Small Idea Has Big Effect

By John Swartz

Cast a stone and water ripples outward until the wave hits something, then it just changes direction and keeps going. That’s the theory behind Ripple of Kindness (ROK). Amber McGarvey and Raquel Ness started a chapter in Orillia this year. They are organizing the third social event at the Leacock Museum August 27 and they are finding the waves keep generating.

“Our hope was to have 50 members by the time we made our first donation,” said McGarvey.

She heard about the concept while working at RVH in Barrie where the movement was launched.

“I loved the idea. We sat down for lunch and she explained it to me and it just made so much sense,” said Ness.

The idea is about strength in numbers. Donating serious money to a charity is so much easier when it’s not just you doing the giving. And like the Revlon commercial of old, two friends tell two friends, who tell two friends, and soon you are not only reaching for the remote to turn down the volume, but you have enough people together to pool money into one large donation.

So they began networking to get other women together for a night out with the purpose of A) finding a charity to support, and then B) commit $200 twice a year to make a donation to a charity in the Ripple of Kindness name. They meet twice a year to do part one, and twice a year for part two.

They have their first meeting, which they call a nomination social, last February at the Orillia Museum of Art and History. The giving social, where the plastic cards and chequebooks come out happened at the end of May. In between the two dates ROK members vote online from a list of nominees and the highest tally gets all the money. Both were surprised with how the idea caught on.

“We had 91 members, which meant our donation was around $18,000,” said McGarvey. Before they could present the proverbial cheque to the winners of the poll, Mariposa House Hospice, something happened.

“By the time Raquel and I got up there to present to Dr. (Erika) Catford and Dr. Si Lowry we announced we hit 100 members,” said McGarvey. The next day two more women joined, making the donation $20,400.

“That money will be used to purchase 2 patient beds at the first residential hospice in Orillia,” said McGarvey.

“The cool thing about Ripple is that there is no way unless I win the lottery any time soon I can walk into an organization I am passionate about in my community and say here’s a cheque for $20,400.”

“Four hundred dollars a year ($200 x 2) is a lot of dough in my world, but then we are giving this big gift and you can see that is significant,” said Ness, who also remarked she gets donation requests all the time while shopping, or for raffle tickets, and etc. and doesn’t really get a sense of what her donation does. This way she can point to something and say she had a hand in it. “I could never have done that on my own by any means.”

And they were hoping to get more people to join their cause.

“We were excited if we hit the 50 member mark, thinking – could you imagine if our first donation was $10,000!” said McGarvey.

“I was positive that anybody we told and explained the concept that they would be all for it because it’s just a win-win. It’s obvious, it makes a ton of sense,” said Ness. “That was actually the response. I definitely didn’t anticipate the level of growth we experienced so quickly, that I find mind blowing. It really attests to the kind of community we have. We’re huge community supporters,”

So what do all the women do at a two hour meeting that could take place in 15 minutes?

“We just meet. We literally have wine and cheese,” said McGarvey. There’s actually entertainment planned and this time a demonstration class, if you will, by yoga instructor Jennie-May Banks. “We’re at old Brewery Bay, the Leacock Museum grounds. We‘ll be on the lawn outside.”

This conjures up a vision of aliens guiding their spacecraft precisely over the Leacock grounds as their point of first contact, seeing more than 100 women spread out on the lawn, bent out of shape, humming ummmmmmmmmmmm and wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into.

“It will be more a mindfulness yoga exercise for those who don’t partake in Yoga like me. It’s more like relaxing poses anyone can do,” said McGarvey. The socials are where discussion starts about nominating charities. There were 12 others nominated in the first round who will stay on the list for a year, but McGarvey and Ness are sure others will be added on Tuesday and the days following before the online poll is set up.

They found sponsors to cover the cost of food, wine and other day-of items, but so far they have paid for a number of things, like liquor licensing and other administrative and promotional  expenses themselves. They were so excited to get the first event in February off the ground they forgot to put out what they call a Toonie Jar to help with those costs. They say they aren’t going to forget this time. They also have made up things like tote bags with the ROK logo printed on them to sell to help cover costs.

People don’t have to sign on to ROK to attend if they are not sure of what the commitment entails, but just want to find out more.

“Any person can come as a guest. There’s no cost to it, there’s no pressure, we’re not sales people,” said McGarvey.

“We are not feeding people dinner, 100% of your $200 donation goes directly to the organization.”

To help spread the word for the event next week, they created a poster, which kind of looks like what you’d see at the grocery store when people are trying to sell something, with tear off strips to take along, except it’s not a phone number on the tear off part.

‘It’s not just the money, it’s what else can we do. We hung up these posters that say take what you need,” said McGarvey.  So you can tear off a strip and take some Strength with you because that’s what is printed on the strip, or Kindness, or Passion, or Hope, etc.

“We try to inspire kindness all year long,” said Ness.

They also came up with a side project to go with the social.

“(Daughters) Coral and Jade and I, we collected some back to school items and brought them to the food bank a few weeks ago,” said McGarvey. “A lot of kids don’t have access to those things.”

Lucia McGarvey with collected back to school supply donations at
The Shadowbox

“We’re not asking people for money at this social, why we don’t put it out to our members, anyone that is able to, bring toiletries or back to school supplies for kids and we’ll drop them off at the Youth Centre, we’ll drop them off at the food bank?”

Already they have collected many bags full of school supplies from people who are members but can’t be at the event Tuesday.

They are hoping to have 100 people attend on Tuesday and both are pleased that their effort is inspiring people in other communities too.

“We were inspired by the Barrie chapter, so the ripple rippled to the Orillia chapter. Now someone that didn’t know Barrie had a chapter, they reached out to us and they decided to open a chapter in Muskoka,” said McGarvey. “And now there’s a chapter opening in London and they’ve talked about a couple in Toronto, which haven’t started yet.”

It’s a bit of optimism to do good in a serious, yet casual way, and it seems to be working, and in ways not originally thought of.

“Unfortunately in the world we live in right now there’s so much negativity we hear about, we’re just trying to make it a little more joyous,” said Raquel.

People can visit their Facebook page to find out more and to indicate you will attend.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main – Raquel Ness, Amber McGarvey and daughter Jade.


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