In the Know column: Community challenge takes off

Third-grade Voyager Elementary teachers and students took the challenge as their springboard to the start of their new Kindness Camp.

VES Kindness Camp.jpg
Teachers and students at Voyager Elementary School in Alexandria participated in a Kindness Camp. (Contributed)

By Tim Urness, Alexandria

Twelve weeks ago, my column issued a challenge to residents of Douglas County to do seven different things to help strengthen the connections and community around us. Since I moved here in 2001, I have always felt that Alexandria was an amazing place full of wonderful people. However, my goal with that column was to help push people, and myself, a step further. Maybe out of their comfort zones to give even more, push them towards a new non-profit, or inspire them to simply ask to help or for help.

Since that column was printed on January 2, I have received over 100 emails, texts and calls about the challenge! Many people cut the column out and attached it to their fridge as a daily reminder. I have heard from former students, strangers at the grocery store, the woman who helped me apply for my new Real ID and even from “Ms. Douglas County” herself – Kathryn LeBrasseur. I never imagined this taking off so wildly. I am so thankful the Echo Press allows me the opportunity to write on a rotating basis, which in turn, hopefully has inspired people to get even more involved!

I did offer to buy lunch at Doolittles on May 22 for everyone that successfully completes this challenge! Let’s gather and share stories about new friends, new connections, and a closer Douglas County. If you do complete the entire list, shoot me an email ( ) by May 21 so I know you’re coming to join. (I told my friend, Billy who manages Doolittles, that my goal would be to fill his restaurant and have a massive tab when all is said and done!)

One way the challenge took off was courtesy of Sarah Reif and the third-grade Voyager Elementary teachers. They took this challenge as their springboard to the start of their new Kindness Camp. They altered my title to say C-A-R-D-I-N-A-L-S and rewrote the action items in language more suitable for 8 and 9-year olds. (“Invite” someone to sit by you at lunch that you never have before or “Ask” others if they need help.) To help kickoff this event, I had the chance to share with all these third-graders at Voyager and hopefully inspire them to carry out acts of kindness. Each kid got a cool red shirt that said, “Be Kind,” and then the Voyager teachers issued this as a challenge to every third-grader in Alexandria Public Schools. That being said, I am hoping that all 400 third-graders in Alexandria DON’T show up at Doolittles for free lunch on May 22. There is no way they could prepare that many chicken fingers and bowls of mac and cheese.


I have not quite finished the seven tasks yet, but here’s my update so far and a reminder of the seven steps if you need a refresher.

Dining discussions. My wife, Carrie, and I still need to have new neighbors over for dinner and we will as soon as “social distancing” rules are relaxed.

Offer your time. Thanks to Heather and crew at West Central Community Action, I have been able to offer a few hours each month. In January I helped them paint, and in February they had me stuffing envelopes! Both activities were mindless for me and I loved that. I have learned so much about this organization and the many ways they serve so many in our area. Even my buddy, Kris Sayre, wanted to join me which has made it even more fun as I catch up with him while lending a hand.

Unidentified deed. Done!

Gratitude letter. Not yet! I know who I am writing it to. Just need to take the time to share it on paper and then mail it.

Like it? Say it! Done!

Ask. Done!

Share something. Done!


As I wrote the D-O-U-G-L-A-S County Challenge three months ago, I obviously had no idea that our historic downtown would experience the horrible fire that it did, or that coronavirus was going to be a new and scary reality for us. However, during these times we have heard numerous stories of people young and old, along with local businesses doing so many wonderful things to help.

This area has always been filled with people committed to helping and serving others. People around this area are kind – and now more than ever, I encourage you to continue that spirit of help and hope. You might be the one that’s in the position to help these days, then go help! And if you are the one in need of assistance, ask! I promise you, the residents and businesses in Douglas County will be there ready to support you!

Tim Urness is actively involved in service groups in the Alexandria area. “In the Know” is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

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