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Blog post by Stephanie, a Kindness Investor from Mt. Laurel, NJ.

I created an intention this morning ~ Today, I appreciate a kind heart!

Meet Tom, who not only has a very kind heart but also sells something very sweet and tasty, namely ice cream.  Tom and his wife Shari, opened The Zebra Striped-Whale in Newtown, PA several years after his wife self published her first book, which shares the same name. When I encountered Tom he was busy at work behind the counter but was still open to share his story before I even presented him the ten dollars.  I learned he used to work for years in my town (small world) and that he is the father of two daughters, Maxine (Max) and Ariele, one of which who was having her first day of work at a law firm in Philly.

When I asked Tom what was the greatest thing about his job, he answered that, “People come in excited.  They know it’s going to be a happy experience, not like going to the dentist, but when they come here they know they are going to get something good to eat.”

He says the shop was designed to delight all five senses from attracting your nose with the smell of the crepes and waffles,to the taste of his delicious ice cream.  Tom shared that his favorite flavor was the, “Sweet Cream because you can mix it with anything.”

The Zebra-Striped Whale is known for whirlwinds.  A whirlwind invites you to choose your ice cream flavor and the toppings are blended into the ice cream by hand with a flat paddle.

Tom with Colleen.

Tom was a psych major in college and worked in sales for most of his life.  He shared his dream of opening an ice cream shop with his wife and the two took it to the next level.  Tom is a creative spirit both on and off the job.  He created the artwork for The Zebra Striped Whale Alphabet Book, which is soon to be published. Tom’s motto is create a nice life, live well, and share good fortune and happiness with others.

Before we left, Tom surprised my friend Colleen and I by giving the $10 to her.  She used it to buy “The Zebra-Striped Whale” and Tom also gave both of us a book called “Cop Buddy” that was created to honor a fallen officer.  Tom and Shari not only own an ice cream shop and publish children’s books, but they also created The Zebra Striped Whale Foundation which serves the community through the art of children’s picture book publishing.  He truly has a kind heart and I enjoyed meeting him.

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Tomorrow is the big day!  I am sadly not going to be caught up with my blog posts by Tuesday, Day 365.  At one point I thought I could do it, but I have to let that idea go.

I am still looking for people who are out of work and would be willing to do what I have been doing; giving away $10 a day and then sharing the experience.  You don’t need to do it for a year, just 7 days.  If you are interested, send me an email to reed@yearofgiving.org.

Day 347 was the day after Thanksgiving.  I woke up that morning still sufficiently full from all the turkey and stuffing I consumed the day before.  I had agreed to go to Yuengling Brewery that day with my friend Laurie whose parents live about 15 minutes away in Camp Hill.  There was no specific reason to go other than I enjoy beer and used to brew my own and we had nothing to do that day. 

It was no more than an hour and thirty minutes from Mechanicsburg.  The last 10-15 miles of it is a very pretty drive through the winding hills of central Pennsylvania.  Pottsville, where the brewery is located, is a picturesque little town that reminded me of several other towns in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  I parked the car in front of the brewery and started digging for quarters in my pocket to feed the meter.  Thankfully it was only twenty-five cents for each hour.  In DC it costs about twenty-five cents for every seven minutes! 

Filling cans of Yuengling lager beer.

As we walked up to the building bearing the name “D.G. Yuengling & Son” on it I mentioned to Laurie that one of the brewers was the uncle of a good friend of mine.  I had met him once or twice and once even completely confused him with my friend’s father.  In my defense they do look quite a bit alike.  Anyway, it would be nice to see him again if he was there.

Just inside we were greeted by a woman who said we needed to wear a wristband.  While we were waiting for the tour I asked her, “Do you know James Buehler?  He’s a brewer for Yuengling.”  Perplexed she looked at me and said, “Yes…he’s my husband!”  I introduced myself to Cindy and explained how I knew her husband.  She informed me that he had the day off.  I guess there is a decent chance that I had met her before too, but neither of us seemed to remember.  As we were taking the tour, we were asked to go and wait in the gift shop for them to call for us.  Afterwards I thought I would look for Cindy and give her my $10 for the day but I couldn’t find her.

We then headed down the hill to Roma’s to grab something to eat.  It’s a good place that looks like it once was just a small walk-in pizza joint that had expanded to having a dinning room with sit down service.  I thought about giving the $10 to the waitress, but in the end decided to walk around Pottsville and find somebody.

Stacie protects Kylie from the strange man handing out money.

I saw a young woman and little girl skipping down road.  It reminded me of that scene in the Wizard of Oz when Judy Garland (Dorothy), Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin Man), and Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion) all go singing and skipping down the Yellow Brick Road.  I stopped them and asked Stacie to accept my $10.  She did.

Stacie, 19, and Kylie, 4, were heading home to Orwigsburg which apparently is not far from Pottsville.  Although Kylie is her boyfriend’s daughter, Stacie seemed so natural with her.  Like most small children that get close to me, Kylie shied away as I approached her.  She clutched the drawing of a bear that she had colored earlier that day and ducked behind Stacie’s leg seeking protection from big scary Reed.  Thankfully she didn’t start bawling, usually they do.

Stacie is taking online classes right now to get her Associate’s Degree in Childhood Development.  “Someday I hope to have my own day care,” she said smiling at little Kylie.  She seems to have a knack with children and will probably be great working in that field. 

She told me that the $10 was going to go toward Christmas.  “It’ll probably end up going for something for her,” nodding her head toward cute little Kylie.

We said goodbye and Stacie carefully loaded her precious cargo into the car-seat in the back of her SUV and they drove off.  I walked up Market Street a little more and took some photographs of the town before heading back to Mechanicsburg.

The other day I got an email from Stacie.

I just wanted to e-mail you and tell you that my $10 is in fact going towards Christmas gifts for Kylie.  I bought her [books] (ended up being 20 books and a pack of flashcards!) for her Tag reader (you know those electronic pens that read the words in books out loud?  I got her one of those for her 4th birthday this summer and ever since then she’s loved reading.)  In my mind your $10 paid for a Super Speller book for her so thank you for helping my ‘stepdaughter’ (I hope one day she legitimately is) learn and to help support her love of reading.  I’m sure after this project you really understand just how important things like reading skills are. “

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Three more days…

There were really no cars out. I took this in the center of Simpson Street, a "major" road in Mechanicsburg.

Today’s blog post is from Day 346 which was Thanksgiving.  I was in Mechanicsburg with my father.  Dad cooked a delicious turkey and I handled some of the sides.  My favorite is the stuffing.  In fact I made two stuffings.  Dad prefers cornbread stuffing, but I’m more of a bread stuffing guy.  I make sure to add a little sausage and plenty of sage like my mother used to do.  I also added pine nuts which I don’t think she did.

After the tasty spread was consumed along with a blurry amount of wine, I decided that I should try to go and find my recipient of the day.  I decided to walk, note the reference to wine above, and headed out toward downtown Mechanicsburg.  I was going to head to the CVS at 30 East Simpson Street.  It’s probably less than a mile from the house although I bet people rarely walk there from my father’s neighborhood.  Most people here drive everywhere.  Dad decided to stay behind because of his knee – at least that’s what he said, maybe it was because there was still some wine left!  “I don’t think CVS will be open,” he shouted down to me as I opened the front door.

The town looked abandoned.  The streets were empty and rather dark with a hint of precipitation making everything glisten ever so slightly.  I could peek through the windows of several homes and see families sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner.  Several houses already had their Christmas lights on.  

I got to the CVS and saw that it was in fact open.  There were two cars in the parking lot, one of which had just arrived.  A couple with a small child got out and disappeared into the store.  “Maybe I’ll give it to them,” I thought.  They ended up eluding me and I shifted my focus to my cashier: Kristen.

Kristen is a shift supervisor at CVS.

The 19-year-old is originally from a place called Troy, Missouri, “about 45 miles north of St. Louis.”  She’s the shift supervisor and had been there since 4:00pm – it was about 7:00pm. 

“Can I donate the $10?” she asked.

After explaining that she could do anything she wanted to with it she grabbed a piece of paper near the register that said, “St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.”  Each card is worth a $2 donation.  She swiped it five times.  I looked at the card more closely and it said, “Help fight childhood cancer.”

Children are probably on her mind these days.  Kristen, who lives with her boyfriend, is expecting a baby in May.  “We don’t know if it is a boy or girl yet,” she started, “and I am not sure I want to know.”  She has an appointment December 30th and they will know then if they choose to.  

We were joined then by a co-worker, Atle, who coincidentally has a sister named Reed!  Wow…I almost never find someone named Reed – although I did give my $10 to a guy named Read on Day 280 – much less a woman.  The store was dead and they looked bored.  They had another two hours before they could go home to their families.

Atle (left) poses with Kristen in front of the a shelf of "Light Up Santa Clauses." Thanksgiving isn't even over yet!

As we chatted Kristen’s boyfriend’s family was probably just finishing up the big meal.  “They had dinner at 6:00pm,” she said looking down slightly.  “But this was really special – I’ll remember this Thanksgiving because of this – otherwise I’d just remember coming to work and going home and eating leftovers.”   

Kristen and her boyfriend live in a one bedroom apartment and live on a modest income.  If you would like to help them through this financially difficult time, please drop me a note.  “We could use pretty much anything for our baby.”

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This post is a little out of order, but I will get caught up on the ones I skipped by this weekend.  I am getting behind doing my day jobs, planning for the Year of Giving Celebration next Tuesday, giving my daily $10 away and planning the next year’s commitment!  Trying to sleep now and then too!

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I took my father to see a Hershey Bears hockey match.  I would often go to the games as a child with my Boy Scout troop.  I used to enjoy them, but this time I didn’t really enjoy it.  Partly I think because the people that sat around us were loud and obnoxious the entire game.  The other factor was that it became pretty clear that the fans showed up more for the fights than they did the hockey. 

The Bears easily won 4-0.  The nearly 10,000 fans packed into the Giant Center Arena would celebrate after each goal however if you really wanted to see cheering all you had to do was wait until somebody started punching his opponent in the face.  “I want to see somebody bleeding on the ice,” a fan who was behind us said casually. 

I’ve been to many Washington Capitals games and have not felt this same blood and guts mentality.  Anyway, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

After the game I suggested to my dad that we hang out inside the arena for a while since getting out of the parking lot was sure to be an abysmal experience.  He and I walked down a little bit to the area where wheel chairs are allowed and saw two older men chatting away.  At the first opportunity I inserted myself into the conversation and explained my mission.

George, a man probably in his late 60s or early 70s with cotton-like flowing beard, told me he wouldn’t accept the ten dollars.  “I don’t know why,” he started “just because.”  I turned to his friend Melvin and asked him the same question and got this response, “Well, I don’t know either, but if that is what you want to do than I guess I’m OK with it.”

It was incredibly hard to hear Melvin.  The acoustics were funky where we were standing and he was a bit of a soft talker so I feel like I got about 70% of the story.  The 73-year-old from nearby Campbelltown, PA told me that he’s retired from the transportation business.  “I loaded and unloaded the trucks,” he said just loud enough that I could hear him.  He also was a volunteer fireman for many years.

Giant Center Arena

To his left there was a metallic cane that leaned against the railing.  “I broke my pelvic bone,” Melvin shared.  “I did it right after a game here come to think about it.”  I wouldn’t be surprised if he fell trying to get through the aisles.  The aisles are so thin that you can barely squeeze in and out of the aisles.  I nearly dropped a platter of chicken tenders, french fries, ketchup and beer all over the row in front of me because I could barely get by some women in our row.  Not to mention that I too probably would have landed on their heads.  It’s possibly the most poorly designed, not to mention dangerous, seating area that I have ever seen.

Anyway, Melvin said he was doing better now and that this was the first hockey game he had made this year. 

I asked him what he planned to do with the money and he didn’t know for sure.  “I’ll probably use it to take my wife out to breakfast in the morning,” he said after pondering it for a moment. 

A man who looked to be in his 40s walked up the aisle and stopped to talk to Melvin.  It turned out to be one of his three children.  They got to talking and I figured it was time to go and said goodbye.

Melvin preferred not having his photograph taken and didn’t leave me any contact information, so I will probably never know if he reads this or get any more details on the whereabouts of that ten-dollar bill.  I wouldn’t have gotten a good picture anyway; the arena wouldn’t let me bring my camera in.  They have a strict no detachable lens camera policy which I think is silly.  “We do this to prohibit professional photographers from taking photographs at the game,” I was told by a security guard.  I was surprised since I always take my camera to NHL games and have never had a problem.  This was the second time in two weeks that I have been turned away at the gate of a sporting event for carrying something that was not allowed in the stadium.  Maybe I ought to just stay away from stadiums.

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Hey!  I am still looking for a place to hold the year-end celebration.  If you know of someone with a philanthropic heart who would like to be a part of this special day, please shoot me an email at reed@yearofgiving.org!

On Sunday after a weekend visiting friends in southeastern Pennsylvania, we headed to Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Limerick, PA.  When you go to their website you will see this picture of the shopping center.

 

What they don’t show you is this.

 

That’s what you would see if you turn 180 degrees from the place where the first picture was taken. Twenty minutes before arriving, I could see the two cooling towers and the billowing cotton-like smoke streaming out of them.  As I pulled into the parking lot I have to admit that I was surprised to find this nuclear reactor so close to the mall.  It was literally next door to the outlets. 

Mario has worked at the outlets for two years. (photo: Reed)

After grabbing some lunch and saying goodbye to my childhood friends, I spotted Mario hustling about the grounds of the mall emptying the trash.  Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, he moved here in search of a better paying job.  In Spanish he explained, “I chose this area because I had some relatives already living here.”  Back home, his wife and five children receive regular money orders that he sends from his modest pay checks.  It’s been almost four years since he has seen them.  He’s been working at the outlets for about two years.

Mario took a second to let me snap this photo of him with the nuclear cooling towers in the background. (photo: Reed)

Some of you might have heard about the heavy rains that caused catastrophic flooding in his home state of Oaxaca back in September.  I asked him if his family and loved was were affected by the disaster and thankfully he said that they were all safe and doing ok.

Mario reminded me a little of Paulina from my second day of this year-long journey when he promptly told me that he would donate the money to his church.

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Dane fishing in the waters of Valley Creek in Pennsylvania. (Photo: Reed)

While I was visiting my friends up in Pennsylvania we decided to go for a hike in Valley Forge.

Along the hike I spotted Dane doing some fishing in the Valley Creek.  I couldn’t resist trying to give my $10 to a guy wading knee-deep in the water.  I yelled over to him and he made his way to the shore and I handed him the money.  I’ll chalk that up for a first: Gave $10 to person in the middle of a creek!

I honestly thought there was a 50/50 chance that I was going to fall in the creek, because to be able to get close enough to Dane to give him the $10 I had to maneuver down part of the bank where I placed one of me feet on a branch and the other on a rock that jutted out from the bank.

Me photographing Dane along the banks of Valley Creek. (photo: K. Kanelakis)

I asked him how the fishing was.  “I haven’t caught anything today,” he told me.  I realized that if I didn’t scare the fish away when I yelled over to him that my friends two boys were taking care of it as they proudly dumped as many rocks as they could into the creek.  When Dane is not fishing, he is looking for work in journalism.  A graduate from UNC, he hopes to find work in Sports Radio.

Here is a little bit of our conversation…

Later that evening Dane was heading to game six of the National League playoffs.  Sorry the Phillies lost Dane.  I was impressed that four or five hours before they threw out the first pitch Dane was chilling in creek doing a little fishing.  

He said he was going to use my $10 get some Mountain Dew.

If anyone can help Dane find a job…leave a message!

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Victory Brewery, Downingtown, PA

Some high school friends of mine decided to get together in metropolis of Spring City, Pennsylvania.  I carpooled up with my friend Kimon, who lives close by in DC.  It’s about a three-hour drive but we hit some traffic getting out of DC and made slight detour to visit Victory Brewing in Downingtown, PA.  All in all it took us about five hours.

This place was packed.  The parking lot was completely full.  We left my car in a questionably legal parking spot and went in just to say we were there, have one beer, and pick up some beer to take to Maureen and Josh, our hosts for the weekend.  When we got inside, you could barely walk.  I was sure that there was some special event going on, but we were later told that it was just “another Friday night.”

I first approached a woman named Kathy.  She was a little bit interested, much more so than her husband who showed up a shortly thereafter.  The couple was waiting on a table and it conveniently became available giving them a polite excuse to exit the situation.

I scanned the area while sipping on my malty Storm King Stout.

Kathy and Jim (photo: Reed)

Nearby I found another woman named Kathy and her husband Jim.  I noticed that Kathy was drinking wine. What?!  Wine in a great brewery.  “I’m allergic to wheat,” she told me.  Not Jim…nope.  He was happily enjoying some of their cold refreshing brews. 

Kathy tells me that her real name was Myra, but as a young girl she attended Catholic School and all the nuns thought she was Jewish…so she went by Kathy.  Jim I think was really named Jim…or James…at least no confessions were made to the contrary. 

Speaking of Jim, I learned that he has a bit of daredevil inside him.  While in the Poconos he went bungee jumping.  “This sketchy guy tethered me to this rope,” Jim explained adding that he wouldn’t do it again.

It turns out this couple was having a little time out before they picked their daughter up from her high school where she was decorating for Homecoming which was the following evening.  And Jim is going to drive one of the cars in the parade too!  “It’s a red BMW 328 convertible.”  Grinning he added, “Everyone should own a convertible once in their life.”

The $10 went toward a glass of wine and tip for the bartender. (photo: Reed)

It was right about then that I got to see my $10 passed along.  Kathy made her way up to the crowded bar and ordered another glass of wine.  Seven for the wine and three for a tip.

Later I received an email from Kathy with an update…here is an excerpt.

“It was fun talking to you and even more fun connecting to your web site and reading all the stories of the people we are ‘one degree of separation’ from. I loved your 10-10-10 story!  We should have told you about our 8-8-08 night at the Triple 8 vodka distillery in Nantucket!  Anyway – I wanted to tell you that even though $7 of the money you gave us went to the alcohol – $3 of it went to the bartender..not sure if that is ‘donation’ or not but either way good luck in your final leg of your interviews and GOD BLESS YOUR MAMA!”

And as for homecoming…

Jim driving his son and fellow homecoming court nominee. (photo: Reed)

“Everyone had a blast. I think Jim enjoyed the parade more than my son Kevin. It was a beautiful fall day. The home team won.  Life is good.  Keep up the good work – you are on the home stretch!

-Kathy”

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