One day Vikki bought a bunch of flowers and gifted it to a stranger she happened to pass in town. Just because. No strings attached. Bolstered by the fact that she left that stranger’s day a little brighter, and the hope that they may in turn pay forward the kindness they’d received, Vikki has since set up The Pay It Forward Team and now looks to spread as much joy as she can in her local community.
Vikki, mum of two from Wokingham, Berkshire, is a member of the growing #PayItForward movement. Random acts of kindness for strangers with the aim of lifting spirits, boosting morale, and hopefully encouraging others to think beyond their own circle too. Vikki is determined that her two young daughters be brought up in an environment where giving back to your community is just an everyday part of life.
Following the loss of her beloved Nan in the summer of 2018, Vikki set up The Pay It Forward Team with her close friend and fellow good-deed enthusiast Steph – to connect with like-minded folk in their local area, and start working together on small projects to expand the reach of their #payitforward actions.
In addition to continued random gifts for strangers and litter picks in their local area, Vikki was eager to find a way to honour her grandmother’s memory.
So, in December 2018, the team reached out to their local community in Wokingham to appeal for gift donations for residents at a nearby care home. And, just before Christmas, they were delighted to deliver presents for each of the 66 residents of Shinfield View Care Home, as well as a treat for every member of staff.
In Vikki’s own words, “These elderly members of our community have given so much already – they could have been a doctor, a teacher or a fire fighter. It is so lovely to take a bit of happiness and gratitude from the wider community and bring it in [to the care home].”
The team were, “so blown away and humbled”, by the amount of people that wanted to contribute that, in 2019, they decided to double their efforts and gather donations for two care homes. And, a chance sighting of the team’s appeal on Facebook by a John Lewis partner ensured there was plenty of Christmas cheer to go around, with an additional thirty gifts generously added to the collection by the department store.
In both years, it was paramount to Vikki that the actual delivery of the gifts be made by the children in the team. “The children make the magic. The interaction between the oldies and youngies is fantastic to see, and as valuable as the giving of the gifts themselves.”
Shinfield View Care Home couldn’t agree more and told us, “The Pay It Forward project has brought so much joy to our residents and being able to meet all the children as they give them their gifts is truly magical. The team are an inspiration to us all and really bring back the true meaning of Christmas. Residents have said that it reminds them of Christmases when their own children were young when they see the little ones coming in.”
Unfortunately, with access to care homes necessarily limited for 2020, the team have had to pare back their ambitions for this year. However, they are still planning to drop parcels off at Shinfield View, with messages from the team (including the children of course!) in lieu of the hand-delivery this year. And, Vikki was quick to say that the carers and staff were an important focus for gifts this year, following such a challenging and intense few months.
What will the team do next? According to Vikki, they have all sorts of plans in mind. With offers of support and a growing number of volunteers working tirelessly behind the scenes, they hope to be able to run more events throughout the year. “We’d particularly love to find more opportunities to take the children into the care homes, as we believe these interactions are so important, for both young and old. And, of course we’ll continue to stop people on the streets with flowers too.”
Would you like to support The Pay It Forward team? Find out more at their Facebook page. Send them a direct message for details of how you can send a gift contribution.
Perhaps you can #payitforward in your local area? Leave a gift on a neighbour’s doorstep, or a thank-you note for the postie. Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in the queue, or cover the cost of a sandwich at a cafe and ask the shop to keep it to give to someone in need. We have a whole host of suggestions for Acts of Christmas Kindness in our reverse calendar of kindness.