The Nicest Place in Missouri: Columbia

A faraway tragedy inspired this community to work hard to bring goodness into the world.

After the tragic killing of 26 elementary school students and staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School, folks in Columbia, Missouri, wanted to do something to put kindness into the world. So they planted a grove of "kindness trees," calling it the Children's Grove, where each magnolia tree planted would represent a child harmed in any way, anywhere.

The root idea of the Children's Grove in Columbia, a city of about 125,000 almost halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis, is that kindness and compassion overcome all. The organization supports youth mental health, first-aid training, kindness libraries for schools (bunches of books with kindness themes, usually read to the kids by the reps delivering them), as well as social service organizations, speakers on mental health, and kindness ambassadors in schools.

The annual Acts of Kindness Week every April is its biggest event. Activities include the kindness chain, made from strips of paper with acts of kindness that will be performed written on them; chalking downtown with kindness sayings by elementary and college students; dedicating kindness trees at schools; and distributing "Kindness Changes Everything" wristbands. Recipients of the wristbands are asked to share their band whenever they see an act of kindness and anticipate a band circling back to them.

The kindness library in Grand Elementary School is already having an effect.

"Students and staff alike increased their awareness of spreading kindness in their daily interactions," says Dr. Jennifer Wingert, the school's principal.

Youth ambassador Yash Pal Khanna shares one of his kindness initiatives: "I created new organizations at my school and was able to partner with the Children's Grove to make 'buddy packs' [kid-friendly lunches for students who need] for the food bank, and to raise awareness for a suicide prevention organization called Stu22," he says.

Another ambassador, Madison Hopper, says she sees her mission as fostering "respect, inclusivity, and compassion wherever I go. You will never meet another group of powerful influencers as devoted, kind, and caring as the members of this organization."

—The Editors

The Nomination

Columbia, Missouri is home to Children's Grove, an all volunteer not-for-profit organization whose mission is to inspire a culture of kindness and to support the mental and emotional well-being of our youth.

columbia missouri nicest placeCourtesy Kim Dude-Lammy
Each link of the Kindness Chain has an act of kindness written on it, to be performed.

Children's Grove was formed in the wake of the tragedy of Sandy Hook and began with a memorial garden from which our name is derived. It quickly expanded to include Youth Mental Health First Aid training, Kindness Libraries for schools and social service organizations, speakers on mental health, Kindness Ambassadors in the schools, and the annual Acts of Kindness Week. Kindness Week activities include the Kindness Chain made from strips that contain acts of kindness that will be performed, chalking The District in downtown Columbia with kindness sayings by elementary and college students, delivering Kindness Libraries to 65 schools and organizations, dedicating Kindness Trees at schools, and distributing "Kindness Changes Everything" wristbands. The recipients of the wristbands are tasked with sharing their band whenever they see an act of kindness and anticipating a band circling back to them.

columbia missouri nicest place Courtesy Pamela Hoeppner
Reps who deliver Kindness Libraries will read the books to those they give them to.
columbia missouri nicest placeCourtesy Kim Dude-Lammy
Children's Grove is all about bringing more kindness into the world in the wake of tragedy.

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