mural on an outside concrete wall and repairing a fence.
Northside Collaboratory:
providing arts and crafts for children, music, food, health screenings, and sports activities in conjunction with the Assisi Center.

OnCenter: collecting musical instruments for Imagine Syracuse: Young Musicians.
The Oaks at Menorah Park: writing letters to military personnel.
Onondaga County Executive’s Office: making sandwiches at the Samaritan Center.
Onondaga County Health Department: organizing health screenings by medical professionals.
Ophelia’s Place: offering a discount on coffee purchase in exchange for donations for a food pantry.

Person to Person Citizen Advocacy: organizing a Game Day with residents at Loretto

Raging Grannies: singing at St. Lucy’s Church.
Rahma Clinic: offering free health screening, henna painting for children, and youth activities.
Rapha Community: holding a “Heart-Beat” drumming session at Forman Park.
Red Hot Mamas:
inviting people to write letters and cards to members of the military.
Respite Volunteers Clearinghouse: recruiting respite care volunteers for people served by local agencies.

Say Yes to Education: providing pro bono lawyers at various sites.
Sheridan Park Association: holding a Memorial Service for first responders with a color guard, fire and police department participation, speaker, and opening and closing prayer.
South Side Interfaith Community Development Center: organizing a cotillion and formal fashion show for teens.
Southern Sudan Initiatives:
promoting a school for women and children in Southern Sudan and a community center for “Lost Boys” living in Syracuse.
The Spa at 500 and The Art of Massage: providing chair massages for volunteers after a project.
Spay/Neuter Assistance Program: distributing literature on spay/neutering; displaying kittens for adoption.
St. Joseph’s Hospital: sending professional staff to provide blood pressure screenings at the Assisi center.
St. Lucy’s Roman Catholic Church: sending performers to Nottingham Senior Retirement Center and Loretto.
Starfish International:
providing Progressive Muscle Relaxation sessions at various sites.
Stone Soup Children’s Garden: building and painting a fence by  Le Moyne College students.
Sunnycrest Parks Association: assisting volunteers at Sunnycrest Park with tree planting and clean-up tasks.
SUNY ESF students: removing invasive plant species along Onondaga Creek.
Syracuse Parks Conservancy: giving flower bulbs and helping with plantings at various sites.Syracuse Grows: offering tours of community gardens.
Syracuse International Film Festival: documenting the weekend activities.
Syracuse Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Center: collecting food and hygiene items for a food pantry.
Syracuse Parks Conservancy: donating flower bulbs and helping to plant bulbs.
Syracuse Peace Council: conducting a bike clinic at St. Lucy’s Church.Syracuse University: connecting students from a variety of programs to volunteer activities.

Temple Adath Yeshurun: collecting baby items for the Mary Nelson Center; painting the Mikvah at the Temple; visiting residents at Menorah Park; collecting food for the Interfaith Food Consortium.
Temple Concord: cleaning up at Thornden Park.
Triangle Park: planting daffodils and mums.

University United Methodist Church: offering crafts and music, food demonstration, blood pressure screening, HIV testing, free legal advice and credit reviews, and a free community breakfast.
Upstate University Hospital: providing professional staff to offer blood pressure screenings at St. Lucy’s Roman Catholic Church.

Vet Farms of Baldwinsville: developing a vegetable garden for veterans.
Visions for Change: presenting a poverty-simulation at Grace Episcopal Church in Syracuse.

Carol Watson Greenhouse: giving away house plants at the Assisi Center.
West Side Learning Center: painting classrooms and a large hallway by Alpha Phi Omega.

Xi Chapter, Lambda Kappa Mu Sorority, Inc.: volunteering at Hopps Memorial C.M.E. Church.

The Zen Center: clearing brush around a sculpture by Cayuga-Seneca artist Tom Huff.

A-OK! Weekend spreads to Detroit

After hearing about A-OK! Weekend here, the women’s group WISDOM partnered with interfaith groups across Michigan to stage their own A-OK Weekend. More than 600 volunteers came out, from metro Detroit and as far away as Northern Michigan. Dozens were  teenagers. After opening ceremonies they spread out to 11 sites in a four-mile radius in Southwest Detroit to mulch and weed, plant flowers, trim bushes, board up decaying buildings, pick up garbage, paint over graffiti, clean up playgrounds for children, and other projects. WISDOM was enthusiastic about the response. And it all started here in Syracuse!