Kids Make Big Changes With Small Acts of Kindness

Among Lauren and Gracie Dundee’s many kind ideas are the “We Care Kits,” which include necessities such as clean socks and first-aid supplies.

Carolyn Dundee is raising daughters who are going to help save the world.
It’s important to Dundee that Lauren, 16, and Gracie, 11, feel empowered to be kind, to serve others and, in so doing, inspire others in a way that will help improve life for everyone.
“When you show kids as young as 2 or 3 years old about kindness and service so that it becomes a way of life for them, [the result] is twofold,” said Dundee, who lives in La Cañada Flintridge with her children and husband, Mark Dundee.
“You get the children to do good things in the community now and learn about compassion and empathy and leadership, and they grow into adults who become leaders in the world. They’ll have the skill set and understanding that we’re all citizens of the world. What affects one affects all. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Dundees represent the leadership of Small Acts Big Change, a small local nonprofit that’s going on its fourth year striving, in any number of creative ways, to improve life for people, animals and the environment.
Officials at Gelson’s Markets recently learned of the big changes that Small Acts was making and sent an email surprising the Dundees with a grant — $2,500 — raised from checkstand donations throughout the year that an appreciative and still somewhat astonished Carolyn said will be used within the community.
“Every year, Gelson’s tries to reach out to the community around our stores and organizations that are impacting the communities in those areas,” said Tim Mahoney, senior director of store operations for Gelson’s. “La Cañada Flintridge is such a community that focuses on developing young people, we thought it was a great fit for Gelson’s to contribute to them.”
Lauren and Gracie, whose focus leans toward people and animals, respectively, have been excited about service for most of their lives.
Gracie was just 3 years old when she stood up at a family meeting and successfully pitched the idea of aiding rabid African dogs. In no time, she was raising awareness with her Daisy Troop, while her family members were working with the World Wildlife Fund.
Now Gracie, who was appointed to be the “kindness liaison” this year by Crestview Preparatory School administrators who carved out the position just for her, kick-started a Kindness Club at the school. She’d already established a monthly volunteer opportunity for her peers — the “9 Small Acts of Kindness Campaign” — for the upper grades.
“It started with a girl in my class who had never volunteered before,” she said. “And I really felt bad that she didn’t get a chance to volunteer even though she wanted to, and ever since then I’ve been bringing new ideas to the school. It’s so fun.”
Last month’s activity had Dundee and her mates spreading peanut butter on bagels and covering them with birdseed — voila, birdfeeders! Then they hung some of them outside of windows at a nursing home in Montrose so the residents could have a front-row seat to watch the birds feast.
The campaign does not call for fundraising, Carolyn Dundee said, because its focus is on simple projects using supplies that are on hand. For example, Flint Canyon Tennis Club donated old tennis balls that the kids stuffed into socks to create dog toys, which were then donated.
For the Small Acts Big Change crew, leaving a dent can mean leaving empty grocery bags in front of people’s homes with a note asking residents to fill them with a few items — canned food for people or animals, say — to be picked up at a specified time.
Or it can launch “heart attacks,” which entails leaving something such as a charm or a sunflower for an unsuspecting stranger to find, along with a note that explains, “Congratulations! You have just experienced a random act of kindness,” and instructs, “Now it’s your chance to pay it forward and pass it on. Do something kind for someone else and pass this card along to them so they can keep the kindness going.”
Lauren Dundee, who attended Flintridge Prep before opting for independent online study to free up her schedule for acting and modeling work, said they’ve received messages from people who’ve discovered one of these cards and passed it on from as far away as Portugal and New Zealand.
“We don’t want this to be about going out and getting money,” Carolyn Dundee said. “It’s about having no money and still being able to get something done. Nobody has to really be a member of the U.N. to make this dent; we all just have to do our part.”
And yet, even the most grassroots of organizations benefit from some financing, whether it’s to help an organization rescue stranded marine mammals or stock the “We Care Kits” with clean socks, snacks and other necessities that go out to folks experiencing homelessness in Pasadena or Los Angeles.
The Dundees recently teamed with Elvis Summers of Tiny House, Huge Purpose, to create welcome-packages — including towels or welcome rugs — for those moving into the small, portable homes Summers builds.
Carolyn recalls one man breaking down in tears when he received his welcome package: “It was just toilet paper, but he sobbed like we’d given him a gold bar.”
Of course, the Dundees were similarly touched by the Gelson’s grant.
“They had no idea of the dollar amount,” Mahoney said. “Maybe they thought $500? When the check for $2,500 was presented, they were so overjoyed, and already they were thinking, at that very moment, ‘How can we use the money?’”
Said Carolyn: “That’s a lot of kindness activities.”
Added Gracie: “Definitely one of my top moments of the charity.”