Kindness Stories

Prior Chris Kindness Award Winners

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March Winner

Ms. Sophina is a pillar in the Berkeley community, specifically at Sylvia Mendez Elementary (SM) and Longfellow Middle School (LF) where her three beautiful daughters attend, and Berkeley Technology Academy where she is a guidance counselor. Ms. Sophina has volunteered her time for eight-plus years as the parent lead for the affinity group Parents of Children of African Descent. She has been a leader and the glue for our African American and Black families who attend the only bilingual public schools in Berkeley. She has created spaces for our children to engage, find support, and be celebrated. She hosts the Black Joy Club, Black Graduation, the annual Kwanza celebration, and the SM Talent Show. She has recently taken on the role of the LF cheerleader teacher to bring middle school girls together daily to find new talents and gain lifelong skills. Ms. Sophina spearheaded a trip for six African American students from SM, LF, and Berkeley High to Costa Rica this spring. She worked tirelessly to raise over $25k because she has a dream of giving African American students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the language and culture and create life-long memories. She wants this trip to be the first of many opportunities for students at Berkeley Unified in the Spanish Immersion program to get excited about the opportunity to learn Spanish language and culture. She believes so strongly in the Berkeley community. She is sought after by kids and parents for hugs, love, and support daily.

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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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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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