In response to the mass shooting at a Connecticut school Dec. 14, Ben's Bells has launched a Bring Kindness to Newtown campaign.
"We got an incredible number of emails and phone calls and Facebook posts asking us to bring Ben's Bells to Connecticut," said one of the nonprofit's founders, Jeannette Maré. "We sort of meditated on it for a bit to decide on the best thing to do because a lot of those messages came from people in Connecticut."
On Jan. 6 a few Tucson representatives from Ben's Bells will fly to Connecticut and meet with a contingent of supporters in Newtown. They plan to hang at least 1,000 bells on Jan. 8, leave baskets of Kindness Coins - flower-shaped ceramics - at local schools for students, and return to Tucson without making any formal presentations.
"We didn't want to intrude on their community. We decided to hang Ben's Bells without getting in anyone's way," she said.
The date for distribution was chosen deliberately to coincide with the anniversary of the mass shooting in Tucson that left six dead and 13 injured.
"The Tucson community can do it as a way to connect, to honor the people we lost here two years ago, and to help people who are just beginning to go through their excruciating grief," Maré said. Hanging the bells is "something that can be done that is quietly powerful."
People across the country learned about Ben's Bells in the wake of the Jan. 8, 2011, shootings outside a northwest-side grocery store that garnered national news coverage.
Some people living in Connecticut also have personal connections with Ben's Bells.
"We have one woman who lived here when the shootings happened two years ago and she found a Ben's Bell when we hung them and it meant so much to her. Now she lives in Newtown and her child goes to school there," Maré said.
Bringing bells to Newtown will be a nationwide effort, Maré said. Her organization has received monetary donations to make the bells from people living all over the country, and eight other communities across the nation have studios to produce Ben's Bells that will contributed to the Newtown "belling."
If you volunteer ...
• Needed: Volunteers to make 1,000-plus Ben's Bells to distribute in Newtown, Conn. No artistic ability required.
Drop by either of the Ben's Bells studios to help make bells for Newtown. Projects vary from day-to-day but typically include painting or working with clay.
• Where: Ben's Bells, Main Gate, 816 E. University Blvd. in Geronimo Plaza; and Ben's Bells, Downtown, 40 W. Broadway, in the historic Charles O. Brown House.
• Open studio hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays at both studios; 10 am. to 7 p.m. Fridays at the Main Gate Studio; closed Sundays and Mondays.
• Drop-ins welcome. Reservations requested for groups of 10 or more at least a week prior to the volunteer date.
• Holiday hours: Main Gate Studio closed Tuesday and Wednesday and Jan. 1. Downtown Studio closed Tuesday through Jan. 1.
• Cost: There is never a fee for going to the studio to help make bells, but volunteers are encouraged to make a $1 donation to help fund the project.
• Contact: www.bensbells.org.; 628-2829 (Main Gate); and 622-1379 (Downtown)
Send Kindness to Newtown
The organizers of Ben's Bells have five ways Tucsonans can help spread kindness to the residents of Newtown, Conn.:
1. Sponsor a Ben's Bell to be hung in the Newtown community on Jan. 8 by donating at www.bensbells.org
2. Be intentional about spreading kindness wherever you are. Know that people everywhere have been touched by this incident and other life struggles, and every act of kindness makes a difference.
3. Write a "Kind Note." Download a template of our Kind Note to send a personal message to residents of Newtown or stop by the Main Gate Studio to write a note.
4. Make bells. Volunteers of all ages can go to the Ben's Bells studios to help make the 1,000 bells that will be distributed in Newtown.
5. "Like" the Ben's Bells Project Facebook to follow and share the latest news about how Tucson is reaching out to the residents of Newtown.
Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4191.