Mayor Gary Soiseth is hoping to transform the City of Turlock into a friendlier, stronger and more welcoming community by encouraging residents of all ages to be kind to one another with his newly adopted Million Acts of Kindness campaign, which challenges citizens to complete one million altruistic deeds.
Soiseth was inspired to implement this initiative in Turlock as a result of his work in Afghanistan and visiting other communities halfway across the world as well as the influence of Mayor Tom Tait from the City of Anaheim, who issued the same challenge to his community in order to make it a “kinder, more accepting, more tolerant place.”
“The inspiration for this initiative stems from my four years in Afghanistan, which had me working in remote villages with farmers of all ages,” said Soiseth. “While I didn’t speak Pashto or Dari, I soon realized that my actions speak louder than words—and kind actions would be the key to successfully helping the Afghan people.
“Similar to my efforts overseas, I wanted to find a way to build a kinder, strong, and more welcoming community right here in Turlock. When I spoke to Mayor Tom Tait about his similar vision for Anaheim, I decided to replicate his challenge her in the Central Valley,” continued Soiseth.
Following the City Council’s adoption of the initiative earlier this month, it was introduced to the City of Turlock’s Afterschool Program, where students have demonstrated an eagerness to meet Soiseth’s challenge through engaging in various activities that define, promote and encourage kindness.
“Turlock’s Afterschool Program is a great way to reach Turlock’s young people,” said Soiseth. “It has always been about more than just recreation, it has been about creating better young citizens. While the Million Acts of Kindness Initiative is a goal for citizens of all ages, kindness is an action that is easy to understand and allows our youngest residents to be actively involved in the challenge.”
In order to be consistent with the “Million Acts of Kindness” tree logo, Recreation Supervisor Karen Packwood said that each of the 13 afterschool sites will be equipped with a kindness “tree,” wherein which students can write their acts of kindness on “leaves” and attach them.
“Kindness comes in all different forms,” said Soiseth in a video that was shown to all students in afterschool programs earlier this month. “Kindness is seeing a new student come to your school and inviting him or her to sit with you at lunch, kindness is looking for that neighbor that perhaps needs help with their yard and going over and assisting with your parents.
Additionally, Soiseth will be partnering with several ministries and organizations to further this initiative by highlighting existing efforts and identifying new opportunities for spreading kindness throughout the community.
“I’m hoping our schools, churches, non-profits, and businesses get more involved as the year progresses,” said Soiseth. “It’s my hope that these partnerships will highlight existing efforts and identify new opportunities to spread kindness throughout our community.”
Councilmember Bill DeHart voiced his approval of the initiative by offering his perspective as someone who was on the receiving end of an act of kindness when he had back surgery in September.
“One of my neighbors came to me and said, ‘hey would it be okay if my kids and their friends came over and did your yard?” said DeHart. “It’s an extremely wonderful place to be when you have neighbors who are friends and who care about you and who want to bring their kids over to clean your yard.
“So from the recipient’s perspective, it is something that is not only appreciated, but I think it further emphasizes the value of the program and I heartily endorse it."