While opinions may differ on the best type of sauce and the best style of barbecue from region to region, there is one indisputable fact: the spirit of barbecue is about community. It’s about caring, coming together, and enjoying the company of those around you. That’s why the community is a fundamental pillar of Sonny’s BBQ and they’ve made it their mission to give back to the neighborhoods they serve through their ‘Q the Kindness’ programs.
Every day, Kindness Leader Kennon Adkinson and his Kindness Team set out to spread kindness through random acts of barbecuing, donations and volunteering. It is this volunteerism, these hours of service in the field that truly inspires them and those around them. “Giving back is all I know. It’s amazing to see the camaraderie and opportunity that comes from the kindness team, not only at work but in their personal lives as well. We are blessed to see the power of help others and hope to inspire more people to get involved in the communities they call home.
For National Volunteer Week, Sonny’s Kindness Crew explains why they show up every day to do good in the community and make an impact.
Volunteering brings and spreads happiness
Bringing joy to others doesn’t have to be complicated. Volunteering is a simple way to make an impact in someone’s life. Whether it’s serving a hot meal or cleaning up trash in a park, every little bit contributes to a better day. Kindness team member and waitress (Apopka) Claudia Hamilton has felt the impact of being around other volunteers, especially during her time working with HOPE by Apopka, a local non-profit organization that provides services to people in difficulty. She organized a fundraiser with her colleagues for a HOPE event where they provided hot meals, clothing and toiletries to community members. “I love how our team and the organizations we partner with are so passionate. It gives me the ‘oomph’ to keep going, to keep spreading more happiness.” That’s also why she loves volunteering, “ seeing the enthusiasm and happiness of the people you serve and other volunteers cannot be matched.
For the Kindness Crew, spreading joy comes from their passion to serve and connect with members of their community. “My favorite organization to work with is Orange Park Signature Healthcareexplains Jessica Spinelli, server (Orange Park, Florida) and member of the Kindness team. “My heart is with our older generations and this retirement home creates a welcoming community. We know every day isn’t perfect, especially if you’re sick or feeling lonely, so I love to brighten their day and share an afternoon of conversation and caring.
Volunteering is better with friends and family
Life is busy and it can seem difficult to find time for things like volunteering. The trick? Bring the ones you love. “It’s a family affair when we go out for a rescue barbecue. My kids and husband love being part of such a great experience,” Tara Boyle, Pitmaster, Operations Manager (West Coast BBQ) and member of Kindness Crew explains how she is able to expand her volunteer impact by bringing members of his family. “It doesn’t stop there; we also help my mother with food drives. As a Pitmaster, I can’t help but feed the community with great food,” Boyle laughs. Boyle brings his passion for nurturing others and connecting with the community to life through annual events like American Cancer Society Relay for Life Survivor Dinner and Arry’s roof Block party in the neighborhood. These events are symbols of hope for everyone involved, “it’s through these gatherings that you really see the impact that volunteering and mutual aid can have. I am grateful to share these moments with the people who mean the most to me.
Another way to make volunteering a core activity is to link it to milestones. Vacations are a natural fit and make us think more about our community and how to help those less fortunate. “Volunteering with my kids at the soup kitchen for Thanksgiving or picking up toys for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bluegrass at Christmas really makes our time together meaningful,” says Tina Baker, Vice-Principal (Nicholasville, KY) and Kindness Team Member. Baker is known for her undeniable passion for helping others and it is her willingness to go above and beyond for her community that extends to her family and colleagues.
Bottom Line: Getting more people involved in volunteer activities has a bigger impact, a stronger community, and it’s a lot of fun.
Pay-it-Forward creates a continuous cycle
“What I love most about volunteering is that it gives you the opportunity to pay it forward,” Spinelli shares. “A word of encouragement or a little help to those in need can help them get back on their feet, and when they do, they will do the same for others. The cycle continues.
CKO Adkinson is still impressed with his time with the Orange County Public Schools system through the random acts of BBQ: Student Edition. “This program seeks out and celebrates caring, service-oriented young people throughout the district. It’s amazing how kind and generous these people are at such a young age. They carry this kindness with them throughout their lives and inspire adults and children with their spirit to give back.
It all comes back to the community. Sonny’s BBQ (Kingsland, GA) Assistant Manager and Kindness Team Member Michelle Sweat points out, “Community is what makes a business. Seeing what Sonny’s puts into the community and the support we see from the community is absolutely amazing. The circle is complete. She carries this spirit of giving into her volunteering and donations. By joining the Kindness Crew, each member has the opportunity to choose a charity and Sonny’s will donate $2,500. Sweat knew exactly where that donation would go: Fisherman’s House Foundation. The organization cared for her and her family while her father went through cancer treatment, and it was the way to keep the kindness loop going.
The Kindness Team feels lucky to be able to see firsthand the power of volunteering. And it is not for them that they have found a career path in a company that shares their values of benevolence and generosity.