Generosity is Contagious--Catch It

The kindness movement is alive and well in Richmond, with many opportunities to be generous. One place to give and receive kindness on December 25 will be at Maldini’s Ristorante, on Forest Hill Avenue, where free meals are available for the homeless. Owner Marcello Armetta started this act of kindness in 2014. Armatta’s wife, Rhenda, makes invitations to hand out; they also use email and post a small sign inside the restaurant to promote the offer. Folks line up out the door for their buffet-style meal, and volunteers help serve it.

It is the one day of the year the owners hope their restaurant is not so busy, so they can help bring more people in off the streets. “This is something that allows us to give back to the community that we love so much,” says Rhenda. “We have been so blessed in our lives, it’s only fair to bless someone else with an act of kindness.”

At Fort Lee, the Holiday Helper program helps military members facing difficult times have a memorable holiday season by allowing them to shop for toys free of charge. It serves all branches of the military, including the National Guard, wounded warriors at McGuire Veterans Hospital and reservists, providing toys to more than 1,200 military children each year. People can get involved by hosting fundraisers and toy drives, or by staffing the store on base.

Yoga can be seen as a gift and inspire generosity, too. Local yoga teacher and entrepreneur, Sue Agee, promotes generosity and kindness through her work at Project Yoga Richmond, which has a pay-what-you-can, in-studio policy, as well as outreach programs that deliver yoga to challenged youths in the court system, children with different abilities, adult services and areas of Richmond that often are unrepresented. The idea is that the true gifts of yoga—abundance within, peace within and calm and clarity of purpose within—should be encouraged and available to all. With Project Yoga Richmond, these gifts can be both free and freeing.

Agee is so impassioned by Richmond’s generous nature that she is organizing the inaugural PeaceLoveRVA yoga festival slated for June 2017 at Brown’s Island. The purpose is to promote and celebrate mindful living. There will be a wide variety of yoga classes, live music, food, consciousness-raising vendors and an open invitation to promote peace in Richmond. Agee says, “Our region has so many amazing, fabulous, nonprofits in this beautiful city we call home.”

Helping is just what paramedic, vegan food truck operator and community activist Ed Edge does for people in impoverished areas. Using his own salary, he brings free fitness and nutrition training to local housing projects and is involved with a number of good deed initiatives such as providing bicycles to the disadvantaged through his nonprofit Christ Cycles. “My gift is passion and love, and so I feel like it’s my job to use that,” says Edge. “I’ve been gifted with a huge heart, that’s my superpower.”

Another example of a huge heart can be found in a group conceived and led by two local 9-year-old girls called RACE for Harmony. RACE is an acronym for Respect, Accept, Connect, Everyone. The group began when the young founders couldn’t wrap their minds around why people aren’t nicer to one another. Its mission is to perform random acts of kindness on a regular basis to inspire others and prove that kindness is contagious. The group raises money to help those less fortunate—their Harmony 5K raised $350 for the homeless and they made cards, signs and videos for those affected by the shootings in Orlando and the floods in West Virginia. With their friendly and creative mascot, Little Miss Harmony, a character drawn to represent every race, RACE for Harmony wants to reach the whole world with love from Richmond, Virginia.

A huge heart and gratitude can ultimately lead to greater happiness in life. According to Harvard Health, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with increased happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships.

In the new year, Chrysalis Institute will offer Richmonders an opportunity to examine what scientists and sages have to teach us about happiness and how to optimize the feelings of joy, satisfaction, connection and purpose that affect our sense of happiness. Stanford- and Princeton-trained psychologist and researcher Catherine Sanderson will showcase the charge as Chrysalis Institute’s spring keynote speaker.

Giving back to this wonderful community is a great way to find connection, purpose and happiness. HandsOn Greater Richmond provides individuals, families and groups with a multitude of options to make a difference through a web-based volunteer network, With such opportunity to explore and act with kindness and role models to emulate, Richmond may well become known as America’s kindest city.

For more information, email or visit the Holiday Helper Association at Fort Lee at, Sue Agee at, Ed Edge at or Coco Provence at

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