Fifty local retail employees who worked on Thanksgiving were each given two dollars worth of encouragement amid the Black Friday shopping frenzy this year.
Kaler Carpenter, along with his wife, Laura, gave out handmade cards with a $2 bill tucked inside to workers.
The couple moved to Oneonta in 2009 to start their nondenominational church, the Redemption Movement, which meets Fridays at 6 p.m. After building renovation and planning, they opened the church last March. Because their church service is held Friday instead of Sunday, the Redemption Movement has developed something it calls “Acts of Kindness Sundays” or AoK.
Each week, Carpenter and other church volunteers meet and perform an act of kindness for someone in the community. Carpenter said that the Redemption Movement is focused on becoming part of the Oneonta community, and therefore wants to help it in any way it can. Its mission, according to Carpenter, is to reach out to the community to show God’s love and meet any needs that become evident along the way.
Carpenter, who worked at Walmart in Oneonta from 2009 to 2012, said he had to work several Black Fridays himself, so he knows firsthand how stressful it can be. After saving up the money, he and his wife took $100 of their church’s outreach budget and distributed it evenly among retail workers, along with a cheerful card.
“Working on Thanksgiving is no fun,” the card read. “We appreciate your hard work. Here is $2, we hope this act of kindness brightens your holiday. God bless, from your friends at The Redemption Movement.”
Carpenter and his wife handed out cards to workers at Stewart’s, Walmart, JCPenney, The Shoe Dept., Olympia Sports and Subway.
“Our primary goal is to show God’s love in a practical way, and cheer someone up,” Kaler said. “We are always looking to reach out and do more to help the community in any way.”
According to Carpenter, their cards were met with many smiles and appreciation from the workers. He said the best response they got was from a woman who received the very last card. On his blog, Carpenter described her reaction.
“She put out her arms, gave me a big hug, and told me about how hard today was because she was unable to spend it with her family. She then asked me lots of questions about the church and exclaimed how much better this made her feel!”
Along with its weekly acts of kindness, Kaler said, the Redemption Movement strives to reach out to the community wherever it sees a need. This fall, it provided a free designated driving service for anyone downtown who didn’t have enough money for a taxi or just didn’t want to walk home in the cold. Carpenter and other volunteers parked a car in front of a local bar and held a sign reading, “Free Rides, Don’t Drink and Drive.” Carpenter said he was most glad that the church had offered this service when a young college woman passed out on the ride back home. With the help of police, the woman returned to her dorm safely.
In the coming months, Carpenter said the church’s acts of kindness will include free gift wrapping downtown, as well as shoveling people’s sidewalks. Last March, he organized a 30 Days of Kindness program for the days leading up to the opening of his church, in which the church each day offered an act of kindness to the community.
They cleaned bathrooms of local businesses, left big tips for waiters or waitresses, paid bus fares for busloads of people, preloaded laundry machines with coins, offered paid-for professional photography sessions, oil changes and haircuts, gave free batteries, and offered window washing, interior painting and walking of dogs, all for free.
“As Christians, we are to show others the unconditional love of God, instead of displaying a holier-than-thou attitude and being insensitive with our religious practices,” Carpenter explained. “Ultimately, it is is not about religion, it is about a personal relationship with God, lived out in a community of people known as the church.”
Each week, the Redemption Movement posts its planned act of kindness on its Facebook page so that anyone interested in volunteering can come help.