A random act of kindness goes a long way

Courtesy of Anthony Peterson

One lucky ARK recipient holds up an "ARK" sticker after having coffee paid for in Stark.

Alyssa Stencavage, L&A&E Editor

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Have you ever thought about how a simple gesture could completely change the course of someone’s day? A group of senior business majors at Wilkes has been putting that concept into practice through a club they initiated called Acts of Random Kindness.

As a way to make a lasting impression on the Wilkes community as they come to the end of their college years, President of ARK Anthony Peterson, Vice President Joshua Rodriguez, Treasurer Mark Vancosky and Secretary Cy Shickora said they had the idea of spreading kindness and wanted to do something to put themselves out there.

What better way to do it than through a club like ARK- one that takes little effort and reaches audiences wide and far.

Peterson said he was the official initiator of the club, which came into existence last year, but he won’t forget the friends who helped him along.

“I sent out emails to professors and got in contact with the right people,” Peterson said. “I knew that these three guys would be behind me as well.”

ARK’s mission statement reads: “to come together with the students throughout Wilkes to create Acts of Random Kindness. Each act will aid Wilkes students, faculty, or staff in a positive way. We also strive to maintain a professional image and plan to interact with professional companies throughout the community. Members will learn how to interact in a professional manner with the public and also have an opportunity to network and impact peoples’ lives.” It’s obvious these members are getting to something.

Members have done a multitude of things following the ARK ways.

One of the largest acts so far happened on a small road off of River Street, a road known to be one of the biggest areas of crime and drug movement in Wilkes-Barre. With tools and other supplies provided to them, members took to the area filled with tons of illegally dumped garbage, including couches and mattresses. Over 12 people helped repair the road and clean up trash. ARK members are still in the process of getting the road paved and expect to get more done.

Peterson said taking the time to do this meant a lot to some in the community who were unsure of how to get this cleanup started, or who to contact about it.

“They really appreciate what we are doing,” he said. “It means a lot.”

Even when the group encountered issues with the township, it picked up and found a way to get the task done.

Other acts of random kindness have occurred on and within the Wilkes campus.

Last year ARK members joined with McCarthy flowers to bring their efforts here, ordering 50 carnations and delivering to staff members throughout the Student Union Building and UCOM as a way to show their gratitude for the work the staff does on a daily basis. Two people in the SUB proclaimed the impact it had on them, one man expressing happiness that he would have a flower to take to his wife suffering at home and another woman crying in appreciation of the gesture.

“Everyone was so happy and told us it made their day,” Peterson said. “They said they knew we appreciate what they do, but never this much.”

ARK also decided to spend some time distributing free hugs to anyone on campus. It was during this time that ARK teamed up with BACCHUS after hearing about its ideas from a BACCHUS member, and handed out free coffee and hot chocolate.

“We were more than happy to meet up with them,” Peterson said.

ARK’s generosity came through again when the club paid for several peoples’ coffee in Stark. After being informed that their order had been taken care of, these lucky recipients were then given an oval-shaped ARK sticker, reading “acts of random kindness” on the top and “make a difference” at the bottom.

Another small, but powerful act involved words on paper. These members said they put post-it notes with inspirational words all over campus.

Members said the concept behind some of the bigger events is to try to incorporate a smaller business in the area who might be in need of some help. They call it a “pay it forward” notion.

“Our club is based a lot around the idea where we help someone and later that person helps another person,” Peterson said. “We don’t ask for much in return, just to spread the kindness. We hope that it’s like a chain reaction, someone sees us doing it and then later they spread kindness. We hope that by showing that we care for others, they can later help a customer of their own. For instance, when we got the carnations from McCarthy flowers, I told the owner the concept of what we were doing and he said he loved it and took a sticker to put on his car.”

And that is what they’re after – to turn their efforts into a domino effect, so every day their purpose shines through.

“We want to be random and make a difference, and hopefully get others to see that,” Peterson said. “We want to motivate others to do it. It’s starting to spread.”

“Change the world with one act of random kindness at a time,” Vancosky said.

As reflected in the club’s mission statement, working with larger companies in the community allows ARK members to get a taste of the real world in the process, by interacting with companies and doing some planning. Members also see the open nature of the club as something special, in terms of having options rather than dictating assignments.

“All members get hands-on experience,” Rodriquez said. “What’s good about it is that in the real world, you gave to go out and get it rather than have the comfort of a higher-up telling you what to do.”

ARK also collaborates with a variety of other clubs on campus for fundraising efforts, helping whoever asks for it.

“We have an event and split the profits to make both of our clubs better,” Peterson said. “Whoever needs help, we’re open arms to helping.”

ARK even puts its own little twist on these fundraisers. One such event coming up, for example, is Dancing with the Stars. Partnering with the dance team, the club is worked to set up a dance in which students and a dance member competed against one another.

More importantly, these acts are not exactly planned.

“To generate acts, it’s off the top of our heads,” Peterson said.

Someone comes up with an act and it goes through all members for approval as well as to ensure an impact on someone’s day.

Fundraisers aren’t the only thing ARK gets creative with. Some may think that a title such as Random Acts of Kindness might be more appropriate, and there is a national organization called randomactsofkindness.org. However, ARK members decided to make their club a spinoff of the larger one that exists for the very same reason — and interestingly enough, this club at Wilkes is the only one with the name of ARK. If one were to visit the site, he or she would find ARK at the top of the list of organizations like it. Not only is ARK the only one with this name, it seems to be the only club of its kind in the region.

Regardless of the title, these acts of random kindness seem to gain a lot of popularity wherever they’re found.

“There’s a lot of interaction and attention throughout the entire country when you go to the site,” Rodriguez said.

But where does the name come from, one might ask?

ARK members credit their inspiration to the movie Evan Almighty, which basically sends the message that one act can change someone’s life – and so is their goal.

One major distinction that sets ARK apart from just about every other club on campus is that members don’t accept or operate on any funding from Student Government. Rather, the money comes from anonymous investors like alumni and professors who make donations. Although most ARK acts don’t require money, when it is needed, members know it’s there.

“That’s a big thing that makes a real difference,” Vancosky said.

This recently-formed organization wants to hear what others have to say.

“One of the main things we want is feedback,” Peterson said. “We want to know how much of an impact we have made for people, and want people to tell us the stories they have experienced with us. This will help us for our future events.”

Even those off campus are touched by the small performances ARK initiates.

“When Anthony told us this summer he wanted to start the ARK club, little did we know it would be such a hit,” Peterson’s mom Kim Peterson said. “ARK started as a thought over the summer and now it’s a reality. The donations the club has received have been put to great use. It is so nice to see that the club has helped out the community as well as brighten up the days of students, with hot coffee, hand warmers or just a hug. I am sure the success of this club will go on forever at Wilkes University with a great group of students, faculty and staff who do the right thing.”

To share with ARK, it’s as simple as sending an email to ARK.wilkes.edu.

It doesn’t take much to implement this kind of work, and at some point or another, everyone can use a simple gesture to brighten their day. To help facilitate the process, ARK members offer some words of advice.

“A lot of students want to make a difference and want to help, but they don’t know how,” Peterson said. “We’re here to provide that opportunity. We want to have a twist and make it out of the box — that no one has seen before, impact someone’s day and make that difference. Little things do matter and can impact someone’s day, whether it be holding a door, giving carnations, smiling as someone passes.”

“You don’t need to always get something in return,” Shickora said. “I love the club because I don’t want anything in return, just to know that I made a difference to someone.”

Peterson said he’s heard of instances where this ideas has been proven to be true.

Perhaps ARK is also about learning to overcome obstacles, gracefully.

“Don’t be discouraged about peoples’ doubts or people not following up with their word,” Rodriguez said. “You can’t be discouraged. If people say you’re not going to be able to do things, prove them wrong, and when you do prove them wrong, stay humble about it.”

There seems to be an increasing number of people recognizing the importance of this kind of club.

“Every time we do an act, more people catch on to the idea of the ARK and ask if they can join,” Peterson said. “We add members every act we do.”

Sometimes the thought and impact that an act has on someone means more than the act performed, which reflects the beliefs held by ARK.

Peterson said the brainstorming process is still underway, but that ARK’s goal for the semester is to double the amount of acts from last semester, reaching into the community.

These acts of random kindness are a simple start for a better future. Let’s all make the best of what lies ahead.

To join ARK, contact Peterson at anthony.peterson@wilkes.edu.

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