The Ben's Bells Project brings kindness to Phoenix

The Ben's Bells Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading a message to "be kind," arrived in Phoenix in June to promote a culture of intentional kindness in schools, businesses and the greater community.

The organization celebrated the fully operational studio location on Roosevelt Row in Phoenix with a grand opening on Sept. 18.

Executive Director Jeannette Maré founded the Ben’s Bells Project after the death of her two-year-old son in 2003. The project's mission is to promote everyday acts of kindness and recognize members of the community for intentional kindness.

“It's about incorporating the practice of kindness into everything we do,” Maré said. "I'm really hoping it'll take off like it did in Tucson."

Maré said she hopes the organization will easily incorporate itself into Phoenix, especially in schools and businesses with the Kind Campus and Kind Colleagues programs.

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By Sydeny Maki

Ben’s Bells Project volunteers make quarter-sized flowers called “kindness coins” on Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. Community members are encouraged to pass on a “coin” when they observe an act of kindness.

Kindness Education has already begun to take action in about 20 schools in the Phoenix area.

"It's humbling to see how the message resonates with people," Maré said. 

The project started in Tucson, where there are currently two locations. Ben's Bells opened another studio in 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, following the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. The Phoenix location is the project’s fourth studio.

The project has already begun to leave its mark on the Phoenix and ASU community. Ben's Bells has participated in Roosevelt Row's First Fridays for several months and bells have appeared around ASU's downtown campus. 

Downtown Service Devils, a student organization downtown, plans to partner with Ben's Bells Project during the fall semester. 

"The experience of giving it away and teaching others what it means," said Kourtney Walker, a career advisor at ASU who specializes in social work and criminal justice. She brought a bell back from a trip to Tucson, which is now hanging in an ASU office. "It's just a reminder not only to be kind, but to express gratitude."

The Bells

The original initiative of the Ben’s Bells Project was to promote a culture of consideration and kindness. To spread the word, volunteers help build ceramic wind chimes — or bells. People are invited to sculpt beads, paint and decorate, or thread the bells together to form the handmade chime. Each bell is a collaborative effort between at least 10 separate people who built a different piece of the finished product.

The bells are then either randomly hung in public spaces to be found or awarded to people nominated by others in the community. Tucson's Arizona Daily Star, KGUN9's Morning Blend and 94.9 MIXfm - The Bobby Rich Morning Mix work with the organization to celebrate a weekly "Bellee.” This person is nominated by others in the community to receive a bell for their extraordinary kindness.

Kindness Education

Ben's Bells also works towards promoting Kindness Education in schools, businesses and the general community. The Kindness Education Program reached more than 180,000 students, according to Amy Collinsworth, a marketing and communications manager for the Ben’s Bells Project.

The Kind Campus program encourages schools to initiate a conversation within their culture to recognize the importance of intentional kindness. More than 320 schools have been impacted by the work of Ben’s Bells.

A Tucson high school student expressed her excitement about the implementation of the Kindness Education Program into her own scholastic community. Students and teachers have been working together this fall to create a signature mural reminding students to "be kind" during everyday actions.

“I think people just need to know what a big effect kindness has on people,” Sophie Smith, a freshman at Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, Arizona, said. “I'm really proud of my school for doing this.”

The organization has already helped to create a series of over 100 mosaic murals and art pieces, called the Kindness Corridor, in order to remind people of the Ben’s Bells mission in schools and in the community. Volunteers, students, local artists and other groups, work together to design and build these murals.

Be kind. Step up!

As another way of initiating partnership within the community, the Ben’s Bells Project, UA Athletics, and UA campus health, started the "Be kind. Step up!" project. The project uses bracelets, that each exhibit a unique number to keep track of its journey from wrist to wrist. When the wearer observes someone else being kind, they can pass on the bracelet so that it is exchanged between different people. Then, each wearer can log on and share the story about how they received the bracelet. They can also view all of the stories from the many people who were given the bracelet before them.

Almost 50,000 bells have been distributed in the community, and more than 35,600 people visit the Ben’s Bells studios to volunteer each year.

The Phoenix studio is located on 417 E Roosevelt St in Phoenix. Open studio hours are on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The location will be open from 12:00 to 9:00 p.m. on First Fridays.


Reach the reporter at smmaki@asu.edu or follow @symmaki on Twitter.

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