How mum spreads sunshine with simple acts of kindess
Anyone feeling down can have their day turned around by a small act of kindness - as a mum from Dereham well knows.
Karen Bardell, 44, has spent countless hours making greeting cards for strangers, collecting sleeping bags for the homeless and putting together 'sunshine bags' full of yellow goodies for nurses and other key workers.
Mrs Bardell has worked to create a kinder world with her children Kaden, 16; Kobi, 14 and Denver, 10 and supported by her husband Wayne.
She said: "If doing something nice puts a smile on someone's face that's good enough for me. And if you do something kind for somebody, it makes them want to pass it on."
Mrs Bardell launched the Facebook group Dereham Kindness Club early last year, and it now has more than 540 members.
She said: "I've always done little acts of kindness with my kids from an early age - like making bookmarks and putting them in the library, or leaving a bus fare for someone. I thought it would be really nice to open it up and see if other families wanted to do it with us.
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"We were going to have monthly meet-ups, but then Covid hit."
Although the pandemic prevented members of the growing group from meeting in person, they were able to share ideas online of how to help others, and Mrs Bardell said the acts of kindness had ranged far and wide.
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She said: "In the first lockdown my kids and I picked a care home every week and sent handmade cards to the residents and carers, with messages like 'we think you're amazing', just to thank them for working on and doing a fantastic job. We did that for 14 weeks and end up doing 14 care homes.
"I also posted cards to all of my neighbours to see if they needed anything done, like having shopping picked up. We've ended up doing our elderly neighbour's shopping every week.
"This has also meant we've got to know our neighbours a lot better than we would have otherwise, which has been really nice."
In the lead-up to last winter Mrs Bardell also ran an appeal for the homeless and collected 46 sleeping bags as well as gloves and rucksacks. She passed them onto a friend who works with the Norwich-based People's Picnic group, which helps others.
Mrs Bardell also undertook a project called 'boxes of sunshine' where she - helped by her children - filled boxes with yellow sweets, bath bombs, handmade keyrings, mask holders to stop the wear's eyes from getting tired and other items.
Boxes were donated initially to nurses working on hospital wards, then to postmen and women and people working in early-years settings.
Mrs Bardell and her children also made Christmas hampers for families in need by collecting donated food and toys, and making handmade cards.
They also made wreaths to decorate people's front doors with for Valentine's Day and Halloween.
She said: "There's no way we would have got half the stuff that we did if the community wasn't so generous. Everyone's kindness was overwhelming. That we could do something like this on such a big scale."
As lockdown restrictions were easing Mrs Bardell said she was looking forward to meeting more members of the Dereham Kindness Club group in person, which has been difficult throughout the pandemic.
She said one green-fingered member of the group was growing 70 flowers in her greenhouse and other members were making pots for them, and they would eventually be given to teachers - another way to put a smile on people's faces.