BY ADELLE LaBRECQUE
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong
“Juneau’s 2017 Year of Kindness Project” continues to spread kind acts, enthusiasm, and positivity throughout Juneau.
The city-wide project, an idea originally put into place by Lieutenant Kris Sell of the Juneau Police Department (JPD), is a year-long initiative designed to “spread kindness” throughout Juneau in efforts to develop a stronger, more peaceful community.
In a Mar. 21 interview with Lt. Sell, Sell said, “[I thought,] after 19 years, what is the sum total of everything I’ve learned about people? From all of the calls I’ve gone to, and all of the investigations I’ve been on, what have I learned that I can bring to the community that has the greatest potential? What is something that could help everybody?”
After much reflection, Lt. Sell decided that, above all, “kindness” was her answer.
“Kindness can impact all of us. It doesn’t cost any money, it makes everybody feel good, it empowers people—I just couldn’t come up with a downside to try to bring more kindness into a community,” Lt. Sell said.
Since its start in January, the project has gained incredible traction. Ongoing efforts from establishments throughout Juneau have helped to spread the message. Juneau Youth Services, The University of Alaska Southeast, Bartlett Regional Hospital, and the Girl Scouts of Juneau, to name a few, have dedicated one calendar week to spread their chosen acts throughout the community.
During the Week of Kindness at UAS, students were greeted at 8 a.m. outside of The Lakeside Grill with a hand-decorated “goodie bag” full of snacks, chocolates, Emergen-C, and a card.
Meanwhile, The JPD Facebook Page has been flooded with positive feedback, moving stories and photos, and inquiries on how to become involved with The Year of Kindness Project.
Lt. Sell and JPD were even recognized nationally via phone interview with Fox News earlier this year.
Lt. Sell said, “I think that Juneau was a great place to try this because JPD has a really good relationship with this community, relative to what we see around the country. We have a lot of kind people in Juneau who are already doing a lot of kind acts. [The Year of Kindness Project] builds a community wide stage to put it on, to keep [kindness] ‘front-of-mind’ all the time. I think you get more of what you emphasize.”
Lt. Sell also addressed a rather humorous aspect regarding the project and the Juneau community specifically .
“I’ve joked with some reporters that ‘we don’t have a road out.’ We are particularly motivated in Juneau to get along. If I get snarky with you, I’m going to see you at Safeway—there’s no being anonymous here. We’re constantly accountable for our behavior. I think it motivates us to be a little bit more careful about our interpersonal relationships.”
The Year of Kindness Project has been receiving inquiries from outside of Juneau as well, asking how they can implement something similar in their own community.
“[We] haven’t found any other community in the whole world that’s doing this as a town…Juneau will be the first to have done this,” Lt. Sell said.
Also mentioned during the interview, was the significance of this type of project being led by a police department.
“You might expect other agencies like the Red Cross or Health and Human Services, but I think coming from the policing community is a bit surprising,” Lt. Sell said.
“Attacks on police officers create a temptation to withdraw from your community, to kind of look at things with an “us and them” [perspective]. I think that’s when it’s the most important for police departments to lead,” Lt. Sell said.
Sell also expressed her gratitude for the permission to move forward with this project in the first place,
“I thought it was brave of the Chief to decide that we could do this. We’re trying to lead toward a kinder community.”
Anyone interested in getting involved with The Year of Kindness Project is welcome to communicate through the JPD Facebook Page, or contact Lt. Kris Sell directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 500-0646.