Acts of Kindness Weekend: A Time for Giving Back

We marked the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with a tribute to those who sacrificed their lives and honored them by giving back in our own communities, to make life and living better for our neighbors. A-OK! Weekend, Acts of Kindness, happened Friday-Sunday, Sept 9-11, 2011. A hallmark of A-OK! Weekend is signing up for a project that might be a little outside your comfort zone — one that brings you together with people from another area of town from where you live, or from a different faith tradition from your own. Stretching ourselves is a superb way to inoculate our community from the ghosts of 9-11 — namely fear, as well as ignorance about the abundant religious and cultural diversity in our city.

This year’s projects included “adopting” streets to clean up near the university; planning a picnic for veterans; and organizing donations for New Americans. We’re also placing a special emphasis on the South Side, including a major effort to clean up Kirk Park, a lovely but overgrown park between South and Midland Avenues. Also on the South Side is a plan to clean parts of the banks and waters of Onondaga Creek, in partnership with the volunteer group the Creek Rats.

And it was not all work. A-OK! Weekend featured social events, including a community sing at Hendricks Chapel on the Syracuse University campus and a ceremony and get-together to honor firefighters and first-responders at Sheridan Park. Those are just a few of the dozens of activities that happened all across metro Syracuse. When 9/11 happened in 2001, we all wanted to do something. This weekend harnessed some of that spirit.

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Media coverage

It seems everywhere you looked, you could read or hear about WTB and its A-OK! Acts of Kindness Weekend in fall or 2011. Our unique story of women reaching out to each other across faith lines proved a good storyline for many news outlets doing 10-year anniversary coverage.

Here is a sampling of some of the attention the media gave us:

The New York Times story appears online and is expected to be in the print edition 9/11.

New York Times print and online editions  on September 11  featured  the interfaith work of WTB over the past 10 years (click underlined type). Times reporter Laurie Goodstein and a photographer spent two days in Central New York learning about WTB’s origins and mission. Both stories showcased a mosaic of WTB women’s faces in the story appearing online.

PBS’ Religion and Ethics Newsweekly aired a story on interfaith work nationwide, but much of the story was built around WTB. The reporter and crew videotapted WTB’s visit to the Islamic Society of Central New York for an iftar in August, 2011. The piece included interviews with WTB co-founders Danya Wellmon and Betsy Wiggins, along with  Saro Kumar, who works with our community garden.

A crew from PBS records during an A-OK! planning meeting in August.
A crew from PBS recorded a planning meeting in August

Ms. Magazine blog carried the story of  WTB in a September 11 posting, writing, “From the small victories of helping one another through personal crises to the big job of bringing their community together, Women Transcending Boundaries is a truly feminist response to 9/11.”

The  Syracuse Post Standard covered the activities in a story you can read here. It printed an opinion piece by WTB Council members on Sept. 4 that encouraged readers to honor the 9/11 anniversary by giving back to their community on A-OK! Weekend.

Syracuse New Times also published a spread on WTB, its history and plans for A-OK! Weekend.

Projects and volunteers

To download an illustrated .pdf report click here.

Beaver Lake Nature Center, Baldwinsville – Helping with children’s activities at the Golden Harvest Festival
Beauchamp Branch Library – Planting a tree
Cecile Center – hosting a concert by the Syracuse Brigadiers Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps; making cards for patients at Golisano Children’s Hospital
Creek Rats – cleaning up along Onondaga Creek
First Baptist Church of Central Square – inviting a Muslim to co-lead Sunday service

Grace Episcopal Church, Baldwinsville – dedicating a 9/11 memorial; serving breakfast for first responder
Habitat for Humanity –building a home for a veteran
The House at 807 Oswego Street, Liverpool – yard cleanup and landscaping
Huntington School – creating a Freedom Garden; dedicating the bird feeder project at 25 city schools
Jowonio School – cleaning up Trike Town

Kirk Park – cleaning trails and removing brush
Le Moyne College – holding a memorial mass at the Panasci Family Chapel
Liverpool First United Methodist Church – serving a free breakfast to first responders
Menorah Park – packing bird seed; giving interview to SUNY Oswego students
Midler Avenue Wesleyan Church – hosting refreshments at the memorial ceremony at Sheridan Park

Operation Northern Comfort – fixing up front yards at Christopher Community residences on Catherine Street
Plymouth Congregational Church – inviting a Muslim leader to give the Sunday sermon
Sheridan Park – hosting a 9/11 memorial service
Southwest Community Center – various ongoing volunteer opportunities
St. Lucy’s Roman Catholic Church – inviting a Muslim leader to give the homily

Stone Soup Community Garden – planting, weeding, mulching
Syracuse University – adopt-a-street cleanup
Syracuse University Hendricks Chapel – hosting a 9/11 commemoration
Syracuse University Schine Student Center – collecting donations of canned goods
Temple Adath Yeshurun – organizing its library

University United Methodist Church – inviting children to bake cookies for firemen
West Genesee High School – offering a free concert
Westcott Street – organizing a neighborhood cleanup
West Side Learning Center – cleaning and painting
Zen Center – Cleaning up around the Garden of Serenity

In 2012, we continued the tradition of Acts of Kindness by engaging in various projects including clean-ups, painting, and children’s activities. The following year we joined the annual prayer service and vigil on the World Day of Prayer hosted by Unity of Syracuse.