CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Morgan Krieger and Kate Webster weren’t in a hurry.
They were running errands for their parents, picking up a few grocery items for Christmas dinner. But they weren’t in a hurry.
With Krieger at West Virginia University and Webster at the University of Georgia, FaceTime calls are the closest they come to seeing each other for months. So, when the two are finally home in Charleston, any chance they have to spend together, even a grocery run, is embraced.
After some be-boppin’ and giggling around the store, they paid for their food and headed for the door. A woman approached, holding a load of groceries. She looked frazzled.
“Can you all please help me?”
Krieger and Webster made eye contact. Because she left her car’s lights on, the woman explained, her battery died. She needed a jump start.
“What should we say? Do you have an excuse? I don’t have an excuse,” Krieger thought, looking at Webster. They couldn’t come up with anything. Krieger slowly offered, “Uh, yea. We can help you.”
A few minutes later, the 19-year-olds were getting a short lesson on jump-starting a car. It was a quick act, only took a few minutes, if that. The woman greatly appreciated it, and the two left the Ashton Place Kroger parking lot feeling good.
“Wow! We are so nice,” they said. They kept boosting themselves up by repeating, “I love nice people. I love nice people.”
And then it hit them. They almost didn’t help that woman. They almost tried to tell themselves and her that they were too busy, their schedule too tight, to assist a stranded stranger.
Their instinct was to say, “No.” But why?
The two started talking - they could name countless episodes of people acting inconsiderate and selfishly. They saw it all the time from their college peers. They saw it in themselves.
And they wanted to do something to change it.
One year after their car battery rescue, Krieger and Webster have their own nonprofit: I Love Nice People Inc. It operates on a simple mission: “To spread happiness through the simple act of being nice.”
This past summer, the pair launched a T-shirt line with the saying, “I love nice people” printed across the chest. The mission statement is printed on the back of every shirt, which they sell in children, unisex and women styles.
It’s their first tactic, in a slew of ideas, to try and subtly spread the notion that being nice can go a long way.
“The world just needs more simple kindness,” Krieger said. She hopes the shirts provide a quick reminder to the wearer and to the viewer to check him or herself.
“You never know what’s going on in someone else’s life. A simple smile can make a huge difference.”
Krieger said since founding the organization, she checks herself much more often. The notion is teaching her to respond with kindness and understanding rather than reacting to situations.
After the two started wearing the shirts, they’ve noticed a difference in the people around them.
After the first order of shirts arrived, Krieger put one on and went shopping with her dad, Kurt. She got a lot of looks. An alarming amount of looks. And every one was followed by a smile.
Was there something in her teeth? She asked her dad. He pointed to her shirt. Duh.
She’s also witnessed a high rate of strangers going out of their way to help her, like a store clerk spending a ton of time searching for a product, when she’s wearing her “I love nice people” shirt.
“I swear it’s all because of that shirt.”
Besides providing subtle reminders of kindness and love, the two have bigger plans for how their shirts can help others.
At the end of every fiscal year, I Love Nice People will donate all of its profits to other nonprofits. This year’s donation will go to Daymark, a youth services program, in Charleston and to a learning center in Peru where the two volunteered at a few summers ago.
Because their fiscal year isn’t complete yet, Krieger was unsure of how much money they’ll be donating in 2016. So far, they’ve sold between 300 to 400 shirts. She joked that she needed to consult her accountant, her father, before naming a figure.
But she did ensure that the two will carefully review any nonprofit before making a donation. Thanks to social media and spreading awareness of their shirts and mission, orders continue to come in. Charlie Boutique, on Bridge Road, in Charleston, has the shirts for sale.
The styles are offered in short sleeve and long sleeve. They even have a tank top. The shirts are offered in black with white type or in white with black type. There’s a reason they’re keeping their apparel so simple.
“It’s not supposed to be anything big or elaborate. Just be nice,” Krieger said.
Webster said it was also very important to them to purchase the shirts from a retailer that is responsibly producing shirts. They chose American Apparel because it produces its apparel in the U.S. and pays its employees a fair living wage.
This is just the beginning for the two. They’re already talking about expanding their motto onto stickers and coffee mugs.
They credited the help of their parents, Kurt and Cathy Krieger and Brett and Sue Webster, to making I Love Nice People a reality.
Their moms have become their distribution managers, which allows them to continue to sell and distribute shirts even when they are away at college. Kurt Krieger also serves as the organization’s attorney and accountant.
It’s hard to manage and grow a nonprofit as juniors in college. Thanks to technology, it’s helped them stay connected.
This coming semester will provide a new challenge for the pair. The two George Washington High School graduates are preparing to complete a semester abroad. This spring, Krieger will be in London, while Webster will be in Vienna, Austria.
Like being a full-time student and managing a nonprofit wasn’t hard enough.
Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.
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