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Posted on Thu. Jan. 17, 2013 - 12:08 am EDT

Showing acts of kindness

Area residents join movement to honor Newtown victims

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At the beginning of last year, Deborah Sturges made the typical resolution – to lose weight.

Amazingly, she says, she kept it.

This year, her resolution was a little different – she resolved to do 26 acts of kindness in memory of the 26 children and adults who lost their lives when a gunman opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14.

And that’s how Sturges, owner and president of Hallmark Home Mortgage Co. in Fort Wayne, became part of a nationwide movement that is getting a warm local reception.

Individuals and businesses are following through on a suggestion by NBC reporter Ann Curry that has taken off via the Internet.

“It was Ann Curry who actually inspired me,” says Sturges, 60. “Ann Curry hit the nail on the head. You just feel desperate and you want to feel you can make something positive out of something so terribly horrible.”

Sturges says she’s already started fulfilling her resolution. She made contributions to a food program for which a neighbor volunteers and to a gardening initiative that works with refugee populations in Fort Wayne.

She also posted her resolution – along with other New Year’s resolutions by staff members – on a digital sign outside her business at the corner of Coldwater and Cook roads.

“I’ve been kind of surprised at how many people have talked to me about it” because of the sign, she says.

Jeanette DeVore of Fort Wayne says she’s also gotten responses after she wrote a letter to the editor in The Journal Gazette urging 26 acts of kindness and posted a Facebook message.

One person said she made dinner for a friend who had recently had surgery, and one gave money to the local rescue mission. Another traded work schedules so a colleague could be home with her son who had just returned from a military tour of duty in Afghanistan.

DeVore says she’s also started on her 26 acts.

“I gathered some household stuff for a friend with a new apartment, and I passed on some baby clothes and toys to someone with a new child. It’s a small thing, but I gave a pop to the mailman one day. And I called a friend whose cat had died,” she says.

DeVore, 62, a social worker who serves as executive director of the foster grandparent program in Fort Wayne, says the campaign “made me a little more mindful of what might cheer up other people.”

Nancy Carlson Dodd of Fort Wayne believes she was the unwitting recipient of an act of kindness from someone she calls “The Angel of Lost Cars.”

Coming out of Hobby Lobby a few weeks ago, the senior citizen, who’s 76, forgot where she parked her gray Honda SUV. Dodd was wandering aimlessly when a man in his 40s approached her and found the car within moments – a feat she compares to losing 10 pounds in a week.

“It’s been my resolution for years to remember where I park,” she says, adding that the worst time she temporarily lost her car was many years ago when she lived in California and was visiting Disneyland.

“You do that and it’s hopeless. You might as well just take the bus home,” she says with a laugh.

Several businesses have used websites or Facebook pages to promote the acts-of-kindness movement.

Employees at The Hagerman Group, a general contracting construction company in Fort Wayne, have been chatting about a blog posting by Stacy Neill, marketing director at the company’s location in Fishers.

She passed on the posting of a friend who had her four children choose toys that represented the slain children and donated the items, wrapped as Christmas presents, to local families in need.

The post is at

Meanwhile, Cambridge Square Apartments posted a video on Facebook, while Three Rivers Credit Union recently urged employees to be kind in a “Pay it Forward” initiative.

DeVore says she thinks Fort Wayne has been fertile ground for the kindness movement because the city already is “such a giving place.”

She says she noticed the spirit in her work with a program that places seniors in schools and child care centers while paying them a small stipend.

“I’ve seen them bring kids in need into their homes – not in their role (as foster grandparents) but just as human beings – and not think that it’s any big deal,” she says.

She sees the movement as a way “just to remind ourselves that we could all add to the good in the world, in ways small or big; it all matters.”

Sturges agrees. She says she’s worked in United Way leadership positions and has seen what kindness in the Fort Wayne community can do.

She would like doing acts of kindness to become a standard way Americans respond to tragedies, and she is looking forward to coming up with additional acts of kindness during the year.

“I’ve got 24 more,” she says, “so I have a long way to go.”

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