Acts of Kindness (A-OK!) Weekend
Women Transcending Boundaries was started in Syracuse by two women—a Christian and a Muslim—in the immediate aftermath of 9/11/2001. Today it is an egalitarian community of hundreds of women from many faith and cultural traditions.
Last year, WTB created the first Acts of Kindness (A-OK!) Weekend as a way to turn a day of tragedy and mourning into a weekend of civic engagement and volunteerism.
This year, A-OK! Weekend will be a three-day event, to accommodate participants’ various religious holy days and work schedules. Once again, people from all walks of life will come together and work on projects to improve our community, get to know one other, and enhance our general well-being and cohesiveness.
Syracuse has an exceedingly diverse population, culturally as well as economically. At times, this diversity has been a cause of conflict within neighborhoods and between groups. Violence, poverty, unemployment, and marginalization are ongoing problems in our area, as recounted on local news broadcasts and evidenced by statistics.
At the same time, people are deeply invested in the community, and when a need is identified, there is often an outpouring of support. Many people may recognize a need but not know what to do about it. A-OK! Weekend not only encourages them to get involved, but is a vehicle enabling them to do so.
A-OK! Weekend’s overall goal is to build community across the Greater Syracuse Area. Community building will occur naturally as a broad cross-section of individuals and
organizations—educational, civic, business, health, and faith-based—link up to collaborate on specific projects aimed at making our neighborhoods healthier, safer, and more hospitable. Encouraging acts of kindness on every level, and being facilitators for that to occur, will enable these organizations and individuals to create projects and contribute talents in whatever way suits them best. The flexibility of this endeavor will afford all participants the opportunity to move out of their comfort zones and to interact with others who may be from cultural, ethnic, faith, or economic backgrounds different from their own.
All projects are responsible for their own leadership and materials; participating organizations have complete ownership of their projects. WTB’s role is to enhance communication, understanding, and awareness of needs among all sectors of our community, spearhead volunteer activities, elevate community awareness, and facilitate the matching of volunteers with projects. WTB’s long-term intention is to create a community committee that will continue to integrate the various neighborhood groups, faith communities, and civic organizations. Communication between these groups has been lacking but is vital to reaching common goals of a vibrant, caring city.
Many organizations and individuals will engage in some form of volunteerism over the course of the weekend. Some will continue to do what they are already doing and will have their projects highlighted as being part of A-OK! Weekend. Others will hold special events, and still others will provide volunteers and/or resources to groups that need help with a project. Some projects will be completed during the weekend, whereas others will start before and/or continue beyond the weekend.
Specific accomplishments will include organizing a library and a warehouse; cleaning up and beautifying parks, streets, classrooms, neighborhoods, Onondaga Creek, infants’ gravesites; planting trees and bulbs; hosting a picnic for veterans; having elderly people of diverse faith traditions tell their stories to teen and young-adult interviewers; working on construction and home-rehabbing projects; teaching children life skills through golf; installing bird feeders at schools and repackaging bird seed; participating in 9/11 commemorations.
• Annual 9/11 Memorial Ceremony, at Sheridan Park in Eastwood, honoring local fire fighters and 9/11/2001 first responders
• “From Remembrance to Hope” ceremony and concert at Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel
• Installation, at All Saints Church, of a sculpture depicting Father Mychal Judge (NYC Fire Department chaplain and early World Trade Center fatality) and four other firemen
About 50 organizations will participate, among them, 100 Black Men of Syracuse,
Butternut Community Policing Center, Center for New Americans, Central New York Community Foundation, Central New York Services, Dynamic Health & Fitness, Elmcrest Children’s Center, First Tee of Syracuse, Habitat for Humanity, InterFaith Works, Islamic Society of Central New York, Jowonio School, King of Kings Lutheran Church, KJ’s Angels, Lemoyne College, Menorah Park, Mothers Against Gun Violence, Peace Inc., State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego, Syracuse Jewish Federation, Syracuse
Mayor’s Office, Syracuse Parks Conservancy, Syracuse University, and more.
Last year’s first Acts of Kindness Weekend involved about 500 volunteers working more than 6000 hours. This year, 700 volunteers are anticipated.
Project leaders are being asked to record the number of volunteers, the number of hours worked, the work that was completed, and the connections that are made between individuals and organizations.
A-OK! Weekend is receiving advance coverage by the Post-Standard and Syracuse New Times, with human interest stories and schedules of activities.
Promotion is also being done through WTB’s website, Facebook page, and http://a-okweekend.wikispaces.com; on syracuse.com and unitedway-cny.org; in college newspapers; in organization bulletins and newsletters; and at community events.
In early September, WTB and A-OK! Weekend will be featured in a New York Times
retrospective on how America has changed since 9/11/01.