The pandemic put the breaks on for over a year.
We have had several very successful events and have several more in the offing. Unfortunately the pandemic has put a temporary stop to this activity but we hope to be active again soon. Here are the events we have had up to this point:
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Con was the last pilot to escape after the fall of Viet Nam. He was a South Vietnamese helicopter pilot who was a part of the King Bees that were responsible for saving many stranded and wounded soldiers during the war.
In his last flight out he carried out the heroic act of saving his family and 80 women and children from a remote island and landing them on the USS Okinawa under extremely difficult conditions.
It was an honor to acknowledge Con for his kind, brave act as well as his wife, Linda. They currently reside in the Village of Marsh Bend.
Marie is the Founder and CEO of Villagers for Veterans. She works tirelessly in her quest to help veterans in need in our area.
She was instrumental in raising funds to provide a home for SGT Pam Kelly, a paralyzed Veteran, in Orange Blossom Gardens, has raised funds for training service dogs for Vets, orchestrates fundraisers for Christmas celebrations for children of veterans living in the Ocala Forest, and much more. She was the main driving force for Ashley’s House, an all-female veteran transition home which will open soon in Eustis, Florida.
Ten of us showed up at her Bingo fundraiser at the Wildwood Community Center to honor her for her exceptional kindness with over 200 in attendance. A special thanks to Judy Samuelson for her help.
Our Membership chair, Carol Cholette, wrote the following about this nominee and we had a wonderful surprise celebration during the gathering of their social group.
Our neighborhood of Hemingway already was a very social and friendly group. However after a few years those who had been doing things wanted to pass the torch. Mary took over and coordinated 4 major socials a year. She then added many more such as Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day and Christmas. She started a bocce league, thrift day, rummikub and Samba days and monthly game night, neighborhood garage sale and several trips including bus to New Orleans 2 years ago. She sends out reminders and reserves necessary equipment etc.
Mary also has soup or pasta ready for anyone that is sick. She also visits anyone in the hospital and regularly visits a neighbor in a nursing home and gives us a report on how she is doing.
Mary also volunteers at Our Mothers Attic and as an usher at the Savannah Center.
She is not representing a large or major group but I think she is deserving as a person who has never met a stranger and truly lives each day with kindness for others.
Mary sent us this note the following day: Hello. My name is Mary Christopher and I was acknowledged by your amazing group last night at our (Between the Loops Social). I cannot thank you enough, my heart is always filled with love but it truly ran over last night. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have been blessed one thousand fold.
Barbara is active with Boomer Loomers - a club that has been making hats, scarves, blankets and more for over 5 years. Barbara volunteered to not only make hats and scarves but also to distribute them to various homeless groups.
She is very involved in Trades of Hope - an organization that empowers women to escape sex trafficking and bondage. Over the last two years she has provided bicycles for children to ride to school so they can escape kidnappers, delivery kits for pregnant women to take to the hospital with them, fruit trees and chickens to provide a source of food, and these are just a few of her accomplishments.
Barbara also volunteers time to help WUMC with their Matthew 25 ministry that gives clothing to people in the area. She has also gone to Ocala to pass out Blessing Bags to the homeless people there.
We had a very exciting AAOK event and our first to take place outside of The Villages bubble.
We acknowledged 2 people who were instrumental in the building of a ‘Tiny Home’ along with 50 youths from the Arnette House, a home for troubled youths in Ocala. The event took place at The Veteran’s Park in Ocala and was absolutely wonderful! Our acknowledgement was included in the agenda along with the Mayor of Ocala, State Senator Baxley and other dignitaries. After all the speeches the bus covering the tiny home was moved and the keys presented to a deserving veteran. The Mayor suggested that they should have a club like ours in Ocala.
Our thanks to Jen Smith for helping make all this happen and to Jean Collier and Margaret, Bob Wolfe,
David Ulloa and Denise Paradis for being a part of the event. Lots of cards were handed out to those attending, including the youths that help build the house.
We acknowledged Gene Murray of the Village of Pennecamp for the extraordinary kindness he has shown helping neighbors wherever and whenever needed.
He was instrumental in starting the Neighbors Saving Neighbors AED program in his neighborhood and continues to run it smoothly. Gene is always the first to offer help to someone in need, and often knows when someone needs a helping hand before they do. Several members of our club surprised Gene at an AED meeting in his home and presented him with a Certificate of Kindness, a restaurant gift certificate, and a signed copy of “Kindness Rocks!”. Jen Smith donated a red,white,and blue blanket made by Abundance of Love. We thank Judy Samuelson for nominating Gene and helping to orchestrate the event and Jean Collier, Jeri Frazer, and Jen Smith for their help.
Marguerite works tirelessly for Villages Honor Flights and handles all the food needs single handedly. She is active with the Tri-County Lady Vets in their effort to arrange a woman-only Honor Flight to Washington, DC.
MONDAY MAY 3, 2021 - SPECIAL RECOGNITION FOR HER KINDNESS
We had the pleasure of acknowledging a truly amazing lady, Marguerite Desbrow. She is the main contributor for Villagers for Veterans and has been instrumental in the house project for veteran Pam.
Marguerite recently taken on projects to assist The Marion Military Academy in Ocala and is the coordinator of the Flags for Vets Ceremony at the Florida National Cemetery on Memorial Day.
Many of Marguerite's friends were there to add their positive comments to include Gary Kadow, Chairman of Save Our Soldiers (SOS). Marguerite is one of the most truly deserving candidates we have ever honored. Bravo!
Gary was honored for the kindness that he has shown his neighbors, especially at the neighborhood meeting with 200 attendees. Gary is retired Air Force NCO who has been helping people in his community with housing maintenance issues, free of charge. Very generous man...
Gary has given roses to approximately 20 windows in his community. Sadly, Gary lost his wife of many years, however, he continues to give back to the community. Also, he is actively involved in the Veterans Community.
At our October 2020 meeting our President, Lindsay Collier, presented a 'Certificate of Kindness' to Jen Smith. Jen spends countless hours spreading kindness through her many activities.
For years she spearheaded several Angel Snugs groups and her latest is a new club called Abundance of Love.This consists of several groups of volunteers who craft items for those in need.
Jen is also the Treasurer of our club, lead a successful fundraiser and is working on our next event, January 2021.
Dave and Lois Walker of Avon Loop in the Village of Bonnybrook received a Certificate of Kindness from AAOK Club member, Bonnie Mulneix, for hosting a driveway concert to benefit the performers of the Johnny Wild Band. Johnny and the girls entertained for over an hour even though rain clouds loomed overhead. Due to the weather, the attendance and monetary donations were not what was expected. Because of this the Walkers matched the donations making this a successful event for the band.
Double kudos to the Walkers for their two Acts of Kindness.
Our first Certificate of Kindness was given Anne Sheehan from Dayton, Ohio. Anne and her husband , Terry, rent in The Villages in March and April, and in 2019 learned about our club. She was very excited about what we do and asked us if she could start a club in her home town of Dayton, Ohio. She has done an amazing job in getting over 40,000 kindness cards out to schools and organizations in the Dayton area and letting everyone know about us through the media.
We honored Laurie and Carl Pearson, The Villages of Tall Trees, for the incredible kindness they have shown in their church’s ‘Helping Hands Program’ and their acts of kindness in neighborhood and beyond.
Laurie and Carl are truly amazing people with a very long list of how they help others. The surprise event was carried out at the New Covenant Methodist Church and over 25 people joined us, many who gave their own testimonials (including the minister). After the event Laurie gave us all a hug and said “this was the best day of my life!”. It doesn’t get much better than that!
The kindness displayed by Vicki and Charlie Yates with their neighbors in The Village of Dunedin is extraordinary. Vicki is involved in scheduling all neighborhood events and goes out her way to helping anyone. She always knows when someone needs help and brings her kindness to them. Charlie is always helping people in the neighborhood. He also keeps track of everyone’s birthdays, and places candles on their lawns to help celebrate.
Our celebration took place at Eden Prairie Golf Club at a luncheon following their play. Our member, LaRae Donnellan, did an amazing job of planning this event! It was a total surprise to them and many of their neighbors showed up to give their personal testimonials. A wonderful event!
Amy heads up a group called “Boomer Loomers“. This group hand makes crafts for an amazing number of charitable organizations. And this is only one of many ways Amy and her husband spread kindness in our community.
One of our club members, Jen Smith, did a tremendous job in arranging the event which was a total surprise to Amy (her husband, Anthony, was in on it). We had a contingent of club members (complete with their Kindness Rocks T-Shirts) enter her room at the Fishhawk Recreation Center to the tune of “Celebration”.
Club President, Lindsay Collier, then presented Amy with a dozen roses and other gifts and explained to those in the room (about 30 Boomer Loomers) what the club is all about. Each of those in the room was given our “Thank You” cards for the part they play in spreading kindness.
Our founder, Joe Santoro, had a few words to say, and then took Amy dancing around the room to the music of “Dancing Queen”. At one point her husband gave Amy a tissue to wipe a tear from her eye. Chardell Kern, one of our members, later told me that sight will be etched into her memory.
Today we formally acknowledged Marie Andersen who is known as the Acquisition and Distribution Diva in The Villages.
She works tirelessly to gather and distribute goods to those in need – a truly remarkable woman and an amazing example of kindness.
We presented her with our “thank you for your kindness card” along with a dozen roses and a gift certificate to help her acquire more goods for those in need.
Our founder, Joe Santoro, actually gave her his Kindness T-Shirt off his back.
This was our first formal acknowledgement. One of our club members invited her to her home for lunch and we pulled off a surprise “Publisher’s Clearing House” type of appearance. It was quite exciting and she was quite taken back.