HED: Kindness Gang shares its spirit

By Jennifer Ginn

Daily Journal

SALTILLO - Don't let the hair bows, giggling and smiles distract you.

These girls at Saltillo Elementary are members of a gang - a Kindness Gang, that is.

The Kindness Gang, sponsored by the Junior Women's Club of Saltillo, is in its second year at the elementary. The group, opened to all fourth- and fifth-grade girls, meets monthly to perform public service projects.

"We start with the September meeting, getting everything ready for a food drive," said Felicia Stanford, Junior Women's Club member and co-director of the Kindness Gang. "World Food Day is in October. We set up can-drive boxes and set them throughout the school. The administrators give us the names of families they feel need some help and we make up food boxes.

"We do caroling for kids, which is a lot of fun. We divide into groups and take them to subdivisions, going door to door caroling. They ask for donations. This year, they had enough money to do four angels off the Angel Tree from the Salvation Army."

The group got started last year after Junior Women's Club members noticed that their daughters often wanted to imitate them and help out with their service projects.

After searching a Random-Acts-of-Kindness website - which is a nationwide effort to promote charitable acts - the Kindness Gang was born.

Stanford said they weren't worried about the gang not being "cool" enough for girls to want to join. Twenty-five signed on last year, and this year there are 38 girls involved.

"These kids all like to do good deeds," Stanford said. "This group isn't (worried about how it looks). When they get to the junior high, they are. That's why we picked the fourth and fifth grades. They still have a sense of innocence to them."

The Kindness Gang was out early Wednesday morning, braving drizzling, blustery weather, to hand out doughnuts to the parents who were dropping their children off for another day at school. It was just one of several events planned this week to celebrate national Random-Acts-of-Kindness Week.

Stanford said they were there to give a break to the teachers who normally watch over the children and the cars. As for the girls, they just looked like they were having fun.

"It's very cold," said fifth-grader Tiffeni Crump. "I thought it was fun. I like to help folks. Some people are poor and don't have anything. I'll give them anything."

Events to celebrate Random-Acts-of-Kindness Week are continuing. The Kindness Gang is soliciting donations at businesses in Saltillo and at the Mall at Barnes Crossing in Tupelo to buy teddy bears for police officers to give to children who have been involved in frightening or tragic situations.

A Senior Citizen's Sweetheart Contest winds up the week's events.

Area residents are invited to go by the Kindness Gang display at the Wal-Mart Supercenter on West Main Street in Tupelo to vote for their favorite senior couple. The voting ends Saturday, with prizes provided for the winning couple.

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