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Lockport tries to be kind throughout April – and beyond

LOCKPORT – “April is the cruelest month,” British poet T.S. Eliot mused nearly a century ago.

Given the last-ditch stand of winter last week, especially since it was unseasonably warm in early March, you can see that Eliot might have had a point.

But Ellen Martin, Lockport’s leading purveyor of quirky fun, has a different take. “April is the kindest month,” she declares, and she’s going all-out to prove it.

She has enlisted the help of schools and city leaders to promote the idea of spreading kindness all month.

Her goal was to have 20,400 acts of kindness – one for every resident of the City of Lockport – and she brainstormed with a friend, Mollie Roland, on how to accomplish it.

Among those who hopped on board the kindness train immediately was Kim Knuutila, director of admissions and marketing at DeSales Catholic School.

“This is a very important thing for the City of Lockport, and we’re proud to be part of it,” Knuutila said.

Among other things, DeSales third-graders cut out paper flowers and attached petals that bore kind wishes from each of their classmates.

“That was a wonderful project. The kids were very proud of it,” Knuutila said.

Also this month, DeSales students took part in “Pennies for Hope,” contributing some 5,000 coins of various denominations to be donated to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Knuutila said students were asked to perform 20 acts of kindness this month, and each was given a tracking sheet to write them in.

Charles A. Upson Elementary School and Lockport High School also started kindness programs, Martin said. The Upson school is planning a kindness rally at the end of the month, Martin said.

Martin and Roland printed up 25,000 kindness tickets and handed them out at schools and elsewhere. “Anybody who takes a ticket, it’s a pledge for one act of kindness,” she said. “They don’t have to return the tickets. Quite frankly, people do so many kind things in a single day. It’s a fun way to acknowledge it and keep track of it.”

Martin added, “It’s really more of an opportunity to celebrate kindness than to say, ‘May 1, you don’t need to be kind anymore.’ That’s not it at all.”

Part of the promotion was yard signs that say “April is the kindest month” on one side and “Kindness matters” on the other.

“It really has struck a chord with so many people,” Martin said. “It’s fantastic, it really is. There’s a million ways to interpret how to go about it.”

Perhaps some might have thought it ironic to see Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey sitting behind an “April is the kindest month” sign as aldermen argued over the city’s garbage contract at the April 6 Common Council meeting. But jewelry store owner George Fritz, called by Martin “the always wonderful George Fritz,” also showed up at the meeting to pass out cookies in the shape of a hashtag iced with the Twitter phrase “#kindnessmatters.”

The Buffalo News investigated the cookies, made in Lockport by Lou Lou Bakes, and found that they were really buttery and tasty.

There, that was our kindness for the day.

Martin also has organized several other events in the city in recent years. This summer, she’s planning to host another chalk art festival July 16-17, although the location hasn’t been firmed up.

Martin also has asked the state Department of Transportation to let her turn the closed North Adam Street Bridge over the Erie Canal into a “flower bridge” by festooning it with plants. A short distance away, Martin’s idea for a giant outdoor Scrabble game with letter tiles a foot across may come to fruition at the Widewaters Drive-In Restaurant and at other locations around Lockport.

Vocational students at Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services have fabricated bicycle racks in the shape of locks, which Martin hopes to place in the city, although she hasn’t lined up the locations yet.

And Martin, a member of the Dale Association board of directors, has come up with the notion of doing a multicolored paint job on a Dale-owned building at Ontario and Gooding streets.

“It will be at least three colors, and it will be fun, and tasteful, certainly, but striking,” Martin vowed.