I started Locale Farm to Table Eatery in 2015 with high hopes of utilizing the business as a creative platform. When our doors opened, I was eager to share my entrepreneurial spirit and artistic abilities with our little corner of the world. I had dreams of blending my existing business, Chic Designs, with Locale. Chic Designs encompassed all things creative, from event coordinating to marketing and more. I had my hand in interior design, graphic design, floral design, photography, cooking classes and custom cakes.

I was living in entrepreneurial utopia.

In December, I deemed 2020 “The Year of Kindness.” I had a vision of a kindness movement and set it in slate on my vision board. First on my agenda, give two random people a month a $50 bill with one condition: spend it on something out of the ordinary. The recipients were blown away by the concept. It never failed; they would look around as though it were a prank, then quickly become overwhelmed with joy!

In mid-March, I started “The Wall of Hope” in an effort to put a smile on our guests’ faces at Locale. It was incredibly discouraging to hear the normal upbeat foodie talk tainted by uncertainty with COVID-19 nearing our county. We’ve asked guests to jot down something positive that brings a smile to their face on Post-it notes. The wall is growing by the day!

When the shelter-in-place order went into effect in San Francisco, I started to think bigger.

As a nation, I knew we would be facing tough times ahead. I was concerned.

On March 30, #bekindbakersfield was created as a way to challenge our community to share kindness instead of negativity on social media. I painted “KINDNESS CHANGES EVERYTHING” next to a mural I painted a couple weeks prior, then turned to social media to encourage the community to join in.

How the Kindness Challenge works:

1. Post an act of kindness you committed or a kind deed someone did for you.

2. Add the hashtag #bekindbakersfield.

3. Challenge friends to do the same.

Participants are encouraged to take a photo

@muralalleybakersfield (an 85-foot rotating art space I created in 2018 located on the south side of Locale between 17th and 18th streets). The artwork changes every few months to keep things interesting and to allow a magnitude of artists to gain exposure.

To me, kindness is smiling at strangers, being present and going the extra mile. I’ve noticed since I put this challenge into action I’ve sought out opportunities to perform kind deeds. Simple acts such as treating my staff to a snack or picking up trash in public. I’m constantly reminded that kindness is powerful and it doesn’t have to cost anything.

It’s been fun to see so many joining the kindness movement. @aileensaucedorealtor, purchased a gift card, posted the redemption code on Instagram and invited followers to treat themselves to a cup of coffee. Participants purchased food for health care workers, one of our customers donated funds to feed less fortunate families and, in turn, we matched the donation, which allowed us to provide dinner for six families!

I’ve been taken aback by how powerful our community is. Think about it for a moment:

What does kindness mean to you?

Please join me in paying it forward!


Opinions expressed in this column are those of Heather Laganelli.

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