Volunteering at animal shelters, feeding the homeless and baking for the elderly are all ways Kristen Litell, Amy Geile and Kerri Agee worked with their kids to instill compassion and empathy toward others.
In doing so, the three women saw a need for an easy way for parents to teach their children how to make the days brighter for those in need by creating something with their own hands.
So, they created craft kits that children and families could work on together and then give to someone else, whether that be a homeless person, a child in need or even a friend.
“Our kids loved it,” Littell said. “And families started asking how to be a part of it, so we started growing it. Through our growth we tried to provide project kits.”
In 2011, the WeeWork Foundation became a nonprofit that supports children’s programs and organizations.
In 2014, the women took it a step further and created WeeWork for Good, a for-profit social enterprise, to fund the foundation so families that don’t have the means can participate in service projects.
Late last month, WeeWork For Good launched its e-commerce site, which through a quarterly membership, families can receive craft kits and educational materials to work on with their kids every three months. Finished projects are either donated to the company’s spotlight organization, a local nonprofit or a friend or family member in need.
Kits also come with a miniature version of the craft — created by a local artist — for the kids to keep as a reminder of the good deed.
The first project is “polar bear power” and the lesson is about strength and encouragement for children fighting an illness, Littell said.
“We are manufacturing projects that we’ll ship around the world,” Littell said. “We wanted to empower families so they had the resources to facilitate a lesson. It’s grown from our hearts and wanting to instill compassion in our children. It’s been an organic growth.”
To grow their idea, the three families spent lots of time — over a five-year span — in the streets learning how to help people.
“We have 20 years of projects in our minds because of experiences we’ve had,” Littell said.
For every membership sold, WeeWork For Good will donate a craft project for a partner organization that serves children in need. The first beneficiary for that gift is the Boys and Girls Club of Tucson.
“It gives all children an opportunity to be givers, regardless of their socioeconomic background,” Littell said. “We strongly believe that if kids are given that opportunity to learn about the value of service that when they become adults it will be a part of their lives. We’re trying to empower the next generation to have compassion for others.”
With the vision of manufacturing and creating craft kits, the women had to figure out how to get them assembled. After searching Google for fulfillment centers in Tucson, they came across the Beacon Group, which provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
“When we walked in we couldn’t believe our eyes,” Littell said. “Our missions are so aligned. We shared with them our vision and our project and they said they want to be our partner.”
Beacon Group will pack the craft projects into boxes and ship them all over the world.
“We don’t get jobs because it’s cute and a nice thing to do, we get work because it makes good business sense,” said Patrick McCarthy, Beacon Group’s director of development and communications. “We all agree to give people with disabilities a chance to have the benefits of employment that all of us enjoy as well. I think places like WeeWork For Good get that very quickly because the nature of their business and we appreciate those kinds of jobs because they’re mission driven like we are. But at the end of the day work is work and we have to treat it as we have a job to do and we have to get that job done.”
Since starting this journey, Littell has seen a difference in her children.
“I see compassion and awareness for others in our children,” Littell said.
The day after delivering cookies to elderly people, the family went out to eat. Littell’s 9-year-old daughter saw an older woman in a wheelchair and made a point to bend down and speak to her.
“I don’t think she would have done that if she hadn’t had that experience,” Littell said.
Page E1 photo: Volunteer Amber Brewer watches as children play in the “Walk In Someone Else’s Shoes” dress-up area at the launch.