RAK (Random Acts of Kindness)

We believe that it's not only the big things in life that can make a difference but there are simple gestures that can inspire and have a ripple effect, which is why we have the RAK. The RAK stands for Random Act of Kindness. It is a way in which everyone at our monthly meeting can partake and be a part of something beyond the meeting. It's a volunteer effort, whereby we pass the hat and if anyone feels inclined to contribute a dollar or two they do so. The money is collected and then given to one lucky person in attendance that wants to go out and do "good deeds" with it.

We ask only a few things:

I enjoyed taking on the responsibility of passing along the RAK money that was collected at the May meeting.  I felt so empowered with this money. It also helped me to make so many nice gestures during the month. I decided to use the money to help animals in the community. I was able to give to a foster Pit Bull mix, 6 year old dog named Little Man. The RAK went towards his meds he needs monthly for his severe allergies.  The remaining RAK money was used to purchase dog and cat food and treats. There were 2, 42 pound bags of Purina dog food purchased. Also 2-14 pound bags of cat chow. The food was graciously accepted by foster families in the Pittsburgh area.  Thank you so much for all the money that was given. I truly enjoyed the task and would recommend that everyone take a chance and sign up to make a difference.
For Thirty Days I was Batman
Kindness Changes Everything

Nearly every month, for over a decade, I have attended Community Bridge-Building Network Meetings in Pittsburgh, PA–but something notable happened last month that seems to have changed me and other members in a way I never would have expected. Recently our group had agreed to collect money monthly to create a “random acts of kindness pot” to be distributed by one member over a thirty day period to folks in need. This one member was to be a steward of the will of the group until the next meeting, when another member would pick up the charge….the only requirement was to “put the money to good use-to meet the need of someone else”. There were few rules, one being that the money was not to go to an established agency or organization, but to an individual. The challenge was to see if you could change someone’s life.  

Last month my name was randomly selected to “commit random acts of kindness”- and put the money contributed by the group to its best use. I felt the weight of the group’s expectations squarely on my shoulders. I didn’t want to let them down. I also wanted to spend their money wisely. So….I began to really pay attention to everyone, and I mean everyone, who I came into contact with, even people who were simply talking within my earshot. I listened to their words closely and observed their eye language, and even their breathing tempo. I began to “tune-in” to the needs of others rapidly and completely. Because of my physical and emotional proximity to folks talking, walking, sitting, struggling, I began to be totally “other oriented”—an almost out of body experience occurred. My senses became heightened as I scanned crowds or the faces of people for any trouble or difficulty they might be experiencing. I literally felt like batman-my hearing seemed to be enhanced. I actually heard every word spoken to me or around me. My visual acuity seemed to increase ten-fold, I saw minute gestures and movements people within my peripheral vision were making. I begin to experience complete selflessness. It was all about them….
I opened up more doors for people, carried more packages for folks, stepped aside for those in a hurry, and even kneeled on the concrete pavement to tie the unlaced shoes of a homeless gentleman about to get on public transportation to avert his tripping over his own two feet. Yet, I had given away not one cent of the money I possessed. I realized then that having the money had actually changed me—because I had the full potential to assist anyone financially that I encountered, at a moment’s notice, I was empowered to do what I could for everyone and anyone. At that moment I realized it wasn’t about the money at all. It was about the spirit of giving. It wasn’t about “giving till it hurts, it was about giving until it heals”. How could a gentle glance from a homeless man, and a simple “thank-you” whispered under his breath make me feel so validated? Yet again, I had not spent one penny of the money entrusted to me.

Time was running out, I had 2 days left to disburse the funds….I prayed, I meditated, I asked friends and neighbors about anyone who might be in financial difficulty. Everyone knew someone who needed money, yet I was looking for something or someone who continued to elude me. Then it occurred…..

Walking downtown on my way to pick up my car after work, I happened to be passing a nondescript grey building, which I recognized within an instant as the storefront of Travelers Aid. I knew it was closed, as it was after 5:00 pm, yet a middle aged man was standing in front of the doorway muttering to himself. He looked distraught, in anguish. I said, “Hello, can I assist you in any way?” His eyes were swollen as he seemed to be attempting to hold back a stream of tears. He said, “You sure can, I was praying this very moment that God would help me and almost at that very instant, you appeared out of nowhere.” “What do you need”, I probed further. “Well, I need to go back home, I’m in trouble, and now I’m stuck with no car and six dollars to my name.” “Where is home?” I quizzed the stranger. He responded that he lived in Buffalo New York and had driven to Pittsburgh with a friend. His friend had been arrested that morning and the car they had been driving in was impounded. I hesitated for a moment….the stranger seemed to read my thoughts as he pulled out his New York driver’s license and told me his name, he then pointed to the logo on his jacket and said, “This is the company that I work for, I’m a car mechanic”. I moved forward a bit and asked pointedly “What exactly do you need to get back to Buffalo?” “I need exactly $57.00 for a Greyhound bus ticket.” I counted out fifty-seven dollars and then another twenty. “Here is the money for the ticket and enough to get something to eat and find a way home from the bus station once you are at your final destination.” “God bless you”, the man stated earnestly, “you might have just saved my life! “Maybe, maybe not….how would I ever know for sure”, I pondered.

Once I had gotten into my car, I decided to stop by my mom’s house for a quick visit to chat about the stranger. When I told her of my meeting with the stranger, she didn’t hesitate to respond, “Your instincts about helping this man were right, always follow your instincts.” At that moment my mother’s friend came out of the kitchen doorway, clutching a church envelope to her chest. “I need to find twenty dollars to put into this envelope”, she stammered, “I’m broke”. Every year the local Ukrainian Church blesses graves of deceased loved ones on Mother’s Day…..all you have to do is express your interest and place an offering in the designated envelope with the name of the deceased inside. This offering had special significance for this woman however; ---the deceased was not her mother but her child. A child born over fifty seven years ago, with a very short time in her mother’s arms, less than twenty minutes. I opened up the little purse and deposited a twenty dollar bill into the envelope and sealed it shut. “Thank you, you’ll never really know what this means to me on Mother’s Day”, the friend ruefully exclaimed.

One evening left….the purse still full of money. As I waited in line with my daughter at a movie theatre, I overheard a man talking about the recent death of his mother. “My mom wanted only one thing-to die and be buried in Pittsburgh, PA -this was her home. She died in Columbus, Ohio, however, and now my family and friends are putting our money together to find a way to bring her home.” I recognized the man as a casual acquaintance and approached him, “Is there some way I can help you?” I queried. “Sure, only if you have a purse full of money, it’s all about that now,” he noted with a hint of resignation. “Well, in fact, I may be able to assist you in a small way,” I volunteered. Then I opened up my purse, and distributed the remaining cash into this gentleman’s hand. He looked bewildered and asked, “Why would you help a virtual stranger?” “Because I’m Batman”, I thought. What I said was this, “It is very important to know that there are people who care about you and love you even if they don’t know you yet or have never met you…..they have foresight to know you are out there and maybe, just maybe, they can be of assistance to you.” “It is not about me or you alone, it is about all of us—together.”

Thirty days of being Batman has drawn to a close. No criminals were captured, no villains were jailed; no racing off in the bat mobile was necessary. Yet, I felt I had fought the good fight. I had, indeed, assisted many, many folks during the past month. I had given away my time, energy, compassion and the money entrusted to me for disbursement, but in the process I had received so much more, more than I had ever expected.  ----Cindy Haines

Other great RAK moments:

RAK money was presented to the grandmother of a family found homeless

Local municipality given money towards a random resident's water bill to delay termination of water service

Local library given funds to pay off book return late fees for individuals

Bought lunch for an active duty serviceman's wife...he had left that morning for 13 weeks of training

Gift card purchased to apply towards the balance of a mentally challenged individual's prescription total

Stamps were purchased and given to a local retirement community to help the residents defray some mailing costs

Money given to an elderly woman to assist with her means of transportation

Someone who lost their job was given money to pay for their health insurance

Children at a school competition were treated to snacks by the RAK 

Postage was paid for shipping packages to military service people overseas

A person who lives off of SSI and has a disability was overdrawn at her bank; monies were given to assist her

A friend of one of our Networkers had experienced a heart attack and was unable to work; he was given money to fill his gas tank 

A film called Tapestries of Hope which helps abused women in Zimbabwe was a recipient of RAK to assist with distribution

An elderly couple were in a restaurant and were overheard arguing because the man forgot his wallet and would have to go home, RAK picked up their check

Monies were given to a person who is ill and was short on cash for paying for addition needed blood work for testing

A family whose house was destroyed by fire was given RAK money to purchase items that needed to be replaced

Gift cards were purchase at Giant Eagle and were given out to people in need

Coffee was purchased for patrons standing in line at Starbucks

Gift cards from McDonalds were given out to pay for all senior coffee drinkers until the money would run out

Elderly woman in drug store was struggling to pay for medication

Parents at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at West Penn Hospital had their parking paid for

Family in Burn Unit at West Penn Hospital was given money to assist them

Turkeys were purchased and distributed to needy families over the Holiday season
First of all, I had been wanting to get the opportunity to distribute RAK funds ever since the Community Bridge-Building Network started this!

I was so excited when I received the RAK contributions! I thought that surely I would just stumble across the perfect opportunities to distribute the funds, and I would have a wonderfully inspiring tale of how the money I distributed was just what was needed at exactly the right time. I figured I’d just cross paths with people in need and in interesting situations where a little money could go a long way. I also figured my wife would find some ways to give it away in case I didn’t and take some of the pressure off. As is usually the case, I was wrong on all counts. I ended up having to really think about ways to give the money away to people I didn’t already know. 

I really want to thank the members of the Community Bridge-Building Network for the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, practice some positive social deviance, and perform these (Apparently) Random Acts of Kindness on their behalf! I learned that we are all missing incredible opportunities to be blessed by others and to be blessings for others – every single day. We are all much more than we know. We have more to give than we think. We can all do more than we imagine!
We Can All Do More!
How I Spent my RAK Money

$25 to a young woman who could not afford her kids’ “Back to School” supplies

$5 to a Homeless Person

$5 to a Homeless Veteran

$20 to a fund for a young man with terminal brain cancer

$10 to a fund to re-cycle eyeglasses for people who cannot afford them

$5 to local library for kids’ books/school supplies

3- $10 Giant Eagle gift cards:
One to the pharmacy for someone struggling to pay for medication
One to the local Church for someone struggling
One to the local library for a needy/deserving senior citizen

$10 Lottery Tickets for the Tai Chi class (just for fun!)
​----Molly Loney
Here is what I did with the RAK money:

• I purchased 3 soccer balls for approx. $60 for underprivileged youth within the CMYSA (Canon Mac Youth Soccer Association) where my wife and I serve on the board.  

• I gave a man $30 for a bus ticket whose car had broken down. Needed to get back to Uniontown.  

• I purchased breakfast for the staff of Washington City Mission. These folks work hard – make no money – providing support to many people who need much help.

• I purchased a side window for a car in which a lady who I know needed. She is working part time – going to nursing school fulltime – driving around in a car – middle of winter with a clear garbage bag and duct tape over her passenger side window. She’s trying to better herself – needed a little encouraging and recognition that people are watching and are impressed with her hard work.

This all ended up costing more than what I had – but I felt all were worthy – and I was blessed to be able to take part in this program.

In addition, we have shared the concept with our children and their friends and the kids have begun to develop their own RAK ideas.

That the person who is to do the good deeds returns the next month to share how they distributed the money. 

That it not be given to any particular nonprofit or established religious group.

They are encouraged to be as creative as they want to be!


“It’s The Thought That Counts”

I have grown up hearing this expression all of my life. These words have always signified to me that even the smallest kind gesture extended to another was greatly appreciated. The size of the gift, aid, assistance or deed was not the important thing. Well, that lifelong theory was put to the test last month as I was chosen to participate in the RAK (Random Act Of Kindness) Program for the Community Bridge-Building Network. 

Needless to say, the kind gestures were well received and appreciated. I received this text later that day: “I cannot say Thank You enough for the “pay it forward.” Your kindness and thoughtfulness is an example for all…Thank you again and all my love!’ I wanted to see for myself if the old adage, “it’s the thought that counts” was true or false. How much would our RAK money really do to help this family? More than most of us realize. It gave them hope. It warmed their hearts that a stranger cared enough to make a small gesture. Somebody cared. And that somebody had no hidden agenda, no expectations of repayment.

Is it really the thought that counts? I found out first hand that in fact, it is! 
So last month I was asked to attend the Community Bridge-Building Network meeting for one of my colleagues.  To my surprise, I won the RAK money from that meeting to be distributed in the way I saw fit by performing Random Acts of Kindness. I was so excited! It sounded like something right up my alley, and something that I had not done previously in quite this way….

It became easy to see that it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day, and how good it feels to do something for someone just because.

I felt so happy and good in making someone’s day, that it is truly a practice that I hope to continue as time goes on….as often as I can….It was a great experience, and I hope you take advantage of this opportunity offered by the Community Bridge-Building Network. You will be pleasantly surprised at the wonderful benefits you receive through the process. 

Bought lunch for one lady who was short some funds.

Did a small thinking-of-you basket for someone that received dire news on his colon cancer. Nothing more they can do.

I was doing a favor for a friend which brought me to the Duquesne area.  While getting gas at a gas station, I was hungry decided to get a roasted chicken at Giant Eagle. While I was sitting in the Giant Eagle Café, a big guy was telling a friend he was robbed of everything, even food from fridge. At that time I knew I had to give him the rest of the money.  He cried when I handed it to him.

The funds that I received to bless people with turned out to be one of the biggest blessings for myself. It was so much fun to be able to give away to people in need. 

2 people that I gave to include a woman in the hospital delivering a baby. While in the hospital for my best friends delivery there was a woman in the next room over, she was a single mom and while in the middle of labor I heard her speaking to the nurse in the room that she found out that she was denied for her disability. In the process of delivering I thought to myself instead of her being excited about the baby she was just about to give birth to, she instead was so concerned about how she was going to afford things for the baby because she was denied from her disability and had just lost her job. I thought to myself that during one of the most happiest times of her life (delivering a baby), she instead was concerned about money. I gave her ½ of the cash that I received. 

The second person that I decided to give the rest of the money to was a family that lived close to my house in Penn Hills. They had an unexpected fire and lost everything inside of their house. A total loss. They were in need for further assistance to stay in a hotel and I gave them the rest of the RAK cash that I had. 
So, I must confess that I initially regretted that I was selected at the last meeting. Hearing the previous recipients unique and creative gifts to others left me with an immediate sense of dread and I fretted… "what on earth would I be able to do?" What I learned, however, is that this ended up being the ultimate gift to me and my children. It is said that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others and so it was with this process. I’d sat on the bulging envelope of cash for a couple weeks; rather it glared at me from within my purse taunting me to come up with something worthy of its goal. Let there be no doubt that this is not an easy process, some good plans simply fell through due to logistics. I talked to many about the task. I started to find that this is a unique and creative way to learn new things about my teenagers, my friends and family, and even mere acquaintances. Everyone had such a personal take on how they would approach this task….everything from very lofty, socially conscious ideas that sparked great conversation to the inbetween like buying others’ dinner or groceries or paying overdue library fines to some other rather humorous and ridiculous ideas which led to shared laughter. Learning about what was going on in the mind of those close to me itself was an immense gift. This task also helped center us all on gratitude and the countless ways that we had to be thankful for our lives as others shared their unique bent on the task. So, I thank you all for selecting me.  

Again, I was most inspired by this process and hope to continue to have theoretical conversations with others about what they’d do to “pay it forward” Thank you all again!
I came across a family sitting in a parking lot while I was on a 6 hour drive east one weekend and was taking a short break from the drive. I took my puppy with me and we went over to the mother, father, and two young boys to inquire about their story. They had left Texas for a job opportunity in NYC and had exhausted their savings setting up house in their new city. When the new job fell through they were trying to make their way back to Texas where the mother had a few family members. I gave them $20 towards their gas bucket and wished them luck and a safe journey.  

Friends of my grandmothers were having a tough time paying for their prescriptions. I called a lot of pharmacies in the city looking for some folks who had come in to the store to pick up their medication but ended up not being able to take it home with them because they didn’t have enough money. With the help of some friendly staff, I was able to pay for two individuals’ medications. I paid for it, attached an anonymously written note that was attached to their bag, and the pharmacist called the patient to tell them their meds had been paid for and they could come and pick them up.

I had the idea to reach out to one of the local cancer centers here in Pittsburgh. On behalf of CBBN, I purchased 15 meals so that a family member of a cancer patient could “break bread” with their loved one.  

I had a few dollars left over, so one night I was at Rita’s and decided to use them to treat the couple behind me. I asked the young fella at the window to give an anonymous note to the couple and tell them that their Rita’s treat was paid for. Both of the teens working the windows thought that the gesture was “pretty cool”, so maybe the random act of kindness impacted someone other than the recipient too.
The RAK program gave me the opportunity to ‘open’ my eyes and see the people whom I would ordinarily ignore. Most of us could use a little ‘helping hand’ occasionally, and it was a unique way for me to provide it. I understand that the RAK program is only one of a number of objectives in the Community Bridge Building Network’s mission. I believe it’s the most important one.
For the RAK funds in November of 2014, I decided to take the members' donated money to the port authority and purchase 31 bus passes with $5 on each connect card. Then throughout the month, I stopped by every bus stop near my home, office and daily route and gave people a free bus pass. This simple act of generosity was a surprise to everyone encountered and for many, $5 was a significant contribution to their commute expense! It was great to divide the funds into so many small gestures - for an entire month there was something to give away each day. Not every bus-rider needed the free pass (university students or monthly pass riders) but for the ones that were paying for individual rides - it was a beautifully simple act of kindness.  
The gratitude I got was more than worth whatever time and trouble it took me to overcome the obstacles I placed in front of myself! I, too, want to thank CBBN and the RAK program. This experience gave me a chance to learn about the true meaning of giving, a new perspective on my own position in life, and to come to appreciate it far more than I did when I started. I have my health, my wits about me (most of the time), and just enough money to help me pursue my career goals. Lucky me.

Community Bridge-Building Network

A network unlike any other professional network
Serving Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the Greater Pittsburgh area
I have been a huge fan of the RAK since my very first meeting. I think the monthly tradition is just another part of what makes the Community Bridge Building Network group so special.  

My daughter and I saw a young college student pumping gas and looking stressed.  We walked up to her and explained the RAK tradition and gave her some money to help with her gas. Her eyes immediately welled up with tears.  With a big smile, she was on her way.

I drove to our local high school and asked to speak with the principal.  I was informed that we have the highest number of homeless students this year and they weren’t sure how to get some money quickly to help.  I handed him $100.  

I drove to the local veterinarian’s office, where I have seen firsthand how boxes of brand new puppies and kittens would be dropped on his back step, and how the staff spent their own paychecks to buy supplies for the animals. I told the vet about the RAK and how we wanted to help spread kindness, I will never forget the look of appreciation in this very kind man’s eyes. I know the $50 will be put to good use.  

My last stop was the local volunteer fire department. Most of these men and women have full time jobs and volunteer at the unit. They put their lives in danger with every call to help protect our community. They are very special people. I presented the last of my RAK money to the team and asked that they determine how they’d best like to spread kindness with the remaining dollars.  

I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment and pride for the people (and animals) with whom we had shared kindness. I felt blessed and grateful for the opportunity to handle the gift from the group…it was an unforgettable experience for me and my entire family. Thank you for the chance to represent the Community Bridge Building Network group; it was an experience I will remember my entire life.
One day, one of our friends told us he knew a family in a very tough situation.  They are a young couple living with two little kids in a run-down small house that they rent. The husband is an assistant plumber and the wife is working at a small shoe store part-time. They don’t have money and they are behind in their rent. Their rental house is falling apart and have not been able to pay their rent for months.  The woman was so touched when we gave her the money and kept saying “thank you”. I could tell she was truly grateful and I even saw the tears in her eyes. 

At that moment, I was moved and realized the meaning of doing this. We are always mainly focused on our own life and don’t pay much attention to people around us who need help. I also realized that a small kindness can make a big difference to other’s life and it can make you feel good about yourself. I am really glad I did this and had a very special experience and a special Valentine’s Day with my husband!
Testimonials of members who distributed RAK money:
Pittsburgh skyline photo credit: Joyce Scott-Kliber
I’ve been attending Community Bridge-Building Network for almost 3 years now and had signed up for the RAK every single time. I had become convinced that I would never actually get the opportunity. Over these years I always loved hearing the different stories of what people did with the RAK, how they found inspiration, inspired others, experienced the world around them differently then they had ever experienced and spread joy across this great city of ours. I often imagined what I would do should I be given this great honor (and it is truly an honor indeed) so on the day my name finally gets called I was very excited to begin my own journey/experience in being chosen. I was not prepared for the challenge it would be… I have no idea if I inspired others, or spread the joy I imagined, or made someone's day, week or month or if it went to “worthy” people. I trust in the fact that the majority of people in this world are good and compassionate regardless of their situation and that at some level they were grateful and when on to pay it forward…all told, the RAK money got a family into the Children's Museum, 2 other families into the zoo and at least one of the homeless men in my neighborhood a lot of coffee; the others I can only hope that the $10 or $20 I gave them helped them out in some way.
I went to a hair salon in South Side. There I saw two older women getting haircuts. I asked them if I could pay for their hair cuts. They were laughing and thought I was being funny. I told them why I am doing this- they giggled more and said, “That means we have to pay for the next person!” My first mission was accomplished without any struggle.

Then I went to a Giant Eagle in South Side. I saw a woman with a package of a meat. As she came closer to the register, I approached her and asked if I could pay for the meat. She said, “No, I don’t need any help. I am ok.” I told what my mission was and paying for her meat would help me. “Then, you can pay for it.” A clerk told me that she has seen other people do this sometimes.  

I went to Lowe’s and saw an elderly lady who had 4 plants in her cart. She was not sure if she wanted a 4th flower pot or not, putting it in and out of her cart several times. I offered her to pay for the flowers. She looked at me and asked “Why?” I explained what I was doing. After I paid for her flowers, she came over and said, “This is so nice. I really appreciate it, not that I need anything. Can I give you a hug?”  As we were pushing the cart to her car, she told me that her husband passed away 3 weeks ago and now she has a skin cancer. She said, “I will pray for you tonight. Thank you for making my day.” 

Next – I went to an alteration shop on McKnight Road. There I found two elderly women laughing and talking in a dressing room. I asked a clerk what they were doing. I learned that an 84 year old woman was going to her sister’s birthday party and trying the dress she had bought. I was interested to see the dress that 84 years old woman would wear for her sister’s birthday.  When the clerk explained to the women what I was doing, she and her friend were laughing and said, “I have never heard of such a thing!” and laughed more. I was allowed to pay for her alteration. Originally she was to have the bottom of the skirt hemmed, but now there is the RAK person (Me), she might as well get the sleeves done, too. We all laughed, still have not seen the woman’s face. Her friend came out and said that it will take a while for her to be out. I did not get to see her, but heard enough laughers that afternoon. 

My son came home for the Memorial Day. I told him the story of RAK. He was truly excited and said that he would like to extend my journey as the RAK person by adding more to the RAK purse. I went to a grocery store in South Side. There was a boy in tears (about 3 or 4 year old) with his mother or grandmother. The boy was holding a blue ball in his arm and would not let it go. He wanted the ball. She did not have money. I asked her if I could pay for it. She did not understand English. I gave her $5. She shyly said, “Thank you” and said something to the child. The child’s tearful eyes became bigger and stuck his tongue out with a smile.  As I was standing at the register, there was a woman who was struggling to open crumbled dollar bills. I paid for her groceries. Then I looked at the person behind of me. She had a large amount of groceries, all related to children. I paid for those and I explained what I was doing. She looked at me and said, “Tell them I appreciate this.” Then, I saw an ACCESS card in her hand.  

I went to the hair salon again- as I was talking to a hairdresser there, a lady came in. The hairdresser told me that she comes in every month to have her haircut. She has a 40 year old son with several disabilities at home and whenever she comes to get a haircut, she has to rush back home. So she is the only client she takes an appointment for. I said hello to the lady and hope she has a good day. She said the same. I discreetly gave $50 to the hairdresser for the lady. Because I was there on the first day of my RAK mission, the hairdresser knows what I was doing. She will tell me the story when I visit her next. 

Random Acts of Kindness-by doing this assignment, I met many people who I may never encounter. This was an exercise of being kind to someone. Life is full of surprise and I was able to do this pleasant giving because of the Community Bridge Building Network. Thank you all for giving me a chance to be an angel for this month!
I was approached by a man in a parking lot as I was leaving an evening training. I was a little nervous because I was alone in a parking lot - he asked if I had any money to spare for him to catch a bus. I handed him $2 and asked if that was enough. With a huge smile of relief (on both of our faces) he said it was more than enough, thanked me and took off.

Several days later I was buying a coffee and decided to pay for the woman behind me. She said "Why would you do that?" I told her I was doing RAK. She was pretty blown away and agreed to pay it forward. I left the extra $1.50 as a tip for the barista. 

A few days later, I was attending a weekend-long seminar downtown and on our way out for a lunch break, we were approached by a man asking for money for a meal. I have the personal belief that if someone asks for money for a meal - I give them money for an entire meal, not just a dollar or two. As I was handing him $15, I realized he was the same man I had given money to about a year prior in the Strip District. 

Finally, (a little back story) a year ago, my father had a severe stroke and was hospitalized at Mercy Hospital for 6 weeks. It was an incredibly emotionally charged and stressful time and we were spending upwards of 8 hours a day at the hospital. James, the man who worked the hospital information desk, was an absolute light shining through the dark days. He simply radiates compassion, joy, laughter and kindness and day after day, week after week, he not only made us smile, but every single person that walked in the door was greeted like a life-long friend. I saw him put smiles on the faces of nearly every stressed, worried and sad person that came and left the hospital. Just this past week, my sister had to have emergency gallbladder surgery at Mercy. When we went to visit, James (not remembering us) handed my sister (different one) a get well card to give to our sick sister with a hand drawn picture inside. 

When it came to the rest of the RAK money, I couldn't think of a better way to spend it. I bought him a gift card to Il Pizzaiolo downtown and delivered it to him with a letter explaining how our family witnessed him touching the lives of everyone that walked in the door and thanked him. I signed it from the whole Community Bridge Building Network. 

What a wonderful experience. Something I hope to keep a part of my regular routine!

When you have the privilege of distributing RAK funds, you see the world in a new light. During my RAK month, on Fifth Ave. near Wood Street, I met Gary, Alexander and Tanya. All three are alone in this world and live in a room or a shelter or on the streets. Their heads are down. They are not asking anyone for money. As I approach them, I wonder if they have been there all along, and I have not seen them. I had the privilege of talking to them, giving them money from my Ziploc bag and seeing them smile when I left. 

 Through a friend, I also found out about two single mothers living on food stamps. These ladies have carts and walk to the Aldi’s in East Liberty to get food for their families. Using the funds in my Ziploc bag, I arranged for them to receive Aldi gift cards. The world is different when you seek out those beautiful people who truly need a random act of kindness, and if you are lucky enough to provide a random act of kindness, your life becomes richer. 

 I now keep a Ziploc bag with me and see those beautiful people who may feel lost and invisible. I am grateful to the Community Bridge Building Network for opening my eyes and enriching my life.   ----Lynda Burkel

As soon as I was picked for "the RAK", I knew who I wanted to help, but not sure exactly how.  There were so many things I wanted to do, just wasn't sure how. I knew I wanted to help a local family that recently lost the mother, so that's where I started.

Since their son plays hockey, I found a Penguins Zamboni nightlight for him. It's hard to imagine losing your mom at such a young age & how scary that must be. Thought maybe sleeping with a nightlight could help the night seem a little less scary. For their daughter Jess, I found a West Virginia University tank top.  That's her school of choice after graduation.  For the family I ordered a journal called Angel Catcher. It's a place they can share their feelings during this difficult time.  I hope it will give them some peace during this difficult time. My gram, who I was very close with passed almost 18 years ago. I still reference that journal to this day.

Secondly, I took $50 & donated it to a family who lost their home due to a fire.  

We are huge animal lovers and have a lot of respect for organizations that rescue animals. The owners of Gentle Bens Large Dog Rescue in Zelienople  have opened their home to hundreds of large dogs who would've otherwise been euthanized. I donated $25 of the RAK to their cause.  -----Wendy Long
In the month of September my name was chosen for the RAK.  I was excited, and a little intimated at first, as I was entrusted with the groups' money and I wanted to do the most good on behalf of the group. I got some ideas from the group as well as family and friends outside of the group. I was speaking with a friend who is a social worker and realized that there are so many families in need that don't get support. Although there are programs and organizations that help people in need with items such as food, they don't receive help with items such as cleaning products and personal hygiene items- products that are used up and become a constant burden for individuals without the means to keep up with the cost. With her help, and the help of her coworkers, I spent the majority of the money purchasing products for them to distribute to those who could greatly use them.  Dish detergent, laundry soap, household cleaner, bar soap, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste, sponges and cleaning rags, and baby bottles. Although there is help available for baby formula, they do not get help with baby bottles, so I put that at the top of my list. The families that the supplies were distributed to were greatly appreciative. On the cards I listed To: Stranger, From: The Community Bridge Building Network. 

 I then went and purchased Get-go gift cards, and searched for individuals to distribute them to. The first lady was inside Get-go, only putting a small amount of money toward gas for her car. When I handed it to her she was thrilled. She even ran to the back of the store to thank me, hug me, and tell me a little about herself. It made my day that the gift card went to someone who could use it and was so kind and grateful. I gave another gift card to a random stranger.  I hope that it made his day a little better.  I decided to give the last one to the clerk working and asked him to give it anonymously to a customer who came in that day.  He thanked me and gave it to a customer shortly after.  I took the last of the money and paid it forward to customers behind me at the drive through of Chick-Fil-A and McDonald's.  I wrote a little note on their receipts that said to have a good day from the Community Bridge Building Network.  ----Maureen Singer
I have been attending Community Bridge-Building Network meetings for many years now with regularity. In that time many things have remained consistent, from the extraordinary speakers, new people constantly joining this great community network, the bell tolling and the RAK. However what is always different, unique and inevitably inspiring are the stories we get to hear about the RAK. This being my second time around I thought would be much easier for sure…or so I thought. It’s probably been 2+ years since I last had the privilege of distributing the RAK funds and as such my perception of the world, my place in it and the people around are 2 years different. As with the first time I felt an enormous responsibility handling the $100 you guys gave me and wanting to make sure it was given away in a “worthy” manner. It took me almost 3 weeks to have a moment of clarity and comfortability with this task. I had to keep repeating to myself “Random Act of Kindness” as long as it’s Kind you can do no wrong. Because it’s not about who I perceive may or may not be worthy or in need or most appreciative. There were many coffees bought for folks around me, a bunch of waters at a concert for some sweaty thirsty people, but the majority of the funds went to what I hope was a life learning lesson with my sons. 

My sons' grandfather is in a nursing home, and these facilities always seem to have a heavy weight in the air so I thought we should breathe some youthful exuberance into it.  My young sons and I went to the store and bought 50 or so valentines, a bunch of balloons and chocolate covered pretzels. We filled out each valentine to “My Friend” and then went visit “Stumpy” (their grandfather who has no legs). For the next hour the boys ran around the facility giving everybody with eyes open a valentines, balloons and a hug. Chocolate covered pretzels for the staff. The sheer joy I felt watching this happen was palpable. Another lesson learned was that my 4 ½ year was having a very bad morning, which we have told him happens and that he has to learn how to work his way out of a funk if he finds himself in one. Obviously for a kid this can be a daunting task but for all the crying, yelling and carrying on that occurred for hours before our visit to the home his day was turned around by simply being randomly kind to others.  ----Jimmy Wells
Just left my Community Bridge Building Network meeting (wonderful group!) where I reported how I spent $100 doing random acts of kindness this month. ($ collected from the group and I was nominated to share it). I am filled with so many warm, fuzzy feelings after a month of buying coffee for lots of pleasantly surprised people, being over generous at lemonade stands, etc.!!...so many happy people left in my path... I'm going to keep it going!! My daughters loved making people's days too. I have felt lots of goose bumps feeling the kindness and love we can all spread around like confetti every day.  ----Anita Buzzy Prentiss 
I was fortunate enough to be selected at our monthly meeting to represent the Community Bridge Building Network and use donated funds for random acts of kindness. My first act was to support a former CBBN member who was having a Spaghetti Dinner fund raiser, so I purchased a $10 ticket. I went home that night and shared the news with my family over dinner. I explained to my wife and my 9 and 5 year old sons how we should take the donated money and do nice things for people. Later that evening I went to tuck my oldest in, and he was fast asleep. I noticed an open notebook and pen next to him in bed. In the notebook it read:

“Random Acts of Kindness Ideas.”
1.Buy a homeless person a coat and meal
2.Care Packages for Homeless
3.Give board games to a Senior Center
4.Make Get Well Cards for sick people
5.Give homeless a flashlight for at night.

My heart swelled with pride after reading that. So the next day I told him I was proud of him and that we were going to use his list as our guide on how to spend the money.

-Went to the Spaghetti Dinner and purchased gift basket raffle tickets, but didn’t stay to see if I had won. I also ended up working in the kitchen somehow!

-We created “Blessing Bags” by putting a granola bar, bottle of water, toothbrush and toothpaste into a Ziplock bag for distribution.

-We went to the dollar store and purchased twenty headlamps

-My boys and I went to Goodwill to purchase a coat. We then drove downtown and bought a Value Meal at McDonalds. Went for a short walk and found a homeless man. My oldest son handed him the coat and my youngest gave him the McDonalds, as well as a blessing bag and a headlamp. We didn’t hand out too many bags and headlamps that day, but we will continue to give them out. The boys did enjoy showing how the flashlights worked.

-In the beginning of February a local family lost their entire home, as well as the Husband/Father in a house fire. So we decided we would put the senior center games and cards idea on hold. We bought a $50 gift card to Giant Eagle and donated a big screen tv and clothes to the family.

-We then went to Philadelphia for the Eagles Super Bowl Championship parade. We used what remaining money we had and gave it to a few homeless people.

This was such a heart-warming experience to teach my children how powerful of an impact a random act of kindness could have. While our plans slightly deviated, we were still able to follow my sons list and we will finish off the list soon. My sons both offered their piggy bank money if necessary. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful children, and a network to assist me in raising these fine young men and teaching them invaluable life lessons.  ----Justin Newman
Like the person before me I added some money to make a somehow more "round number".  I then took to carrying the money with me looking for ways I could give it out - a few days after our meeting I was driving on Braddock toward Penn and at that corner a homeless man was holding a cardboard sign, the letters were running because it was raining - I gave him $50.00 and a few words about CBBN and he really got to me when he said, "Now I can get it out of the rain." Next I was at a Mc Donald's where there is always a group of old timers having coffee and I thought it would be a good idea to buy a round for the house - I talked to the manager and we worked it out through me buying 20 $1.00 gift cards - eighteen of the cards were given out to the old timers and somehow two were given to a young boy standing in line for a hamburger - he lit up like a Christmas tree and had no idea about RAK or CBBN.  The following week I was in Eat-N-Park when a young family came in out of the rain (again the rain) and I got the bright idea of giving out gift cards (for me, some how easier than cash - don't know why?) when I paid my bill I used the remaining $80.00 to buy 8 $10.00 cards - I gave two to the wet family and gave out the remaining 6 to different individuals who again lit up like they had been given a great birthday gift.  I hope anyone who gets the real gift of being the "RAK" person for our group has the feeling of gratitude I had doing the giving, and getting back the gift of seeing people's reacting to an unexpected gift. I'm continuing to work on the issue for me personally of why it was somewhat easier to give gift cards than cash - it was and still is a gift and learning experience to me - thanks for the gift. ---- Dave Russell 
By being the winner of the RAK funds, I got to see how special it is when you help someone struggling to shop for more.  

Mildred shared with me her life story, and about how she wondered how she would stretch the $20 in her hand between groceries and medication that day. I kept saying, “get a treat for yourself.” And it was hard for her to splurge. The biggest gift she asked for was a small $14 piece of shrink wrapped spiral ham.  

Michael is going through chemo which has ravished his body and limits his ability to shop much at all.  He was there to buy saltines and bananas. I felt blessed when he asked for Ensure/Boost too and then could connect him to the Cancer Caring Place and their protein food pantry for cancer patients. When I told him I knew a way that he could continue to get Boost/Ensure for free he said, “I can’t believe this. I am going to cry.” 

Other funds went to a roll of quarters taped to a washing machine at a laundry mat, $5 shoved into a box of diapers, and helping a woman at Target who was sending some items to kids at a summer camp.     ----Julie Arnheim
I wanted to let you know this was a great experience. About 2 weeks before the last meeting a family in my neighborhood lost everything in a house fire. I wanted to help financially but could only do so much.  In the following weeks the family hosted a spaghetti dinner which my wife and I attended and also donated an additional amount out of the RAK money.

I also drive around the city a lot for my job. I often notice homeless folks asking for assistance on the streets and wanted to help. For quite some time I wanted to put together care packages for these folks with items they need and would use. I made a trip to the store and was able to utilize more of the RAK money to make 12 care packages. Over the last month, I distributed the packages during my travels and got many “thank you” and “God Bless” responses.  

I still had $3 left that I kept with me for the right opportunity. I encountered one female in the South Hills crying and looking for bus fare. I handed her a care package and the bus fare. She was remarkably thankful and I was glad to help her get to her destination.

​----Quentin Taraszewski