Monroe community volunteer launches Kindness Club at Frank Wagner Elementary


Extracurricular clubs can give elementary students the opportunity to learn specific skills like hiking or robotics, but in the Frank Wagner Elementary School Kindness Club, kids are learning how to be better human beings.

The Kindness Club is an eight-week series for kids in second to fifth grade that meets 3:30-4:15 p.m. every Wednesday at Frank Wagner. It was founded by Monroe resident and community volunteer Amber Mehta, who heard about the concept during a PTA conference and decided she wanted to implement a Kindness Club in Monroe. The club has given students the opportunity to practice kindness among their classmates, learn more about other cultures and engage in local and global outreach.

"Our main goal is to have a whole kindness week at school,GÇ¥ Mehta said. "Our other main goal is to do a fundraiser.GÇ¥

Kindness Club will culminate with "Kindness Week,GÇ¥ a weeklong initiative that coincides with Martin Luther King Jr. Day from Jan. 18-22. Throughout the week, Kindness Club members will focus on performing easily accomplished acts of good will. The kids will compile a list of "kindness missions,GÇ¥ Mehta said, and spend the week seeing how many they can complete. Ideas for kindness missions include things like tying somebody's shoe or carrying their books. Some of the days might be themed, such as "compliment day,GÇ¥ or "say hi to somebody you don't know day.GÇ¥

Mehta is working with club members to develop Kindness Week based on their own ideas of what it should look like.

"I want the kids to plan the week,GÇ¥ Mehta said. "I find it's more inspiring and exciting to do things when it's my idea, and that's the way everyone is.GÇ¥

One of the kids' ideas that Mehta hopes to implement is a book about kindness that will be written by the club members at Frank Wagner Elementary School and distributed around the school once it's finished.

Kindness Club has been about more than just kindness. In addition to promoting the idea of being all-inclusive and considerate of everyone, Mehta has approached the club as an opportunity to broaden the children's understanding of different cultures. She has treated club members to authentic snacks from countries like Japan and Germany, and plans to teach them about a traditional eastern Indian festival called Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi, which celebrates love between brothers and sisters. -á -á

"I can't bring a lot of celebrations to school because a lot of them are religion-based,GÇ¥ Mehta said. "But this one is really easy.GÇ¥

The word "RakhiGÇ¥ means "a bond of protection,GÇ¥ so the celebration involves the gifting of bracelets. The tradition is not just limited to brothers and sisters; family bonds are celebrated as well, along with bonds of friendship.

In addition to encouraging kids to be kind to their classmates and exposing them to interesting foods from different countries, Mehta has also sought to lay a foundation of civic-mindedness. The group spent one afternoon cleaning up garbage outside the school, something the kids really enjoyed.

"We might do that again,GÇ¥ Mehta said. "The other thing that I wanted to do was have more community involvement.GÇ¥

Mehta did some networking to find feasible activities that might work for the kids, reaching out to the Monroe Chamber of Commerce to find out about a downtown Monroe cleanup event that has been taken over by the Downtown Monroe Association. She encouraged the kids to attend the DMA's Christmas caroling event on Dec. 12, printed out music and walked through downtown Monroe singing Christmas carols.

She also has made arrangements for the kids to visit a nursing home and volunteer at one of the Take the Next Step (TTNS) community dinners held every Tuesday.-á -á -á

Many service organizations and local businesses volunteer to provide food and serve during the free weekly dinners, including Walmart and the Monroe Rotary Club. Mehta was concerned about burdening her children's families, so she decided to fund the majority of the dinner herself. It doesn't make any difference to her if the kids' families are unable to purchase food for the event, she said; it's the act of volunteerism she wants them to experience.

"I'll bring all the hot dishes,GÇ¥ Mehta said. "As long as they're there to serve.GÇ¥

In addition to local outreach, Mehta's club members will strive to make a global impact through Heifer International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending hunger and poverty around the world. Through Heifer, donors can support families in developing countries by gifting livestock, such as goats, pigs or sheep, or designate funding for clean water or a stove.

They read a children's book about Heifer called "Beatrice's Goat,GÇ¥ which tells the story of how a young African girl's life was transformed through the gift of one goat.-á

"The kids think that's really cool,GÇ¥ Mehta said.

In order to raise funds, Mehta is coordinating a movie night that will take place at the school 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8. The movie is "Earth to Echo,GÇ¥ and pizza, popcorn, soda and candy will be available. Entry is free, but donations will be accepted during the movie event and food is available for purchase.

The Kindness Club also will accept donations during Frank Wagner Elementary School's upcoming Family Literacy Night, 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20. The club will have a booth during the event with a donation jar, and families are welcome to drop by to learn more about the club. Funds raised during both events will help support the club's charity work through Heifer.

This year, the club has been largely funded by Mehta, along with a small allotment of funds from the Frank Wagner Elementary School PTA. Her inaugural Kindness Club series is slated for completion at the end of Kindness Week, after which Mehta plans on running the club again for kids in kindergarten and first grade. Participants receive a Kindness Club T-shirt, and are encouraged to be kindness ambassadors even when they're not in the club.

"It's worked out pretty good,GÇ¥ Mehta said.-á

Mehta is a community health care worker living in Monroe with her husband, Vijay, and son, Wesley. In addition to being the director of the Monroe Cold Weather Alliance, Mehta is a part of the Monroe Community Coalition and leads the Frank Wagner Elementary School LEGO Club.

For more information about Frank Wagner Elementary School, visit

Photo courtesy of Amber Mehta Kindness Club members Nella Sauceda, 7, Gabby Sauceda, 6, Tanisha Segran, 8, and Wesley Mehta, 7, pose in front of Frank Wagner Elementary School.


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