Tokens of gratitude

How Sacred Heart inspires its students to action

CARING COINS A new project at Hollister’s Sacred Heart school highlights everyday acts of kindness. Photo: Robert Eliason

It is true, kindness doesn’t cost a thing.

But the joy it can give to others is completely priceless.

A smile to a stranger, a walker waving to passersby while taking his morning stroll, giving free cookies to a customer—these kind acts of are common occurrences often seen around Hollister.

But do you pay these kind deeds back? Sacred Heart Parish School has found a way—using “Kindness Coins.” Bags of the coins, branded with the school name and logo on one side and contact information on the other, were given to each student. Students were given coins to last the school year—10 to be exact—and were encouraged to give one coin out per month to anyone outside of the Sacred Heart community who has shown them kindness.

When a lucky recipient receives one, they’ll even see the friendly phrase: Smiles, kindness and love can change the world.

This year’s theme for the school is “Make a Mark.” Along with monthly student activities that bring grade levels together while focusing on the school’s learning expectations, Faith, Intelligence, Responsible Citizenship and Effective Communication (FIRE), the kindness coin program also supports the Make A Mark theme.

The school’s marketing and developing director Alison Comerford helped launch the creation of the coins after looking through promotional catalogues over the summer. Interestingly, it was only after deciding to place the school logo, its contact information and special saying on it that she said the idea for their distribution evolved.

The coins then became a way for students to be on the lookout for kind deeds in the community.

“Our main thing was finding acts of kindness, so we nicknamed them the ‘Kindness Coins,’” Comerford said.

Sacred Heart’s principal, Dr. Rachel McKenna, is hoping that with all that is going on in the world today, the coins will allow students to see all the good that is around them.

“The program is helping to give opportunities for students to show their kindness and make their mark,” McKenna said.

The manner in which each student has given them out, however, has been unprecedented.

Comerford said that the students were not given directions on how to hand out the coins, so she has been happily surprised with how the students have chosen to give them out.

“The kids are finding everyday acts of kindness,” she said. “Little things like getting a cookie from the cookie lady at Safeway, someone letting them in front of them in line at the store, for a babysitter. So it’s for people who are doing their normal, day to day things.”

For instance, Kayla Ferry, an eighth grader at Sacred Heart, chose to give her coin to her orthodontist at Wafelbakker Anderson Orthodontics in Hollister. With braces recently put on, the staff and doctors put her at ease and even gave her Jamba Juice gift cards.

“They have shown a lot of kindness to me and are helping me toward my journey with braces and getting a beautiful smile,” Kayla said.

Third grader, Luke Remmick, gave his kindness coin to his tutor, Liz Pereira-Markfield. She posted a comment about it on the school’s Facebook page.

“The token of kindness put a huge smile on my face. So grateful for the values and education SHPS gave my own children and continues to give to our current youth,” Pereira-Markfield wrote.

Mimi Mendolla was given a kindness coin from her grandson, sixth grader Matthew Arbizu, for teaching him how to make chicken flautas.

“My heart was so happy. I’ll treasure it forever,” she said.

Comerford’s own son, Tyler, who is a sixth grader at Sacred Heart, knew exactly who he wanted to give a coin to the day after the kindness coins were handed out.

Since moving to Hollister in December, they noticed a gentleman who would wave to all the cars on their way to school. Once they had their coins, they made a point in pulling over on their way to school the next day.

Tyler introduced himself and learned this kind gentleman’s name was Jimmy.

“Tyler explained to him about the kindness coins and said he wanted to hand him one because he always made him smile and made everyone happy. Jimmy said that is all he wants to do is to put a smile on people’s faces, especially with everything that’s going on in the world right now,” Alison said.

“Now every morning when we see him, we get to wave and say good morning to our new friend Jimmy,” she added.

But students haven’t been the only ones handing out the coins.  

The teachers, staff and parents are using them to spread the message of kindness as well.

“I, too, have enjoyed being a part of giving out the coins in the community,” said McKenna.

“I was so excited to share my first coin in our Hollister community to my realtor, who has been so incredibly helpful in my home journey. She was so touched and asked if she could pay the coin forward in her own life,” she said.

Sacred Heart teacher, Michelle Quinn-Narkin, explained on the school’s facebook page that she gave her coin to her morning crossfit class.

“They are always encouraging and helpful, which is extra hard when you are up that early!”

Sacred Heart parent, Devon Ferry, also recently gave a coin to Dave Stow after his son, Bryan Stow, came to speak at Sacred Heart Parish School on Friday.  He had the chance to speak with Dave and was struck with the kindness and love that he has shown his son.

The positive feedback regarding the coins has been received both verbally and through the school facebook page.

“We’ve heard from alumni, we’ve heard from grandparents. There was a news spot on KSBW about it, so some families saw that, locally and far away.  I heard that some family members in New Hampshire actually saw the spot, so that was kind of cool,” Comerford said.

“It’s really unfolding to be a wonderful experience for not only our students, but also for the people in the community who are getting the coins,” she added.

McKenna said that the coins are a wonderful way for the students to share in their call to follow Christ in their ministry.

“It has been a wonderful edition to give our children the empowerment to share smiles, kindness and love.”

The school hopes to continue this program in the future, or at least one similar to it. They want the students to continue to be able to recognize the community and all the great people in it.

“The greatest goal and purpose is to just pass on kindness throughout the community,” Comerford said.

“We want to make people aware that we do see the kind deeds that they’re doing, no matter how big or how small, and just thank them for it and hopefully brighten their day.”


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