Free gift cards were the last thing grocery shoppers expected to receive from a group of strangers, but that’s exactly what happened last Saturday in St. Albert.
People who took time to stop were surprised to discover St. Albert Kinsmen and Kinettes were giving away $13,500 in gift cards to unsuspecting shoppers. Some people even expressed bewilderment when the Kinsmen gave them a gift card rather than accepting their cash.
“One guy had his wallet out and was ready to give us $10. And we said, ‘No, we’re giving you money.’ His eyes popped. In fact, there were a few people whose eyes popped,” chuckled Doug Christiansen, Kinsmen Banquet Centre and RV Park director.
The two local service clubs, known for mounting the Rainmaker Rodeo and organizing Christmas hampers, gave out 270 gift cards in $50 denominations to shoppers at Save-On-Food’s southern location on St. Albert Trail.
Every year the club’s national association, Kin Canada, celebrates its National Day of Kindness on Feb. 20 to commemorate its founding on the same date in 1920, Christiansen explained. This year is their 100th anniversary.
“To celebrate, we usually pick a day closest to the week and clubs right across Canada go into the community and do simple random acts of kindness,” he said. Normally the club sponsors a free swim and free skate with additional Tim Hortons gift cards.
Reactions from consumers varied from joyful surprise to wary suspicion. Giving away gift cards is not as easy as it looks. One masked woman backed away from the Kinettes presenter requesting people remain at a distance. But most were simply grateful for this small act of kindness that meant a great deal to some.
Tracy Nadiger, service and PR director for the Kinettes, recalled several touching incidents.
“A younger lady said, ‘This will help me. I have two younger kids at home.' She had tears in her eyes,” said Nadiger.
“Another lady told me she bought fresh pineapple and oranges she wouldn’t normally buy,” Christiansen added.
Shopper Leanne Hartle dropped by Save-On for a quick pick-up while her dog was at the groomers.
“At first I thought it was someone trying to sell me something. I was prepared to say ‘No thank you. I have my charities,” said Hartle. “But it was a hell of a surprise. I’ve never shopped at this store before, so it should be fun finding things."
For delighted shopper Laurie Shenfield, it was a case of what goes around comes around. The St. Albert resident spontaneously gifts strangers. She said she picks up groceries, buys a coffee at Tim Hortons or has even bought young couples starting out a Christmas gift.
“I do something like this regularly for my brother, but it’s never happened to me. He passed away several years ago. He was cool and kind and loved, and I want to pass the kindness on,” Shenfield said.
As each smiling stranger accepted a card, there was an awareness that the Kinsmen and Kinettes were changing someone’s day in a small but powerful way. That change was also reflected in the givers.
“I have a big smile on my face, but you can’t see it because of the mask,” Nadiger said.
Echoing her thoughts, Christiansen added, “You get the warm and fuzzies. You do it for others, but at the end of the day you feel good, and you help yourself.”