Members of LEAD Greater Williamsburg’s class of 2019 believe that a little kindness can go a long way. At least, that’s the mindset behind the program’s WMBGkind initiative, which is poised to kick off across the Historic Triangle early next month.
LEAD is a community immersion program sponsored by the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance that has brought together local business, nonprofit and education leaders since its inception 25 years ago. Every other year, a class of about 30 participants chooses a project meant to address important issues and needs in the community.
In past years, classes have led efforts including the installation of benches at 20 WATA bus stops and the development of a day-long health fair for the area’s homeless population, which has since evolved into an annual program called Hands Together Historic Triangle.
Bob Hershberger, LEAD Greater Williamsburg program coordinator and former chamber executive vice president, said the program was started to get local business leaders more involved in the local community.
“It’s a program that is mirrored in many other communities across the nation, and at the time, I saw it as a void in the Williamsburg area,” he said. “It’s been a very successful program, and I’m certainly proud that I had some hand in helping to create it and have been able to continue with it since retiring from the chamber.”
This year’s class chose to focus on promoting random acts of kindness in local schools, neighborhoods and businesses through an initiative called WMBGkind.
Heather Hall, 2019 LEAD class member and vice president of investments for Richmond-based financial advising agency Davenport & Company, said the idea for the campaign was inspired by former Anaheim, California, mayor Tom Tait, who focused on promoting kindness while campaigning and implemented several neighborhood programs and initiated a challenge within the city’s elementary schools to perform a million acts of kindness while he was in office.
“He paved the way by giving us a lot of good ideas and being able to take something that seemed somewhat intangible, and being able to really wrap some grit around it and have some real actionable items as opposed to this just general idea of kindness,” she said.
Tait will be the keynote speaker at a WMBGkind kick-off event planned for Feb. 1 at Legacy Hall in New Town, where organizers will officially launch the campaign.
LEAD organizers aim to highlight and inspire acts of kindness through lectures at community events and local schools and by promoting charitable efforts in the Historic Triangle through WMBGkind’s pages on social media. Members also hope to gain traction for the initiative during the week of Feb. 10-16, which was officially named International Random Acts of Kindness Week by Gov. Ralph Northam in a recent proclamation.
Hall was one of the class members who led the charge in drafting the proclamation and submitting it to the governor’s office.
“I thought, well, why just impact this one particular area, even though it will be our focus throughout of the course of the project,” she said. “What better way to get a little bit more light on the topic and what people are doing than having the governor support our cause?”
After the 2019 class finishes the program in May, the United Way of the Virginia Peninsula has agreed to continue promoting the initiative, according to the news release from LEAD.
“Whether it be an anti-bullying campaign in a school or doing something for the government workers who are furloughed, everywhere you go, there are these random acts of kindness and there is no act too small,” Hall said.
Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.