Local businesses promote paying it forward

A local business owner has spearheaded a pay it forward initiative in the Village for the month of November. Katie Weststrate, of Ahimsa Naturopathic, felt that encouraging local business owners and individuals to partake in random acts of kindness throughout November would lift the spirits of the community as we head into winter and continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s been a year that has brought challenges and opportunities for people, and I think pay it forward is a great initiative to bring more joy and happiness into people’s lives and kind of change the conversation from the heaviness,” she says.

Katie has created a Pay It Forward Merrickville Facebook page to challenge business owners and residents to take part in the initiative.

Katie Weststrate with her 4-month old daughter Lilianna and Robyn Fredrickson outside The Village Bean – one of the businesses participating in Pay It Forward Merrickville.

Many of the businesses in Merrickville have responded very positively to the idea, thinking about creative ways that they can give back to the people in the community. Katie’s first act was to buy 100 artisanal caramels from Pickle and Myrrh, with the request that they be given out to the first 100 customers that come into the store. Healthily Ever After is also participating by giving out free tea bags to all their customers.

Katie is adamant that pay it forward gestures don’t have to be monetary, and can be as simple as calling a friend and saying you were thinking about them. “The idea is that no random act of kindness is too big or too small.”

When Robyn Fredrickson of The Village Bean heard about the initiative, she knew she had to participate. “I love the concept, and try to do random acts of kindness in my own daily life,” she says. “When I saw the event, it was certainly something I was interested in.”

The Village Bean now has a pay it forward gift card, where people can donate money for a coffee to be given out randomly throughout November. Robyn already picked the first recipient last week – a lady who was having a hard day. She was so touched by the gesture, that she cried and even shared her gratitude on Facebook. “It’s funny, even just within a day or two, to see how it has circulated,” Robyn says.

To help get the word out, Katie has created little Pay It Forward Merrickville business cards. The idea is to give them out with as many random acts of kindness as possible, to remind people to pay it forward. “Ideally, this grows exponentially and could take off to within families, or little neighbourhoods, or anywhere.”

It seems the pay it forward initiative has already spread over social media, and Katie’s had people contact her from Kemptville and Lanark who were interested in learning more. “It’s Pay It Forward Merrickville to inspire that local community and local support, and the whole idea that we’re in it together. We’ve got each other’s backs,” she says. “I think that’s helpful for people in times of isolation; but pay it forward doesn’t have to stay local.”

Katie has been having a lot of fun promoting the initiative and thinking of other ways she can pay it forward to the people in the community. “It’s always good to have a reminder, and to have that collective, the excitement of life. You don’t know where it is going to land; but you put that ripple in the water.”

Everyone is encouraged to check out the Pay It Forward Merrickville Instagram account for inspiration about different ways they can participate in the initiative. You can also share your own pay it forward moments on social media by using the #payitforwardmerrickville.

“Nobody ever does it for recognition,” Robyn adds. “But by sharing that you are doing it, it inspires other people to do it as well.”

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