Olivia Smith, ten, used her lunch break at school on Thursday to make a special delivery to Shepherd’s Staff in Westminster – seven ‘birthday’ bags filled with a big gift and everything needed for a birthday party birthday cake, including cake and frosting mix, party tablecloth, party favors and a birthday hat or crown for the guest of honor.
Olivia recently received a $170 Kid Kindness Grant from the nonprofit Kindness Grows Here of Maryland to fund her birthday bag idea. She used the funds to buy all the items for seven bags, four for girls and three for boys, and delivered the bags to Shepherd’s Staff, a non-profit organization in Westminster who agreed to distribute them to children in the need.
“Some kids can’t get birthday presents, so we provided them,” said Olivia, who also designed a handmade birthday card for each bag.
The Westminster Middle School fourth-year student was looking for ways to help others when his mother, Julia Smith, heard about Kindness Grows Here, whose mission is to spread kindness in local communities. Since 2018, the nonprofit has been offering Kid Kindness Grants to young people ages 5 to 18 who pitch an idea on how to spread kindness.
Grants range from $250 for individuals to $700 for groups, according to Kristen DeBoy Caminiti, founder and president of Kindness Grows Here.
Caminti grew up in Catonsville and now lives in Crofton with her family. She started the nonprofit in 2016, when she and her three children set out to spread random acts of kindness in their community. This effort eventually expanded to become Kindness Grows Here.
“Simple ideas can spread kindness,” Caminiti said. “It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture. We are looking for that person-to-person connection.
Nominations are accepted each fall and winners are announced around Thanksgiving. For one funded project, a grantee collected and refurbished children’s musical instruments and for another, a grantee provided flowers every Friday for a year to a different teacher, Caminiti said.
Since its inception, the nonprofit organization has awarded grants to individuals in 26 states and four countries.
“People hear ‘tuning’ and think it’s about this great competitive process,” Caminiti said. “It’s very kid-friendly.”
In her application, Olivia described what she wanted done and estimated the costs at around $25 per bag. In November, she received a check from the nonprofit for $170 to make her vision a reality.
Olivia and her mom went shopping for supplies and also received donations of party supplies from people who wanted to help.
“She has such a big heart,” Julia said. “She did this on her own.”
Upon accepting the grant, Olivia agreed to document the progress of her project by taking photos and submitting receipts to Kindness Grows Here.
“It’s a really cool way for her to reach out to the community,” said Brenda Meadows, Managing Director of Shepherd’s Staff. “It’s something different that will really make a difference.”
The nonprofit, which provides temporary assistance to residents of Carroll County in crisis, has received birthday-themed donations in the past, but Olivia’s gifts made it all up, along with a gift and gifts. birthday supplies, Meadows said. Giving this to a parent who might not otherwise be able to afford it is “a beautiful thing,” Meadows said.
“It’s going to change your life,” Meadows said.
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That’s what it’s all about, says Caminiti.
“We are always looking to involve more children in this process,” Caminiti said. “We want to empower children to help themselves.”
Olivia, who plays the viola and participates in Girls on the Run, a non-profit organization aimed at strengthening the social, emotional, physical and behavioral skills of girls, is already thinking about her next project.
“Maybe Christmas?” says Olivia. “Holiday bags?”
Caminti said Olivia’s ideas are on track with what the nonprofit aims to deliver.
“Olivia’s birthday bags were awesome,” Caminiti said. “Knowing that a child took the time to put this together is a connection.”
Applications for the 2022 Kid Kindness Grant program will open on September 1. Learn more about the program and the nonprofit’s other efforts at kindnessegrowshere.com.