Thanks again to our generous donors, we are thrilled to announce two winners of our Kindness Award, Kristen Weinberg and Sriya Tallapragada. Both of them go above and beyond to help others and we’re blown away by their compassion, their selflessness, and their ability to get other people to share in their vision of helping those in need. Their acts of kindness have rippled out and touched thousands of lives. They’re incredible and we’re so proud to have them as part of our MKRO family.
Winners receive a certificate and $250. We tell them kind people tend to neglect themselves, this money is to spread kindness on themselves.
Kristen Weinberg, of Sandy Spring, MD, is the founder of What’s Your 50? A movement that challenges everyone to help our world in increments of 50.
When Kristen was turning 50, she decided she wanted to celebrate by helping others. She came up with the idea that she would collect and donate 50 items every month for the next year to support 12 local charities. She asked her family and friends for ideas on who to donate to. She was inspired by the organizations, that she hadn’t known of, that were doing wonderful things. Kristen said, “The more I learned about these organizations and the work they do, the more I want to help them.”
She picked an organization and threw out the challenge on Facebook to get 50 donations of the items she needed and was overwhelmed with the responses. Her friends and family wanted in. So, Kristen had them take the lead on some of the donation drives.
Her husband drove the sock collection, with the goal of 50 pairs of socks, one of the least donated items but most needed, to the Men’s Emergency Shelter in Rockville. They ended up with 344 pairs of socks.
Her girlfriend drove the collection for 50 boxes of feminine hygiene products and gently used bras for I Support the Girls, a non-profit that collects these items for women in need. They ended up collecting 161 items.
Her neighbors’ kids drove the collection for 50 jars of peanut butter, the most requested food at food banks, for Nourish Now, a non-profit that collects surplus foods from restaurants and grocery stores and redistributes them directly to families in need. They ended up with 102 jars to donate.
Her friend did a collection for 50 coats, hats, gloves, and blankets, for the homeless. They received over 150 items and personally gave them out at a local park in DC where the homeless congregate. Kristen said this was one of her favorite days.
Every challenge she promoted, was met quickly with donations from people who were inspired by her mission.
Here’s what she posted one month after started her challenge:
“Ok, so you’re not going to believe this, but I set a goal exactly one month ago today (January 23, 2019) to collect 50 items for 12 different charities = 600 donations. Not only did you all come thru for me, but you SURPASSED my WILDEST dreams!! You have all stepped up and donated over 1,500 items to over 16 different charities in exactly ONE month!! UNBELIEVABLE!! I continue to be asked, “What else can we do to help??” My response “Let’s keep this movement going!!” At least 30 of you are already rolling out your own What’s Your 50. THANK YOU!!!
And so a movement of kindness and giving was born. What’s Your 50? It asks the simple question “What can you do to help our world in increments of 50?” Give 50 something (items, minutes, cents, hours, anything) to an organization/charity/group that you are passionate about. It can be something simple like taking 50 minutes to bake something for someone in need or collecting 50 items to donate. It’s that easy.
Kristen surpassed her goal of donating to 12 charities that year. She learned how many people want to help others and that she needed to keep her mission going. She encourages others to help their neighbors, shelters, hospitals, and schools. She has touched the lives of so many people and inspired so many to take up her challenge, spreading more and more kindness in our world. Almost three years later, this grassroots movement has completed over 325 projects, across nine states, by folks of all ages.
We are so honored to have Kristen as our Kindness Award winner.
Sriya Tallapragada of New Providence, NJ (14 years old), is the founder of Girls Who STEAM, which started as an online global community for girls in STEM, with emphasis on low-income girls. (STEM = science, technology, engineering, and math. The A in STEAM adds the arts.)
Sriya started Girls Who STEAM when the coronavirus pandemic shut down her middle school. She found herself stuck at home with nothing but her computer as company. Luckily, as a 14-year-old STEM aficionado and introvert, this was all she needed. She said, “I coded our website Girls Who STEAM, started our first programs, and crossed my fingers that this would reach a few people. In return, I received an overwhelming response.”
They’ve grown quickly, they had over 100 volunteers and more than 2,000 participants in their online workshops. “One of our signature events has been our pitch competition. The idea behind it is relatively simple, teens would submit their plans for a startup addressing issues that they were passionate about. All will then have the opportunity to be graded by a cohort of judges, who will then award the top three winners with prizes and recognition. All participants will leave with custom feedback and an idea for a potential business plan. Submissions ranged from the idea of starting a bilingual children’s book business to creating a community that provided resources for mothers.” said Sriya.
The pitch competition was held during their GirlsWithGoals2021 virtual conference to help teach girls career applicable skills. That conference had 23 speakers and over 600 attendees.
Girls Who Steam is a non-profit for innovative programs that promote education and equity through projects focused on encouraging girls to select, before entering college, the physical sciences or engineering as a career. Over the past year, their primary focus has been on creating an online community that taught STEM, entrepreneurship, and fearlessness to high school girls.
“For decades, researchers have told us that Girls and women are systematically tracked away from science and math throughout their educations, limiting their training and options to go into these fields as adults.” Girls Who STEAM works to eliminate the gap.
Sriya said, “As a girl looking to break into this field, there have been several moments where I have felt as though I didn’t belong. My breaking point was entering a math competition, only to find that in a room with more than 20 students, I was the only girl.” Based on her own experiences and those of her peers, Sriya knew she wanted to do her part to change the gender gap and make a difference in young girls’ lives. She found with the large amounts of time on her hands, the perfect opportunity to work towards her goal of closing the gender gap in STEM.
In 2021, they plan to shift the focus towards in-person workshops. In order to implement this, they have launched a chapter program and currently have 10 chapters across the US and more than 15 chapters internationally. Meant specifically to impact young girls in low-income areas, these workshops are not only meant to teach about STEM concepts, but also to foster a sense of community and mentorship within the participants.
Sriya is a shining example that you’re never too young to pursue your dreams and make a difference in the world. We’re honored to have Sriya as our Kindness Award winner.