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Pay it Forward group marks 10 years of charitable deeds

The group has touched nearly every community in the region with acts of kindness and service.
Ten years ago, Aileen Ingram raised money for a local boy so he could replace his stolen bike, a single act of goodwill that turned into a kindness-fuelled movement that has touched all areas of the East Kootenays. Ingram, right, stands with bike-owner Kobe and owner of Gerick Sports Mike Stephen (photo courtesy of Aileen Ingram)

What started with a single act of kindness, has grown to become a movement that has touched nearly every area in the East Kootenays.

Ten years ago, Cranbrook resident Aileen Ingram decided to raise money for a boy so he could replace his stolen bicycle. What started as one act of good service, became two and three and four. More people came on board and began helping her, until they became an organized non-profit body called “Paying it Forward: Kindness in the Kootenays.”

Presently, the group has 20 dedicated regular members and more than 3,000 Facebook supporters. Members organize bottle drives and events to raise money for cause, and help secure food and clothing for people in need. Their acts of kindness have travelled as far as Invermere, Radium, Creston, Sparwood and even Fruitvale.

Ingram said the philosophy is simple:

“You give someone a hand up, open a door for somebody, even give them a big smile, just try to do something to make their day better.”

The group has helped gather food donations for families, and house supplies for newly single mothers and fathers who are starting over. It has raised money for people with chronic health issues and disabilities, who have expensive medical bills.

Ingram estimates volunteers help approximately 80 to 120 children per year through various means, which includes providing families with clothes, backpacks and school supplies.

The group has worked with community organizations in Cranbrook as well. Volunteers have rounded up coats to give to Community Connections and donated toiletries to Street Angels.

Presently, the group is holding a bottle drive to raise money for a senior citizen’s prescription medication.

“We kind of research the situation to make sure that the need is genuine, but then we’ll go and put posts out, try to be a support,” said Ingram.

The group’s name was inspired by Pay it Forward, a movie staring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt where a young boy completes good deeds as part of a social studies assignment. Ingram said she really resonated with the film, as it paralleled experiences she had as a child.

“The movie really spoke to me.”

Ingram, who was raised in Cranbrook, said she always enjoyed helping her community. One of her earliest acts of charitable goodwill happened when she helped her grandmother, a Salvation Army volunteer, gather clothes for a classmate whose house had burned down in a fire.

One winter, she used her allowance to save up for a snow shovel and then used it to clear snow from her neighbour’s sidewalks.

Ingram said it felt like a natural course of action to use the connections she had made as a long-time community member to continue giving back and grow her efforts.

“I just needed something to keep me busy,” she said.

About the Author: Gillian Francis

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