Rochester volunteer inspires in 50 unique ways
Salvation Army volunteer Kris Ihrke (pictured at top, wearing teal blue shirt) didn’t want cards or presents for her 50th birthday. Instead, the resident of Rochester, Minn. wanted her friends and family to celebrate by performing 50 random acts of kindness (RAOK).
In the weeks leading up to her birthday on April 23, Ihrke came up with 50 ideas for RAOKs and posted them to her Facebook page. Examples included:
- Dropping money into parking meters downtown.
- Sending flowers to strangers.
- Delivering homemade baked goods to local charities.
- Donating new socks and underwear to children in need.
Ihrke’s friends and family answered her call. They began to perform the RAOKs, and after they’d completed one, they wrote a Facebook post to confirm it.
Ihrke says she cried every time somebody completed a new RAOK.
“I’ve never had a birthday where I didn’t unwrap a gift, but this year really has been the best birthday of my life,” Ihrke said. “I didn’t intend to draw any attention to myself; I just wanted to do something good for other people on my birthday.”
She performed her own RAOK by serving hot dinners to dozens of people in need at the Rochester Salvation Army on Monday, April 23.
“I thought that serving a meal on the actual day of my birthday would be the pièce de résistance of the whole project,” Ihrke said.
She was joined by three family members and five other volunteers. In addition to serving food, her group brought cupcakes and ice cream for every person who came for a meal.
During the meal, something incredible happened: while Ihrke and her family were dishing-up food, the people they were serving began to sing happy birthday.
“It meant so much that they celebrated with me – these people whose lives are so hard, and who probably don’t always get the opportunity to celebrate their own birthdays,” Ihrke said.
Just as incredible, Ihrke’s challenge has created a ripple effect. She recently learned that a man she knows has challenged his own friends and family to complete 35 RAOKs in honor of his 35th birthday. Ihrke plans to respond by donating 35 food items to people in need.
Ihrke encourages everybody to help others in their community because doing so spreads joy.
“It took me 50 years to realized how blessed I am,” she said. “There is a (volunteer) opportunity for everybody.”
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