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Pay It Forward 9/11/2008 Random Kindness Summary

Posted 09.11.2008

Today, the staff at EnviroMedia Social Marketing spent over $1500 helping strangers throughout Austin.  We’ve done this every year for the past seven years to commemorate the heroes and the lives lost on 9/11/2001, and to remember the worldwide outpouring of kindness and generosity that was directed at the U.S. after the attacks.  (especially the folks in Gander, Newfoundland). As usual, our teams came up with creative ways to spend their time and money.  Below are some stories and pictures from the day.

A New Bike for a New Austinite

“We wanted to do something a little different this year, so we went on Craigslist and found an ad posted by a single mom who recently moved to Austin.  Her bike, her sole mode of transportation, had been stolen and she was hoping someone had seen it.  We emailed her and told her that we would like to give her $100 that should could put toward the purchase of a new or used bike.  We met her at a coffee shop this morning to give her the money.  This afternoon, we received an unsolicited email from her: “I hope you can understand how much this means to me. I am a struggling single mom, and was trying to figure out how I was going to get a new bike. This makes all the difference. My “Pay it Forward” idea’s are brewing… and I promise that something will be done.’”


Reusable Bags and Groceries

“We went to HEB and bought reusable grocery bags for people. We also bought groceries for a young couple with two kids.”

Hurricane Provisions and Lunch at Ground Zero
“Howdy kids-Michelle (my wife) participated too by paying for hurricane provisions for the elderly at WalMart.” Note: This staffer also brought lunch to workers at Ground Zero in NYC.

Recycled Books and CDs in South Austin

“My partner and I plan to visit various used goods retail stores like Half Price Books, Goodwill and Cheapo’s in south Austin to make surprise purchases for customers purchasing used goods and products.

We like to think of these people enjoying their book/CD/shirt and saying, ‘Someone bought this for me on 9/11 to commemorate the outpouring of kindness and generosity between and towards the Americans on 9/11.  All they asked is that I “Pay it Forward” and consider spreading this random act of kindness.’”

Detergent and Cupcakes


“Seven bottles of Seventh Generation laundry detergent will help [families staying at the Ronald McDonald House] a lot, including some families of hurricane medical evacuees.”  Note: They also brought cupcakes to the Southwest Airlines ground workers at ABIA.

New Panties!

“We chose Lisa’s Hope Chest for our Pay-It-Forward project today.  Lisa provides business wear for women who have been down on their luck but are trying to make a comeback.  So many of these women don’t have appropriate clothing for interviews.  The Hope Chest also provides image consulting and life skills training…all at no cost to the individual and you don’t need to “qualify” to benefit from this wonderful program.  Lisa told us that the community has been wonderful providing appropriate clothing but one was glaringly absent.  Underwear!!  I think most people are happy to give business clothes but just don’t think about what goes on underneath.  Anyway, we were able to purchase 95 (!) pairs of women’s panties for this fabulous organization.  You can find out more about their programs at www.lisashopechest.org.”

All (Medical) Expenses Paid

“We are going to go pay for prescriptions for people who do not have insurance at a pharmacy in South East Austin. Probably a CVS or Walgreen’s.”


Flashlights for the Hurricane

“We decided to provide flashlights with batteries to people living in east Austin. We thought having this item was a simple way for people to be better prepared for an emergency. Everyone was very appreciative. One lady who was 86 years old said she had never received such a generous gift.”

Foot-long Sandwiches for Unsuspecting Austinites

“We did something a little less flashy this year…. We bought 20 people sandwiches at Subway. The girls behind the counter were not familiar with the movie or the concept of Pay It Forward at all, but were super excited. After we ordered our sandwiches for our lunch, we explained that we were doing something a different today. We told them that we would like to pay for the next 20 customers sandwiches and handed them the $100 bill (plus a little to cover the tax on the sandwiches). They asked more about the program and we explained the movie, what we do and what to tell the people who had their meal paid for, etc. One of the girls behind the counter took my card and said she would call me after they gave the money out and let me know how it went. Can’t wait to hear about it!”

Money for Strangers


We kept it pretty simple.  We walked down Congress and handed five dollar bills to strangers.  We bought coffee for someone, bought lunch for a couple people, paid for a bit of someone’s prescription at a local pharmacy.  One woman gave Heather a hug; an elderly man told us that he remembered 9/11 and 12/7 (Pearl Harbor).

Keeping Austin’s Animals Healthy

“We went to Emancipet, a company…dedicated to preventing animal homelessness and putting an end to euthanasia as a means of population control by providing low-cost or free surgical sterilization of dogs and cats.  While we were there Isaias came in and he was concerned about his Chihuahua, Deede, who may have worms…We offered to put $50 towards his account to get her the shots she needed as well as the surgery. He was very grateful. The next client that came in was Nikki. She was buying flea & tick prevention for her German Shepard mix. We were able to apply $50 to her purchase of a 6-month supply. She was surprised and grateful for this favor and was interested in how it was started. Ted was so moved by the work that they do, he made an additional donation to help people after we had left!”

Note: This afternoon, this team received an e-mail from Emancipet: “Thank you so much for truly inspiring our entire staff and helping our clients take care of their precious animals.”

These stories were reported by the participants at a company-wide meeting today. It was emotional to hear how grateful and inspired everyone was by these simple acts of kindness. It’s not too late for you to do it.

And yet, our staff is concerned about the thousands of Hurricane Ike evacuees headed to Austin. Several of us have already stepped up to volunteer.