By Jessica Peyton Roberts
Crystle Jenson is a thoughtful woman. She begins by offering me three different kinds of coffee, apologizing for not being able to recommend any because, “I don’t actually drink coffee. I just keep it in the house in case any of my guests do.” And Crystle and her husband, Alvin, have a lot of guests – volunteering their house as a site for military families to receive counseling, hosting parties, and functioning as a home base before charity events.
The catch? Alvin medically retired from the service in November 2011. Crystle explains the couple made a conscious decision to stay involved in the military community, “We had this vision of helping other military families.”
The couple chose to return to Washington, settling in Lacey to be near JBLM, where Alvin was posted during the beginning of his service. Crystle found her friends from years ago had long since moved away to different posts, and turned to Facebook. She joined the group JBLM Super Moms, hoping to meet more women in the area. “Out of 30 members, I was the only posting,” she laughs. Eventually the group’s administrator approached Crystle about taking over. As the group’s numbers rose, Crystle recruited Maria Cordero, Liz Meyer, and Heather Armour as additional administrators. Today, Super Moms has 1,050 members, and continues to grow, as Crystle channels her energy into connecting local military wives with each other.
Crystle describes the group as a “safe space” for women to ask questions, from the logistical (resources at JBLM) to the personal (prayer requests). The only stipulation for continued membership is that people are expected to be helpful to each other. “You don’t have to be a mom,” she clarifies, “But you do have to provide valuable insight for other group members.”
When a grandmother contacted Crystle about a place to stay while visiting her grandchild, Crystle sent out a request to the group. Several women immediately offered their homes, no questions asked. The women frequently provide childcare for each other, while Crystle and Christina Mulliford run JBLM Homes, a resource for military families to see what homes on base look like before moving in. Ms. Cordero runs the group’s own Cinderella’s Closet, where women and girls can rent dresses for free.
Crystle wanted to see if she could extend JBLM Super Moms’ generosity into the larger community. Looking online for ideas, she discovered the non-profit organization, Random Acts, which funds people’s ideas for random acts of kindness for up to $500. The money comes from private and corporate sponsors from around the world, enabling people to effect positive change in their own lives and in the lives of others.
Crystle and Alvin filled out an application with Random Acts, proposing they host a spaghetti dinner for Olympia’s homeless people. Within a couple of days they received the money and began prepping a massive spread. Someone suggested they pre-make the dinners into little packets to hand out. Crystle, however, insisted that they serve the hungry. “When’s the last time they went to a restaurant? I wanted them to feel special for a few minutes.”
The Super Moms helped Crystle and Alvin pack up and deliver the meal. Nadia Riley brought clothes to hand out, along with local teens who volunteered to assist for the evening. Rachel Young, owner of Miss Moffett’s Mystical Cupcakes, donated trays of cupcakes.
Inspired by the Spaghetti Dinner’s success, other members set out to do their own unfunded acts of kindness. They discovered, however, it is not always easy to get people to accept random gestures of goodwill. When Ashley Mills and Chandra Montgomery attempted to give out free hugs at their local mall they observed, “It was not as easy as you would think. I was sad to see a lot of dirty looks. We only had 3 or 4 takers for hugs, but we were also giving out Hershey hugs for people who didn’t want to hug us. Even that was difficult. We didn’t mind though. It was a lot of fun.”
Aryn Alizabeth Taylor and her daughter made cupcakes and cookies for the JBLM gate guards, who told her nicely that they were not allowed to accept them. (Fortunately, Ms. Taylor’s husband helped her out by eating them!) Another woman attempted to do something similar with her local Fire Department, only to be turned away as well.
Still, Crystle is quick to point out it is the attempt that matters. These women set an example for each other, and for their children. The Jenson’s kids are eager to help with the couple’s Random Acts’ projects, and their oldest son asks Crystle for ideas on how he can be helpful to their neighbors. “One day I sent him out to pick up everybody’s trash bins from the curb after the garbage was collected. He did the whole street, came home, and said, ‘Now what?’”
Crystle is optimistic that she will be able to leverage JBLM Super Mom’s members into a positive force for the community, both military and civilian, through continued funding from Random Acts. In the meantime, these Super Moms remind us to harness our thoughts of goodwill into action – because any kindness, no matter how small, means something to someone.