Year of Kindness 2017 was just the Beginning

    Juneau, AK (KINY) - The New Year brings new challenges and resolutions. Juneau is doubling down on the efforts put into place to highlight moments of kindness this past year to extend into next year and beyond.

    The Year of Kindness showcased just how thoughtful people can be in the community. Even little things like buying someone a cup of coffee, helping someone reach something at the store, or passing out hand warmers to the homeless can make a huge difference in the place we call home. To celebrate the 2017 Year of Kindness, folks gathered at Thunder Mountain High School for an afternoon of reflection and resolution.

    Carol Kell with the Steering Committee spoke of how popular the Year of Kindness was.

    “It just seems to have been a popular thing, something to talk about when you're at the grocery store. It has bridged between people in Juneau quite a bit.”

    Kell also said that over 1.3 million people were reached through the Year of Kindness social media posts. Of course not all of those are unique visits, but it is still a staggering outreach of the message. Kell also talked about passing on the torch to another group and about reaching beyond Juneau.

    “We’re passing it off to a group that's going to take over in 2018, which is Raising Our Children with Kindness, or ROCK, but I would challenge other towns in that they do it to fit their community and put their stamp on it.”

    She also spoke fondly about working with the Steering Committee. She's been a member since the summer.

    “It's just been really great to work with this particular group and how they stuck with it, completed the mission. Kris Sell even retired and still she stayed and we really appreciate that. It was just an excellent experience to get out and see what's going on in Juneau, layer upon layer upon layer.”

    “We are a community in need. We need all those extra hands, we need all those volunteers, and kindness just helped highlight that.”

    Former Police Lieutenant Kris Sell, the one who thought of the Year of Kindness will be leaving Juneau soon to retire to a Montana farm with her husband. Even after retirement from her police duties, she helped out JPD and even at News of the North, while also being a champion for bringing kindness to Juneau.

    We asked Sell what she hopes to see for the future of kindness.
    “I hope this Year of Kindness has shown people that there's a lot of power and positive feeling in being kind and that it is to your own benefit to live a lifestyle of kindness. If you're in a bad mood you can lift your own mood just by being kind to someone else. I think it's that sense of empowerment and if people will act on that, we can actually make Juneau a better place to live.”

    “I think Juneau did become a better place to live this year people have told me that they can tell a difference when they're going about their normal activities.”

    Sell also reflected on an anecdote that highlighted a noticeable change in the community.

    “On the air for KINY recently, I got a call from a lady who said she uses a wheelchair and it used to be people would just walk by her when she was struggling to get things off a top shelf or off a lower shelf. She said that's not the case anymore. Now, people stop. People that are even absorbed in their own conversations, stop and offer assistance and she has been overwhelmed with how changed the environment feels.”

    “I don't think there can be a higher compliment for anyone in policing. We did something about quality of life and we made a noticeable difference.”

    We asked Sell if she hopes to see other communities pick up a commitment to kindness.

    “I would challenge any community to do this.”

    “When we first started and there was a lot of national press, I got approached by a number of towns and a number of other policing agencies about doing a year of kindness. Maybe they went off and did that, I don't know, but I do know it's very easy to get sucked into the day-to-day crises and lose perspective on some of these overarching concepts that you're pursuing.”

    “It's just easy for us to do that as a community and not try these bigger things, but I would encourage communities to do it, because it really took on a life of its own.”

    Sell said she is readily available for those looking to do a similar program in their communities.

    “I hope somebody calls me and wants to know, how did you do it and is there something that we could work with with this? It was not terribly difficult; it was just opening the door for people to do things that felt good to them so hopefully it will spread.”

    The event ended with dance performances and songs from Alaskan Native Tribes, as well as a local choir group.

    Fourteen people were also recognized for their kind acts and are as follows: Julie Coffin, Antonio Prescott, JoAnna Goldman, Steve Jozwiak, Judy Kennedy, Pam Crowe, Devon Hartley, Eileen Hosey, Michelle Strickler, Barbara Shore, Connie Munro, Rinny Beth Heywood, Chloe Marie, and Bunti Reed.

    Fourteen people were also recognized for their kind acts and are as follows: Julie Coffin, Antonio Prescott, JoAnna Goldman, Steve Jozwiak, Judy Kennedy, Pam Crowe, Devon Hartley, Eileen Hosey, Michelle Strickler, Barbara Shore, Connie Munro, Rinny Beth Heywood, Chloe Marie, and Bunti Reed.

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