Thursday, April 17, 2014 · 8:45 a.m.
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Alice Turner said the Random Act of Kindness project has brought together people from all walks of life. (Screenshot: Staff)

One Chattanooga woman is using the holiday season to remind the community of a simple rule we learn as children, but sometimes forget: Be nice to people.

The acts of kindness ...

—Sharing a hopeful song of the day

—Bringing doughnut holes to the office

—Raking the leaves in a neighbor's yard

Alice Turner launched her Random Act of Kindness project on Dec. 1 for the second year in a row and is now seeing its ripple effect through others’ lives.

The program is simple: Forget about the holiday season stress—the tedious in-laws, the rounds of Christmas parties, the rush to get the perfect gift before it disappears from the shelves—and remember to be decent to your fellow man.

“I just thought, ‘You know what would be nice? If everyone was nice to each other,’” Turner said.

The impetus for the project emerged from Turner’s own experiences of the economic downturn and life-changing encounter on the job. 

While working for a company that inspects Section 8 housing, she was attacked by a dog. Turner sustained 17 puncture wounds and couldn’t walk for three months. She was forced to move in with her parents, and she explained, began to take her troubles more to heart than she wanted to.

Turner dreamed up her own pay-it-forward program to break the habit of feeling sorry for herself. Though she spearheaded the niceness effort, she cautioned she is not holding herself up as the shining example of model behavior.

"I need to be reminded to be kind, too," Turner laughed. "I tell people [they're] going to help me through the project."

Last year, 135 Chattanooga participated in the Random Act of Kindness month, creating a Facebook community to share stories and ideas. So far, 118 people have signed on board this year. The examples of good deeds have included buying lunch for someone in the drive-thru line, giving a stranger quarters for the parking meter and baking cookies for co-workers.

After the first project, Turner began to notice the positive changes in her life. She even found herself carrying over the spirit of kindness into January and the new year.

“It’s 30 days to make a habit,” she said.

From Facebook to nonprofit
Turner, who now works as the switchboard operator for the Chattanooga Police Department, also found the inspiration to launch another community-sourced project: Rapsodic Community Music.

Rapsodic: The quick facts

—Funding goal: $5,000

—Needed volunteer hours: 500

—Benefiting: All Hamilton County students

—Model programs: New Orleans' Trumpets Not Guns

A lifelong musician, she recognized the need in Hamilton County schools for the basic tools to maintain musical opportunities, namely instruments. The nonprofit organization would supply students who would otherwise be unable to afford them with musical instruments that are used but in good working condition in a kind of rental arrangement.

Having played the piano since age 6 and sung in the choir from fourth grade until college at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, she understands the power music has to change lives. 

“[A child] might be a prodigy,” she said, referring to the potential impact of the gift of an instrument. “This might be what saves [him or her].”

Because, as Turner explained, used instruments are easier to come by than the funds for new instruments, Rapsodic Community Music would specialize in in-kind donations and eventually even engage community members in mentor roles.

The organization is still in the development stages. It has reached 13.83 percent of its funding goals, according to its Causeway website, and it is accepting donations on an ongoing basis as Turner finalizes the details.

“If I’m going to live here, I want to improve my community,” she said.

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