A single act of kindness can change lives, said Lake Elmo Rotary member Tammy Malmquist. Many acts of kindness could change the community.

In partnership with the Lake Elmo city council, Malmquist and other members of the Lake Elmo Rotary Club are spearheading a project to increase kindness and community connections.

“We have been around for about 11 or 12 years, which is fairly new by Rotary club standards,” Malmquist said. “We are small but mighty.”

The Lake Elmo Rotary has sponsored the city’s Fourth of July celebration and ice cream social as well as other events and activities in the city and region.

“We are always searching for something that has a local impact,” Malmquist said. Malmquist serves on the club’s vocational committee, looking for ways to serve and involve local business.

About a year ago, Malmquist read a story in Parade magazine about Tom Tait, the mayor of Anaheim, California. Tait was inspired by a 6-year-old girl in his city that create posters to encourage kindness, and ran for mayor on a platform of kindness.

“By implementing an initiative that encouraged kindness within the city, Anaheim saw improvements in public safety and in residents happiness. People felt a personal impact of more kindness,” Malmquist said. “I thought, ‘yup, O.K. We are doing this.’”

Currently in the launch phase, Malmquist and rotary members are working to pass around “kindness cards” that are created to inform people about the project and to give to recipients of an act of kindness.

“I was recently getting groceries at Hy-Vee and I saw a man in a military uniform at the check out next to me. He just had a box of cupcakes, and I thought, ‘here is my chance,’” Malmquist said. “I asked if I could by his cupcakes for him, and at first he was a bit hesitant. I found out that the cupcakes were for his daughter’s birthday. I gave him one of our kindness cards and said for him to do an act of kindness next.”

That one interactions has many ways to impact lives around you, Malmquist said.

“It impacted that man, his daughter and the person he will give an act of kindness to in the future,” Malmquist said. “But it also gave the cashier a smile and the woman behind me was also so excited just to see it. I was also excited to be able to give; that’s six people!”

The kindness cards are the size a business card and give some information about the project and have a link where people will be able to share their stories.

“We really want to create a culture of kindness in the St. Croix Valley,” Malmquist said. “You get a good kind feeling, but you are also able to connect with people. We are all so plugged into our tech; life has become a little too impersonal.”

In partnership with the city of Lake Elmo, mayor Mike Pearson made a proclamation during the Jan. 16 meeting designating 2018 as the “Random Acts of Kindness Year.”

“We are going include information about the project and prompts on different acts of kindness you can do in the city’s newsletter,” Malmquist said. “One month we are going to encourage people to be kind to servers or cashiers — acts like purposely using a servers name and saying thank you.”

Kindness cards will be available at local businesses in Lake Elmo and Malmquist hopes that the cards will be passed around as acts of kindness spread. More information about the project can be found at lakeelmorotary.org and in upcoming “Fresh” newsletters from the city.

“You can’t witness an act of kindness without it affecting your heart,” Malmquist said.

Contact Alicia Lebens at alicia.lebens@ecm-inc.com

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