GREENFIELD — Denise Waymeyer was out for ice cream with her husband one night when the couple started chatting with a friendly stranger.
That stranger told them about a group of students from an Indianapolis middle school, the same ages as those Waymeyer teaches at Greenfield Central Junior High School, who struggle to make it day to day.
Many of these students are homeless, either living in hotels or couch-surfing. The school’s nurse’s office does what it can, often giving the students snacks and toiletries every morning.
As luck would have it, the family and consumer science teacher knew just whom to call: The kindness ninjas.
It’s an affectionate nickname for the junior high’s Acts of Kindness Club, she said. Last week, those stealthy do-gooders collected hundreds of personal care items to donate to underprivileged students at an intermediate school in Indianapolis. The AOK club members met after school, putting together personal care kits for their holiday charity project.
And the whole school stood behind them: 358 sticks of deodorant were provided by the students alone. Waymeyer also reached out for help on social media.
All told, the AOK club was able to send out 25 bags filled with essentials including toothbrushes, soap and tissues. The care packages also included an encouraging note from the AOK club, wishing the recipient a good day.
The students hope giving basic essentials to those in need will help to ease some of their stress, Waymeyer said. It is hard enough being a middle-school student without having to worry about not having toothpaste or water to shower with, she added.
The organization strives to foster a feeling of community throughout the school. Club president Liv McDaniel believes this year’s holiday project achieved that goal.
“It’s important for the whole school to feel involved with this,” Liv said. “As long as it touches at least two kids, or one kid, it makes a difference.”
Club members want to reach out to others their age who are less fortunate, while reminding their peers to be thankful for their own blessings, added member Reagan Roberts.
“We think that all the kids at our school shouldn’t take stuff like this for granted,” Reagan said.
The AOK club did this project as part of their mission to think more about the other people around them and do what they can to make their lives easier, Waymeyer said.
With about 30 students who regularly attend meetings and 60 on the roster, the club has the largest membership of any other club in the school, Waymeyer said. Many join looking for a place to belong, and some are simply passionate about charitable causes.
Whatever the case, the club has an open membership policy; it is always accepting new “kindness ninjas” into the ranks.
“Some of them need a place to be,” Waymeyer said, “and some of them are here because they really want to change the world.”