Kindness Stories

Prior Chris Kindness Award Winners

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Olive Davis – January 2024 Winner

Olive Davis has been a fixture at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley since 2004 when she started in the undergraduate program. Twenty years later she is still supporting the community by equipping next generation leaders with the business and entrepreneurships skills to make the world a better place. As a Haas student, Olive mentored in the YEAH program, which stands for Young Entrepreneurs at Haas. After graduating from Haas in 2006, Olive was hired to be the director of the after school middle school program at YEAH, which has the mission of “helping middle school students in the Bay Area be the first in their families to go to college.” After a few lackluster fundraising years, it became clear that YEAH needed a more sustainable funding mechanism. It was at that time that Olive’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to develop and launch the Berkeley Business Academy for Youth (BBAY) in 2008, which has been training hundreds of youth every year. BBAY is a non-degree summer academy and after-school program that invites middle and high school students to explore their entrepreneurial interests, learn about social impact, and develop the leadership skills they need to make a difference in the world. Olive routinely goes above and beyond at work with one highlight being that every year she travels to Jamaica to find deserving students of a scholarship that is offered to a handful of BBAY students. Away from work, she spends a lot of time giving back through her church and to her community and is always willing to help out someone. Olive’s tireless efforts to train the next generation of business leaders from Berkeley and across the globe make her an excellent candidate to receive the Chris Kindness Award.

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Farhat Noorzad – Dec. 2023 Winner

Farhat is a 16-year-old student who immigrated to Berkeley from Afghanistan last April. She is part of the Multilingual Program (MLP) community at BHS. Since arriving in America less than a year ago, she has become a peer mentor and major support to her peers, many of whom are refugees fleeing from violence and persecution. Farhat makes everyone around her feel comfortable. She is talented at learning languages and speaks five languages; she prioritizes using these skills to help others. Farhat translates for other students in the school learning English and has brought different linguistic communities together, for example, our Spanish-speaking students and our Farsi/Dari-speaking students. She is empathetic and understanding. Despite her own challenges in life, she makes it her priority to counsel other new students going through a tough time in their transition to the United States. Farhat is truly selfless and wise beyond her years. She takes her education extremely seriously, and this award would give her life-changing support in furthering her education after high school in America. In the News: Berkeleyside and KCBS Radio  

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The Claremont Singers – Nov. Winners

I am writing about a small community (just three streets that cross each other) within the greater City of Berkeley. The people on these three streets have worked over the years to create a sense of connection with one another. Recently, a young man living on one of these streets was given a fatal diagnosis. The neighbors knew about his love of music. He returned home to die. He had, at best, a week, at most two, to live. The neighbors organized all the musicians living on the three streets and compiled the man’s favorite playlist. Almost 40 neighbors went into his garden on two Sunday afternoons, and they sang his favorite songs to him. The young man danced with the parts of his body he could still move. At the end of the singing, he felt so energized. He told all the participants that their presence and music lifted his spirits. He was able to greet and meet each neighbor.https://youtu.be/8lSd71ngZMY

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Ray Vivideth winner

Ray Vivideth – Oct. Winner

Ray Vivideth – Oct. Winner Ray Vivideth is no stranger to 4:00 a.m. It’s the time he’s gotten up for most of his life. He does this in order to pick up food and sanitary items from a church food bank. He then distributes the day’s collection to the homeless and the poor. Often Ray will add a visit to the “shut-ins” he keeps an eye on. When needed, he will bring them meals that he has prepared himself or drive them to medical appointments. Ray has worked hard all his life. He has held the same job as Claremont Club swimming pool maintenance custodian for decades, winning awards for customer service and job performance. As an evacuee from Laos so many years ago, Ray has made good on his promise to self: to make America his home and always help others, no matter what it takes.

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Kat Ben-Bateson – Sept Runner-up

Nominator said:

“I nominate Kat Ben-Bateson, Zumba Instructor at the Berkeley Adult School (BAS). Kat’s students (and my classmates) include energetic superb dancers, novices, a lady who uses a wheelchair, a young man with Down Syndrome, assorted 7-Ups (i.e. those of us in our 70s), etc. Despite the varying levels and abilities of her students, she never fails to take care of everyone’s needs and add a personal touch. When I was absent for one class, she sent me an email the next day to make sure I was ok. When I was unable to take one of her class series as I had to take care of my father, on my return, she asked how my father was doing.

Her commitment to Zumba is a commitment to spreading joy in the community. For 10 years, she’s been holding free classes in the park during the summer when the adult school is closed. During the COVID lockdown, she worked with BAS to provide classes on Zoom. She does all this even though Zumba instruction is something she does on top of her corporate job and caring for her 6-year old.

Kat’s kindness is her commitment to others’ well-being. The world needs more kindness. The world needs more Kats.”

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Melissa Little – Sept. Runner Up

Nominator said:

“Melissa Little, a Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA graduate, figured out a way to donate hundreds of pounds of leftover food each Saturday to the Dorothy Day House in Berkeley. The food—everything from boxed lunches to huge pans of cooked meat dishes—is used to supplement 600 meals made daily at the house, which is run by volunteers and shelters and services homeless and low-income people.

During the first year of her MBA program, Little discovered that extra student lunches in her program were thrown out. ‘It drove me crazy for the rest of the school year,’ she said. ‘I live in Berkeley and ride my bike past unhoused people.’ She wanted to figure out how to donate the food, so Little worked on an answer to the problem during her Design Thinking class with Haas Lecturer David Rochlin. Her group focused on solving issues for the unhoused and she went on site visits, which was how she found out about Dorothy Day. Little met with the executive director, who agreed to pick up the food every Saturday if Little could do paperwork and get approval from campus. It was an arduous process, but she did it!! Dorothy Day started picking up the leftovers in October of 2022. ‘The cooks don’t set the dinner menu until they see what we have,’ she said. ‘We are donating hundreds of pounds of food every Saturday during the school year.’”

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Kevin Adler – Sept. Winner

Nominator said:

“Kevin F. Adler is the Founder of Miracle Messages, a nonprofit started in honor of his beloved uncle, who lived on the streets for 30 years. Miracle Messages has reunited over 800 unhoused people with their families, and matched hundreds more with volunteer phone buddies from around the world.

Kevin’s story began almost ten years ago just before Christmas. He took a walk on Market St in San Francisco, offering warm tea and hot biscuits to people he met on the street. Kevin asked those he met if they had any family or friends that they wanted to record a message to for the holidays. One person who recorded a message was Jeffrey, who said he hadn’t seen his family in over 22 years. Kevin posted Jeffrey’s recording on a Facebook page group connected to Jeffrey’s hometown and within one hour hundreds of people commented on and shared the post. Soon, Jeffrey’s sister saw the post and this led to her reconnecting with her brother who had been a missing person for the past 12 years.

Kevin soon quit his day job and began doing this work full-time. Since its founding in 2014, Miracle Messages has grown into an award-winning organization that serves throughout the Bay Area and nationwide, rebuilding social support systems and financial security for our unhoused neighbors through family reunification services, a phone buddy program, and the first basic income pilot for unhoused individuals in the United States.”

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Chris Little – August Winner

Nominator said:
“Is it possible that kindness is simply a way of BEING? You will be convinced that it is possible when you meet my friend Chris.
A native of Berkeley, Chris can be seen around town doing what he does best, being KIND. You may spot him at a cafe, church, helping a friend with groceries, driving someone to an appointment, helping someone walk after surgery, playing hacky sack with local kids, surprising a little child with some dollar bills for her birthday, praying for someone, sending encouraging texts to brighten someone’s day, and listening to what’s on your heart. According to Chris, “It is easy to make someone’s day, often with very little or no effort.” He often thinks he “was put somewhere at a specific moment to help someone.” We need more of this type of kindness that reaches far beneath the surface, into your soul. I can’t think of a better recipient for this award than Chris. “

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Collin Doran – May Winner

Nominator said: Collin Doran, owner of the Homemade Cafe, gives free breakfast meals to anyone who needs them, no questions asked. He has been doing this for years. During the pandemic, so many people in Berkeley were experiencing food insecurity. Collin stepped up to help, feeding anyone who needs to eat breakfast but can´t pay for it. Collin has been doing this on his own initiative and covering these meals largely out of his own pocket. He has also inspired cafe patrons to donate $5 if they feel so inclined, following in his footsteps. Collin’s recurring kind actions are a wonderful example that all restaurants should replicate. Collin makes hungry Berkeley residents full and those witnessing his kindness are filled with hope that people are fundamentally decent.”

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Nancy Schiff – April Winner

Nominator said:  “Nancy has dedicated her life to helping generations of underserved youth through her 24 years leading the Center for Youth Development Through Law. Working with a demographic that typically sees 15-20% of youth graduate from high school, Nancy has led a program that has seen approximately 92% of its students go on to college. Nancy’s kindness goes far beyond her job duties. After students graduate from the program, Nancy continues to act as a mentor, supporter, and advisor as they face life’s challenges. As one program graduate states: “Outside the program, Nancy continues to remain committed to extending her hand to help. She has been a valuable resource to me as I’ve navigated through UCLA as a first gen student. She is  committed to community, mentorship, and passing the torch for diverse communities. As I prepare to graduate from UCLA and begin my law school application process, I am comforted.”  A former Board Chair noted: “The thing that sets her apart is that once you’ve joined the CYDL family, you are one of Nancy’s kids for life. Former students have come back to teach in the program, joined the board, and shown up to volunteer entirely because of the personal relationship they have with Nancy.”

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Egbert Villegas – March Winner

Nominator said “Egbert drove me to and from my doctor’s appointment last week. On our drive back, we saw a truck flipped over on the freeway. While others simply drove by the scene, Egbert sprung into action. He pulled over and ran to the truck to help the person who was still in the driver’s seat of the flipped over truck. People had no idea how to help the man get out of the car, Egbert helped the driver to recline his seat to be able to climb out of the car. The driver didn’t speak English, only Spanish. Fortunately, Egbert’s first language is Spanish and (since he’s studying medicine) he knew exactly which questions to ask the man in order to make sure he was okay. Once medics arrived, Egbert translated the information that the man had shared with him to the paramedics. Only once he knew the man would be okay was when Egbert left. Egbert is a Mexican immigrant and first-generation student studying Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley with the hopes of attending medical school. He’s been working since seventh grade to pay for his own tuition and help his family. Egbert’s care for others helped the man whose car had flipped over that day, and he springs to action to help others any chance he gets.”

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Carmen Garcia – Feb Winner

NOMINATION:

“Carmen Garcia is the friendly face behind the plexiglass at the Mobil station on University. She works the day shift, M-F. She was there throughout the pandemic, including those first few months when most of us rarely stepped outside and enjoyed the luxury of home delivery. When I relocated to Berkeley, I was coming off a traumatic year of loss. I was starting my life over, alone. On my way to work, I would stop by the Mobil station to grab a drink. But, boy did I I get so much more. Carmen somehow saw right through me, and her empathy made me feel welcome and safe. Her kindness breaks through the plexiglass as she makes every customer feel like a friend. Her warm hug is so welcome when I feel down, and her easy laugh can start my day off on the right foot. We have shared a holiday meal together, and I was honored to assist her daughter with some edits to her college essay. I had always assumed that I was Carmen’s “favorite” customer. But, I now know I am only one of many. Nearly everyone who stops by the Mobil station on University Avenue benefits from Carmen’s incredible kindness. Why would we go anywhere else for gas?!

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Bernie Peyton – Jan. Winner

Nominator said: “Bernie because he is a very generous and kind man. For the last 10 years, Bernie has volunteered his Thursday morning doing origami at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Bernie has worked with the sick children as well as with the siblings and parents. He supplies all the paper. He recently published a second book and in the book are pictures of the origami hats that he made for the kids who need them.  According to Bernie’s wife, Thursday is the best day of the week for him. He is patient and brings smiles and laughter to the children. It is my pleasure to know him as a friend and neighbor.

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Alisa Jackson, Dec. Winner

Alisa Jackson was our December winner. Her nominator said: “Alisa is known for her random acts of kindness, especially for the homeless. She takes her personal finances and prepares meals, purchases blankets for those she sees sleeping in doorways. She also is passionate about helping youth and runs a non-profit teaching financial literacy and gives school supplies to those she identifies as at risk and underserved. She stays prepared to offer a smile, a hug or even a sandwich to share with someone who may be hungry. Alisa is pictured here next to former award finalist, Ed Monroe. Ed is an artist/muralist who focuses on art representing the disabled.”

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Michele Williams, Nov. Winner

Michele Williams was our November winner. Her nominator said: “My child has special needs and, as a result, has almost no friends. But the one friend who reaches out every other month to get together is his 3rd grade teacher, from 4 years back. With kids of her own and all week spent teaching other children in BUSD, she still regularly asks my child for a Peets meet-up to hear how he is doing and catch up. Knowing his love of WW2 history, she has brought him books her elderly father finds around town. They also share a love of elephants and Peets lemon bars. He glows when he hears that Ms. Williams wants to meet for their impromptu chats. We are humbled by her thoughts of him and dedication to a kid that needs a little friendship.”

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