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The butterfly effect: Catawba students spread kindness with help of Oak Park Retirement

By Amanda Raymond


If a flap of a butterfly’s wings could start a hurricane, think of what a simple act of kindness can do.

“It’s amazing how with kindness, you never know where it leads,” Karen Leonard, activities director for Oak Park Retirement said.

Catawba College students volunteered their time to help paint rooms in the Rowan Helping Ministries Ralph W. Ketner Crisis Assistance Center on Saturday as part of a butterfly effect project recently taken up by the residents of Oak Park Retirement in Salisbury.

The butterfly effect is the theory that a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world could start a hurricane on the other.

According to a CBS News article from last March, Chris Rosati, a man with ALS from Durham, decided to test the butterfly effect theory, but replace the butterfly with kindness. He gave two girls at a local diner $50 and told them to do something kind with it.

The girls ended up paying for a dinner for people in a village in Sierra Leone, West Africa, to help them celebrate being free of the Ebola virus.

The residents at Oak Park have decided to give out their own butterflies to the community.

Leonard said Catawba students have spent time with the residents at Oak Park during special events, including coming out to dance with residents during senior prom.

“(Catawba students) have just been so good to us in a number of ways, so we thought, ‘well, we’ll give them a butterfly,’” she said.

The residents decided to give $50 as a butterfly to Catawba students and $50 to students at Salisbury Academy, who have also volunteered with Oak Park.

Salisbury Academy students have helped residents plant a garden every year, and they also visit and sing to residents, Leonard said.

After meeting with Kyna Grubb, the executive director of Rowan Helping Ministries, Leonard learned that getting the walls painted was a need for the center. The center also wanted to create a breakroom for volunteers.

On Saturday, a group of resident assistants from Catawba were scattered around the crisis center building, painting walls with music playing to keep them motivated, along with paint droplets on their clothes.

Kelly Heinemann, director of housing and residential life, organized the Catawba volunteers.

“When we came here and got a tour of the facilities and what needed to be done, I felt a strong pull that I had students who could help out,” she said.

Leonard said Brien Lewis, President of Catawba College, was also supportive of the project.

Israel Suarez, a student volunteer, said he has been involved with volunteering for Rowan Helping Ministries since his freshman year.

“I just think it’s so awesome to give back to the community because we’re helped in so many ways that we don’t realize,” he said. “It’s only nice to reciprocate that for other people.”

Becky Bradford, a student volunteer, said she sees volunteer projects like this as an opportunity she wanted to take advantage of.

“I think as college students, we’re given opportunities to volunteer but then sometimes you just don’t take advantage of them,” she said. “This really gave us the advantage. It’s right in our backyard and you have no reason not to.”

Jazmin Brown, a student volunteer, said not only are they doing a good thing, but they are also having a good time.

“It’s good that we have a good group of people doing it because we’re having fun doing it,” Brown said.

Leonard said the students did not even use their butterfly money during this project. They plan to use the money to hold a fundraiser to help furnish the breakroom.

“(The Catawba students) just went above and beyond,” she said. “It’s just the caliber of students that they have at Catawba.”

Salisbury Academy students are also planning a family bingo night at Oak Park as a fundraiser for the breakroom.

Leonard said Oak Park residents try to help the community in a variety of ways and this is just one of them. She said some of the residents are not physically able to participate in community service projects, but they still want to inspire others to get involved.

The residents have started a butterfly jar to continue sending butterflies of kindness out into the community.

The residents rely on donations and raffles to raise money for the butterflies. One of the residents, Helen Wooten, donated a full-length leather coat to raffle off to raise money, Leonard said.

“What a great feeling to do a simple act of kindness that can change the world and create a ripple or butterfly effect,” Anne Hollifield, an Oak Park resident, said. “Let us flap our wings with a simple act of kindness.”

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.



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