With a population of just over 50,000 individuals, the city of Grand Island, Nebraska isn’t a renowned location by any means. Though it may be small when compared to other cities in the United States, the Grand Island is still the fourth largest city in Nebraska, and is known in the surrounding areas as a central hub for retail and entertainment. But this week, Grand Island is celebrating one of the things that makes it a truly unique and noteworthy community.
It’s called Acts of Kindness Week. Started 20 years ago by Grand Island resident Gloria Wolbach, the week celebrates expressions of selflessness and kindness within the community for one week every year. Gloria started the tradition after hearing former General Colin Powell speak on the importance of volunteering in communities across the nation. So Gloria, along with 50 of her like-minded community loving girlfriends, began the first Acts of Kindness week back in October of 1997.
The benevolent celebration became an officially recognized community event in 1999. In fact, it eventually led to Mayor Ken Gnadt formally changing the city’s official motto from “Grand Island, the Third City” to “Grand Island, City of Kindness” in 2002. The Governor of Nebraska even recognized the change with a formal proclamation acknowledging the city’s new motto.
For the past 20 years, Gloria and her band of merry volunteers – since coined the Acts of Kindness (AOK) Ladies – have worked hard to make Acts of Kindness week a success, though they actively promote the practice and perform good deeds themselves all throughout the year.
In addition to the personal acts that will no doubt be performed by countless community members, several Grand Island businesses will also be partaking of the vent. For example, the local Arby’s and Starbucks will select random customers to receive free lunches and beverages throughout the week. The Grand Island Library has vowed to forgive late book fees for overdue books returned during the week, and the Sutter Deli will be passing out cards encouraging randomly selected customers to pass on a free lunch. Even the Police Department and Hall County Sheriff’s Department will be joining in on the fun by handing out pink “Acts of Kindness Citations” whenever they see someone lending a helping hand to another.
Grand Island and its Acts of Kindness Week are a testament to the power of kindness and positive action. The community serves as a shining example of how powerful and inspirational the simple act of helping another without provocation or reward can snowball into a movement that can change the world.