How two Maryland women hope to change the world – starting in Baltimore

Date: May 27, 2015

When Erin Becker started handing out KIND bars a few years ago, she never told anyone about it. And she never thought it’d grow into what it is today. Erin wanted to help when she saw individuals and families holding “Hungry, please help” signs in Baltimore – she just wasn’t sure what to do. “I wanted to help people. I see them everyday. I see people’s grandmothers and sons, and my heart is broken.”

That’s when she got an idea. “I decided to give out the same healthy snacks I give my own children,” said Erin. Erin kept a bag of KIND bars in her car and handed them out at stoplights. When she heard about the 2-1-1 Maryland United Way Helpline, she started including cards with the bars. “I feel so great to be able to hand someone something to eat right away plus a number to call for help,” said Erin. “2-1-1 can get them the help they need. That’s what United Way does.”

More often than not, Erin’s kids are in the car with her. “It’s important for them to see it. It’s setting an example.” Erin grew up in Baltimore City and always enjoyed volunteering. Now, it’s a part of her life that she’s nurturing in her children. “I take my kids to do Families Living United Stone Soup volunteer events. It’s really important for the children to see and do what they can. We are community. We can help each other.”

As to her impact, Erin said, “I can’t tell you how many guys have taken that KIND bar from me. I always make eye contact and tell them good luck. I have never gotten anything back but a ‘God bless you’ and a ‘thank you’.”

Erin insists what she’s doing isn’t a big deal. “It’s nice to think that one person can make a difference. There are so many people out there doing so much more than I am. But if my story can inspire people to do something, then it’s worth it. This is something everyone can do. Together, we could help hundreds of people.”

And then we get to Tere.

“Tere’s the action girl. She ran with it,” said Erin.

When Tere Geckle met Erin Becker and learned what she was doing, Tere knew it could — and should — be something bigger. So, Tere got a bag and started passing out KIND bars to those in need too. Tere instantly made the connection to United Way’s Access to Healthy Food Initiative and showing kindness to yourself and others.

But she didn’t stop there. She emailed the president of KIND to ask for donated healthy snacks for all the women attending the United Way of Central Maryland’s inaugural Women’s Forum. “It is never a bad idea to ask for help, and KIND responded with a very generous yes and sponsorship,” said Tere.

Tere loves to be able to give out KIND bars while asking people to be kind to themselves and others, following Erin’s example. And she was ecstatic about the opportunity to share this “kindness” idea with the 400 women attending the forum. “What better way to spread kindness throughout the greater Baltimore area?” Thanks to Tere, KIND donated a box of bars for each woman attending the forum so they could take their bars and 2-1-1 cards to do the same thing.

“I’m incredibly passionate about being able to share kindness. Passion in helping others brings out the best in a person,” said Tere.  “KIND bars and the 2-1-1 cards are avenues to do good and kind things for others. It’s so easy to carry a bar with the 2-1-1 card attached in your purse or a bag in your car and give a person something to eat and a number to call for help.”

Tere and Erin make a great team and demonstrate the power of community, of working together. “I’m so very glad I met Erin, she’s a good human being, a wonderful and generous woman and an inspiration to me. We did this together.” Erin agrees. “Tere really is the one; she went to KIND and made something happen. But that’s the point. We are community. We all have different strengths and can help each other. And United Way can take it big, to scale.”

Erin Becker is a member of the Women’s Leadership Council-Tocqueville Society who has generously supported United Way for more than 20 years. Tere is also a member of the Women’s Leadership Council-Tocqueville Society, and the daughter of Jerry Geckle, who chaired the United Way Tocqueville Society in 1988 and served as co-chair for the United Way campaign in 1992.

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