Originally printed in the The Bristol Press
PLYMOUTH — And the first Kindness Key goes to … Vickie Zalaski.
Mayor David Merchant gave out the first key of the Keys for Kindness campaign, organized by the People Empowering People (PEP) class, at the “Kindness Hour” launch at Town Hall recently.
The mission of Keys for Kindness is “to promote kindness, inspire people to recognize its contagious benefits and power to make a difference in people’s lives, and to strengthen our community in a positive way,” according to Donna Koser.
Koser is a member of the PEP class, along with Jennifer Yezierski, Jennifer DeForest, Heather MacAulay, Vianna Hartley and Tanya Long.
The group collected discarded keys and put them on necklaces. Each person who receives one for a kind act is asked to pay it forward to someone else they see doing a kind act.
Merchant said that when he was asked to give out the first key he thought of a number of deserving people but he had to narrow it down to one.
“So I chose somebody that I’ve know for quite a few years,” he said. “She lives over at Eli Terry [senior housing], she’s been in town for over 50 years, she serves on our Human Services Commission, works with the food pantry, is a trustee in the church.”
“But more than all those things, she is a good person, she is a kind person,” Merchant said of Zalaski. “Wherever you go she is helping somebody.”
“I’m very humbled,” said Zalaski, upon receiving the key. “I never expected anything like this. Thank you very much, I will pass it on to the very next person.”
PEP is a free 10-week training program, offered in partnership with the Plymouth Family Resource Center (FRC), the United Way of West Central Connecticut and the University of Connecticut.
The course trains parents in how to advocate for themselves and for children, how schools work, how to approach legislators, etc., said Lori Borysewicz, FRC coordinator.
At the end the participants have to come up with a community project to work on, she said. This group came up with Keys for Kindness and is also working with the town to get safer crossing walks on North Main Street by Fisher Elementary and Eli Terry Jr. Middle schools.
Borysewicz said previous PEP groups did a fundraiser for a local boy suffering from cancer and compiled a community resource guide.
This group came up with the idea of keys as a tribute to the Lock Museum of America on Route 6 and the old Eagle Lock Co. in town.
The current PEP group, also known as “the Peppers,” started a Facebook page for the campaign, where they hope people will post about kind acts they had done which got them a key or witnessed which for which they passed on a key.
At the Kindness Hour, the group named three people who had been helpful to the projects as “honorary Peppers” — Borysewicz, Beth Anderson from the FRC, and Linda Schnaars from the Plymouth Early Childhood Council.
They also awarded Kindness Keys to a number of other people who helped launch the kindness campaign.
The first went to Rob Carter, elementary music teacher, who played guitar and sang at the Kindness Hour. He was assisted by the Peppers children’s choir, which consisted of Katie DeForest, Luke Koser, Lucy MacAulay, Abigail Seaman, Cara Wunsch, Reba Yezierski, and Riley Yezierski.
The other keys went to: Amy McPartland, graphic designer; Charlie Wiegert, Public Works director; Charlie Doback, fire marshal; Dave Perkins, zoning/wetlands enforcement officer; Marty Sandshaw, from the Terryville Lions Club; Mark Malley, attorney; Lisa Phillimore, Plymouth Connection owner; and Nicole McWilliams, of the Plymouth Social Butterfly Facebook page.