Personal project becomes a community campaign

January 5, 2013

Shown (from left to right) are Justin Wilburn with the Sweetwater Jaycees, Ashley Funderburg, and Heather Gesin with her husband Matt. Through Heather's desire to pay it forward and assistance from the Jaycees, over 1000 canned food items were donated to local organizations in Sweetwater this past holiday season.

For many people, their birthday celebration allows friends and family an opportunity to celebrate their life. But for one local, her 35th birthday gave her a chance to give back to the community.
Heather Gesin got an idea to take part in thirty-five random acts of kindness a month before her birthday from Pinterest, the social media site that shares recipes, crafts and other ideas among friends and followers.
"My immediate thought was 'I can do that'," she explained, "and so it began. I prayed every morning that God would give me the opportunity to do an act and some days more than one opportunity would present itself."
Some acts of service were physical, like taking doughnuts to the local radio station or paying for the person's drink behind her at Sonic. Others were verbal, like paying compliments to complete strangers.
Leading up to her birthday party on Friday, November 16--in which a party was always part of her celebration plans, Gesin decided that her simple gathering could be taken up a notch to make it a fundraiser. And after discussing it over with some of her friends, her 35th and final act of kindness would be a canned food drive.
Among her supporters in her plan were the Sweetwater Jaycees and one of its members, Justin Wilburn. Gesin's party was held at the Jaycee Barn, where guests had to bring one canned good to enter. But, if they wanted to enter to win a door prize, each guest had to bring five cans.
Gesin donated a door prize herself, but as she told other people of her plan, they began to donate door prizes as well. Among the donors were Annie Miles--a Scentsy gift bag, Annie's husband Matt--a hand-made leather bracelet, Lindsey Reyes (a Licensed Massage Therapist)--a 30 minute massage, Janice Boil (Bee's DĂ©cor)--a $35 gift certificate, Aroma's Casual Bistro--a cake, Jennifer Hawkins (The Flower Box)--a gift bag, and Jan Pridemore (Bahlman Cleaners)--a $30 gift certificate.
In addition, the Sweetwater Jaycees donated a gift package, and Gesin's two aunts also donated door prizes. Terri Golden, who is also the manager at World Finance, donated a gift bag, and Beebie Palafox donated a Thanksgiving gift basket.
Gesin accumulated so many door prizes that drawings were held every 30 minutes at the party. But outside of the continued spirit of giving by the donors, the guests at the party outdid themselves with their own donations.
"I can simply not begin to express how happy my heart is and has been since this experience," she elated. "I am so incredibly humbled by it all and honestly had so much fun in the process."
Gesin said that by the end of the night, 902 cans were collected. At the end of the weekend, 1,010 cans of food were donated.
And Gesin's humility is evident, as she gives the credit to those around her for the success of the event.
"I have the most amazing people in my life and would not have been able to do this without them. I am blessed beyond measure and so incredibly grateful for it all."
She is thankful to those who supported her by celebrating her birthday, her friends--"the best friends a girl could ask for", her mother and sisters, her other parents--her husband's parents, the rest of her family, the people in the community who believed in her cause and donated door prizes, the Sweetwater Jaycees, and her husband Matt--who she says helps all of her "crazy ideas" come to life.
Gesin shared that all of the canned goods were donated by the Sweetwater Jaycees to two different organizations, the Goodfellows and First United Methodist Church. Her initial 35 acts of kindness might be completed, but with the outpouring of support from her friends, Gesin's spirit of giving is sure to impact many throughout the community in the weeks and months to come.

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