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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

16 Photos That Celebrate the Good in All of Us

As we navigate through this unprecedented time, the number of people who need help continues to grow.

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The novel coronavirus has upended routines, altered the way we interact with one another, and caused one day to blend into the next. As we navigate through this unprecedented time, the number of people who need help continues to grow. Acts of kindness, whether benefiting a large city or a small town or provided by one person or organized by many, can have a profound effect on others’ lives. The following images of strangers joining forces to feed communities, or newly-acquainted neighbors and long-time residents celebrating each other’s milestones, among other pictures, highlight one common thread: There’s good in all of us. They come from our “Nicest Places in America” search for places where people are kind in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

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Healing and helping through meals and serviceCourtesy Kate Hudson

Healing and helping through meals and service

In 2017, Sather Gowdy helped an elderly neighbor carry her groceries. When he realized the positive effect his one small act of kindness had on him, he began volunteering daily and encouraged others to join his efforts. Soon, his small grassroots effort developed into a community-wide project called Heal Spokane, to make Spokane, Washington, a better place to live. When the coronavirus outbreak began, Gowdy and his dedicated volunteers stepped up their efforts, providing meals and organizing their deliveries to the homeless, children who typically rely on public school for meals, and the elderly. In addition to providing much-needed meals to the community, Gowdy and his team are mowing lawns, delivering face masks, donating clothing, and picking up garbage.

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A sweet treat for essential workersCourtesy Jerry Uhrich

A sweet treat for essential workers

Jeremy Uhrich and Scott McKenzie challenged each other to a friendly bake-off to determine whose chocolate chip cookie would be deemed the best. The baking amateurs enlisted another friend to join the contest and convinced the mayor of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, to determine the winner. The ultimate winners, though, have been frontline workers. After the contest, Uhrich and McKenzie delivered the competition cookies to the local police department, and soon after they created Cookies for Caregivers. The friends recruited volunteers, each baking four dozen cookies a week. The two have already established a schedule of bakers for upcoming weeks. So far, over 200 dozen of the sweet treats have been delivered, over 2,400 cookies total, to local hospitals, police departments, doctor’s offices, jails and prisons, fire departments, ambulance services, and food banks.

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Retired naval officer brings families together to raise the flagCourtesy Marie Stinneford

A retired naval officer brings families together to raise the flag

When area schools closed due to coronavirus, a retired naval officer, invited Marie Stinneford and her neighbors to join his morning flag-raising ceremony. Each day, families walk to his house and stand six-feet apart, ready to start at 9 a.m. After a child volunteers—a different one is chosen each time—they step forward, place their hand on their heart, and recite the pledge as neighbors join in. The children in the Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, neighborhood range from ages three to 18 years old. “It’s been a great way to connect with our neighbors and incorporate a routine into our ‘school days,’” says Stinneford. One morning, after the pledge, Stinneford’s eighth-grader distributed flyers to her neighbors asking for food donations for her last service project. Within two days, the residents provided enough food for a local food pantry to fill the back of her minivan.

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Sending letters of thanks and hopeCourtesy Amy Stevens

Sending letters of thanks and hope

Congregants at Pawleys Island Community Church shared homemade messages of love and support to healthcare workers. In one week, church members created more than 1,800 cards for the team members at Tidelands Health, a non-profit, community health system serving coastal South Carolina. Congregants involved their entire families by encouraging their children and grandchildren to share messages of thanks. “You are a blessing,” wrote one boy. Others added colorful stickers to their cards.“The thought and love poured into each one of these cards is overwhelming,” said Pam Maxwell, chief nursing officer. “Over and over throughout this pandemic, our community is reaching out to support us and lift us up.”

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Local diner with a causeCourtesy Meghan Heriford

Local diner with a cause

Almost two months ago, Meghan Heriford temporarily closed her business with the hope of slowing the spread of COVID-19 in her community. Since then, the Ladybird Diner in Lawrence, Kansas, has become a community soup kitchen and food pantry. Through community funding, they serve 200 free lunches each day and provide free boxes of groceries to anyone in need, no questions asked. “Like hundreds of small businesses in town, I worried that this decision would mean the end of my restaurant,” Heriford told Reader’s Digest. “But I wanted to find a way to help ease the burden of insecurity and unemployment that was sweeping through town.”

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Teacher sets up sites to distribute foodCourtesy Cheryle Wharton

A teacher sets up sites to distribute food

At the start of the novel coronavirus, Erika Strauss Chavarria, a Spanish teacher at Wilde Lake High School, mobilized members of her Columbia, Maryland, community. Her volunteer group, Columbia Community Care, provides food and other essential items to those struggling in the wake of COVID-19. The organization has nearly 5,000 members on Facebook and operates five distribution stations at various elementary and middle schools in the area. Along with shopping for food, and household, personal care, and kids’ activity items, volunteers staff the stations and deliver items to those unable to reach the sites. Over the past two months, they have served about 500 people each day and completed more than 800 home deliveries.

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Showing appreciation to a nurse practitionerCourtesy Annette Wilkinson

Showing appreciation to a nurse practitioner

A traveling nurse practitioner, working in hospitals in Milwaukee, Oshkosh, and Green Bay for one month, rented a furnished duplex, a place that would feel like home. A week later, landlord Annette Wilkinson caught up with her tenant after another 20-hour workday. Exhausted, the healthcare worker shared stories of the many lives lost to the coronavirus. Wilkinson could feel the heartbreak and sadness in her voice, especially when the healthcare worker described comforting patients who were dying alone. Determined to show appreciation to the nurse practitioner and others battling the coronavirus, she turned to social media. Through posts on Nextdoor and Facebook, Wilkinson asked her Appleton, Wisconsin, neighbors to tie blue ribbons around the tree in front of the duplex. One lady (also a registered nurse, RN) brought a gift and hung it on the nurse practitioner’s front door. Find out 14 meaningful ways people are saying thank you to essential workers.

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Fighting food insecurity with nightly mealsCourtesy Arthur Schlossbach

Fighting food insecurity with nightly meals

The onset of COVID-19 and the impending closure of restaurants in Asbury Park, New Jersey, motivated Kathy Kelly, Julie Andreola, Guiseppe Grillo and Allison Kolarik to take action. They created the Asbury Park Dinner Table to help feed families feeling the strain of food insecurity. Not only would the closures affect restaurants and the service industry, but also children who would soon lose access to free meals at school. The organization has partnered with three local churches and the Boys & Girls Club to provide dinners for Asbury Park families. Donations from corporations and individuals fund the nightly program that benefits families, while at the same time, keeps restaurants in business.

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Sponsoring a kids' art showCourtesy Denise Bowman

Sponsoring a kids’ art show

Denise Bowman’s neighbor, Mary, is determined to bring joy to their Atascadero, California, neighborhood. Each day, she writes an inspirational saying on a chalkboard propped against her mailbox. She also leaves snacks or Tootsie Pops for delivery people or those walking their dogs.

Mary recently sponsored an art show for the kids in the neighborhood. A week before the event, she set up a table in front of her home and offered free art supplies. Then she created a map of the homes where the children’s art would be displayed on their driveways. The day of the show, neighbors and a few of their friends and family from other neighborhoods walked or drove by each home to view the artwork. The young artists ranged from ages three and up.

At the end of the show, Mary awarded a ribbon to each participant.

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A memorable welcome homeCourtesy Carolyn Wickey

A memorable welcome home

When COVID-19 regulations barred visitors after Carolyn Wickey’s open-heart surgery, her friends and family devised a plan to make her homecoming memorable. As she approached her Glendora, California, home Wickey was greeted with a colorful sign on her garage door that read, “Welcome Home Heart Warrior.“ More than 30 neighbors had gathered, some in their cars, others on the sidewalk—all at safe social distances—to celebrate her arrival. Even her 101-year-old neighbor waved from her porch. “I always knew I had a special neighborhood but this absolutely blew me away at their love and kindness,” Wickey told Reader’s Digest.

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A temporary neighbor brings joy to othersCourtesy Marie Fernandez

A temporary neighbor brings joy to others

In mid-March, Kelly Hallisey left New York City to stay with her 75-year-old mom in Norton, Massachusetts. Shortly after she arrived, Hallisey arranged a meal delivery to the local police department and fire department and organized a thank-you card campaign for a local hospital. In between teaching her fourth-grade students remotely, she regularly offers to pick up groceries and supplies for her mother’s neighbors. Last month, as Mother’s Day approached, Hallisey emailed several of her neighbors requesting the name of their favorite song. Knowing they weren’t going to be able to celebrate the holiday with their families, the neighbors organized a driveway get-together. As the group arranged their chairs in a circle, six-feet apart, Hallisey surprised them with a wine and margarita bar, flowers, and signs wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day. The DJ she hired played each neighbor’s favorite song as they danced—a few with walkers in hand. Do these four things for your parents during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Teacher shares good wishes...twiceCourtesy Melanie Faranello

Teacher shares good wishes…twice

Melanie Faranello’s son has an elementary school teacher who is not only kind and considerate but determined. On Sage’s ninth birthday, his teacher arrived at his West Hartford, Connecticut, home with a bucket of sidewalk chalk. She wanted to surprise the third-grader with a birthday message he would see as he walked out the front door. She lined up the birthday stencil, customized it, and colored it, but as she finished, the teacher realized she had made a mistake. It was the right day, but the wrong address. She rushed to her student’s house, recreated the message, and left him a special blue pencil. The smile on his face was worth the extra effort.

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Artist paints roses for othersCourtesy Trish Land

An artist paints roses for others

During the first week of the shelter in place order, Trish Land empathized with those unable to visit their moms in facilities, or out of town. The pandemic was keeping her from her monthly visit with her 94-year-old mother in Sarasota, Florida. The artist moved her studio to her Tucker, Georgia, home and continued to paint from a corner of her dining room. Eyeing the rose bushes blooming outside the window of her makeshift studio, she challenged herself to paint a single rose and posted a photo of her work on social media. “Whose mom needs this?” she asked. Within five minutes, she received over 100 responses. People wanted to connect with their moms, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts that were elderly or ill, whom they couldn’t visit. She sent paintings around the country. More than five weeks later, she has mailed hundreds of paintings at no charge. In appreciation of her work, recipients and others have mailed stamps to Land and made donations to her PayPal account.

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Neighbors helping neighborsCourtesy Delores Lindquist

Neighbors helping neighbors

Throughout the pandemic, Delores Lindquist and her Port St. Lucie, Florida, neighbors have supported one another, both physically and mentally. They’ve freely shared hard-to-find toilet paper, paper towels, and hand sanitizer with each other, and before any trips to the store, they ask if anyone needs food or supplies. Every night at 6 p.m., Lindquist and a few friends set up folding chairs at a neighbor’s home, sit six-feet apart, and share stories. During their meet-ups, they greet neighbors walking by, many of whom they’ve never met, but readily invite to join the conversation.“We have survived this time with laughter,” Lindquist told Reader’s Digest.

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Helping others while paying off a debt Courtesy Kamaka Dia

Helping others while paying off a debt

Kamaka Dias volunteered for three years in Madagascar through the Peace Corps and when he returned to his home in Hawaii, he faced over $50,000 in student loans. In January, he launched “The Race to 50K” as a way to pay off his loan and help others. In his whimsical video announcing his project, the 27-year-old offers to handle any task at no charge, although when he finishes a job, most people offer a donation. At the beginning of the pandemic, he adapted his mission to focus on helping local businesses while still performing odd jobs. Dias partnered with five different local businesses on Mother’s Day to raise money for the businesses and is working with a local bakery to deliver cupcakes to one essential office every Friday, among other tasks.

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Celebrating the neighborhood grandma’s birthdayCourtesy John Blake

Celebrating the neighborhood grandma’s birthday

John Blake and his wife have lived in the same Raleigh, North Carolina, neighborhood for over 20 years and have watched children grow and graduate high school and college. As the oldest couple in the area, families have affectionately considered them the neighborhood grandparents. During the winter, neighbors clear their driveway and sidewalk, while during the summer, they take care of tasks the couple is unable to handle. On his wife’s 80th birthday, the children in the neighborhood created a six-foot banner that included their names, pictures and birthday greetings. The families dotted the couple’s lawn with balloons and presented their “grandma” with various treats, flowers, and cards. Find out 10 clever ways people are celebrating birthdays under quarantine.

Lisa Kanarek
Lisa Kanarek is a freelance writer who covers family, relationships, and acts of kindness. Her work has been published in Reader’s Digest, The New York Times and The Washington Post, among other publications. She lives in Dallas, TX. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.