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Good deeds multiply

George Grenyo picked up trash along a street near his home.

Kate Hietapelto bought a cell phone charger for an out-of-town visitor.

Ana Arredondo and her children packed emergency food rations for earthquake victims in Haiti.

Drew Haden made dinner for his mom.

They did it to be nice. But they also hope their acts of kindness prompt others to action, to do something nice for somebody else.

That's the idea behind Do the Deed, a community kindness initiative launched three months ago by Greteman Group and The Wichita Eagle.

"When I first heard about it, I thought, 'That's a great idea,' " said Grenyo, 84, a retired oil and gas lease man.

"I like what they said about even simple things being acts of kindness, like smiling at somebody or holding the door open for an old guy."

A few weeks after learning about the campaign, Grenyo called a friend, Chuck McBride, and invited him to hit some golf balls at the driving range. Then they spent an hour picking up trash along 127th Street East in Wichita. The men filled two large bags with cans, bottles, fast-food bags and other litter.

Both men were a little tired, Grenyo said, "but it did feel good to spend time just doing something nice."

Deanna Harms, executive vice president of Greteman Group, said she has enjoyed seeing the campaign develop and spread via the Web site, DotheDeed.org, and word-of-mouth.

The site offers deed suggestions and a place for people to log their own. It also lets people submit stories about how their lives were touched by a caring act, or something they did for someone else that had far-reaching consequences.

Do the Deed business cards and a deed-tracking feature on the Web site let people follow subsequent deeds inspired by their acts of kindness. The concept is similar to WheresGeorge.com, a site that helps people track dollar bills as they move around the world.

"Just the whole ripple effect has been amazing," Harms said. "To see this motivated that, and that led to something else.... It can be as small or as big as you want to make it."

Students in Becky Nordyke's interpersonal communication class at Wichita State University have adopted the campaign as a class project. Nordyke assigned them to do at least one good deed a day through the spring semester. Next week's assignment: Smile at everyone you meet.

"We're going to talk about how hard it is to do, or how easy it is to do, and what kind of response they get," Nordyke said.

"Unfortunately there is so much rudeness and incivility in the world. You've got the sportscasters who talk over each other and political pundits yelling over each other, and nobody is nice and polite anymore."

Hietapelto, a 24-year-old strategic communication major, said the project has made her more aware of random kindnesses in her life, both given and received. Just before Valentine's Day, a neighbor from a nearby apartment left a new welcome mat at her front door.

"That was just such a sweet thing to do," she said. "A total surprise."

The next day, while helping a friend run a booth at the Women's Fair (her first good deed of the day), Hietapelto met an exhibitor from Denver who had forgotten to pack the charger for his BlackBerry. She drove to an electronics store, bought the charger and left it at the visitor's booth.

"He just went on and on about how nice that was," she said. "It wasn't a big deal at all, but it made his day, and I was happy to do it."

Some students balked at the concept at first, Nordyke said, particularly those who volunteer regularly or prefer their good deeds to remain anonymous.

"Now they are thinking more in terms of, 'Hey, I do this every day, but I didn't realize the effect it had on other people,' " she said.

Participants are not required to leave names or other details, and not every deed is tracked. But Harms said some people enjoy the tracking feature and the campaign's "#dothedeed" Twitter hashtag.

Fast Company magazine featured the campaign on its Web site in January and registered a deed with the code "FastCard." That deed has spawned more than 25 other acts of kindness so far:

The first person tipped his waiter a bit more at lunch. Another helped a teacher organize her classroom. The next person shoveled an elderly neighbor's driveway. Another chased down carts in a grocery store parking lot. One person "gave someone the benefit of the doubt."

East Heights United Methodist Church featured Do the Deed at a January worship service and encouraged the congregation to take part in the movement. Since then, members have cooked and served breakfast at a homeless shelter, made fleece scarves and blankets for people in need, and paid for strangers' meals at restaurants.

"This, for us, was a way of making our prayer an active thing," said Beth Strickler, the church's prayer director. "Sometimes people think the only way we pray is quietly in a closet, but our actions are a part of our prayer life.

"Doing good for others is a way to share the love of Christ in our hearts."

Haden, 19, a student in Nordyke's communication class, said he drove a friend whose car was out of commission to work. Other deeds have been simpler — saying thank you, opening doors for people, "just trying to be friendly," he said.

One recent evening, he surprised his mom by making tacos for dinner. They were ready when she got home from work.

"She loved it," Haden said. "It was a real nice surprise."

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