Military spouses hope to inspire million acts of kindness

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U.S. Army Pvt. Jennifer Michele, 328th Military Police Company, New Jersey Army National Guard, arranges donated winter coats during the Sgt. 1st Class Robert H. Yancey Sr. Stand Down at the National Guard Armory in Cherry Hill, N.J., Sept. 27, 2019. New Jersey National Guard Soldiers and Airmen cooked meals and provided medical assistance at the Stand Down where 187 homeless veterans were provided with access to healthcare, mental health screening, substance abuse counseling, social services -- food stamps and unemployment, legal services, religious counseling, a hot meal, a haircut, and winter clothing. (New Jersey National Guard photograph by Mark Olsen)

Three military spouses say they hope to change the world, through one act of kindness at a time.

To accomplish this, they aim to encourage more than one million acts of kindness in the military community through a viral movement called GivingTuesday Military Edition, set for Dec. 3, 2019.

“One million acts sounds like a lot,” admitted Maria Reed, an Army spouse and organizer for the event. “But, it just takes one act to inspire another, and if enough people are inspired — we can reach a million acts together.”

It was Reed’s optimistic thinking that initially helped her form a bond with two like-minded spouses: Samantha Gomolka, a National Guard spouse, and Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse.

The three first met in May at the 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards ceremony, held in Washington, D.C. All three won that night for their respective branches.

Three military spouses, Maria Reed an Army spouse, Samantha Gomolka, a National Guard spouse, and Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse visit Los Angeles, Calif., Nov. 6, 2019, to promote their online movement called GivingTuesday Military Edition. They were all 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year recipients for their respective branch. The viral campaign hopes to inspire more than one million acts of kindness and document them online with #givingtuesdaymilitary to inspire others to do similar goodwill acts. (Courtesy photograph)

Following the ceremony, the three connected “easy and effortlessly,” Reed said, largely due to their shared goal to use their platform to bridge together the military community and help others.

At first, they didn’t know exactly how they would collaborate, they said. But, that changed soon after a plan was hatched to contact GivingTuesday, the parent organization of their group. Shortly after they made contact, GivingTuesday representatives agreed to partner up and the military edition was created.

“It’s inspiring to see military service members, veterans, and their families who already have committed so much to something bigger than themselves, lead the way to encourage one million acts of kindness,” said Asha Curran, GivingTuesday chief executive officer, in a news release.

The military edition kicked off in September, and since it was announced they have received nation-wide attention. However, according to Reed — who is a military spouse of 16 years — the need to help others is just a part of being in the military community.

Her husband, who is currently deployed, plans to responsibly participate from his undisclosed location overseas.

“Military families are called to serve, it’s in our DNA and [GivingTuesday] is a way that we can all serve and give back to the community,” Reed said.

No act of goodwill is too small, she added. “It doesn’t matter, kindness is kindness.”

U.S. Army Spec. Janerah W. Glaze, 253rd Transportation Company, New Jersey Army National Guard, grills hamburgers during the Sgt. 1st Class Robert H. Yancey Sr. Stand Down at the National Guard Armory in Cherry Hill, N.J., Sept. 27, 2019. New Jersey National Guard Soldiers and Airmen cooked meals and provided medical assistance at the Stand Down where 187 homeless veterans were provided with access to healthcare, mental health screening, substance abuse counseling, and social services. (New Jersey National Guard photograph by Mark Olsen)

Whether serving food to the homeless, volunteering at an animal shelter, buying coffee for a stranger, or simply holding a door open for someone — there are no shortage of options, she said.

In addition to individual acts, Reed said various schools, companies, and blood drives across the country have committed to join in the effort to meet their seven-digit goal.

But, the true measure of success, Manfre said, is simply to inspire others to be kind.

“If all we do is inspire just one person to be kind to someone else, that’s what matters,” she said.

The inaugural event will be documented online with #GivingTuesdayMilitary.

With more than 50 chapter ambassadors at the forefront of local efforts, and thousands of eager participants who are affiliated with more than 800 military installations worldwide, the trio agree their movement will grow every year.

Social media pages have been set up on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the campaign, all with the handle @GivingTuesdayMilitary.

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