PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A new Portland-based non-profit is working to spread joy, love and positivity throughout the Rose City, and it’s also helping its founder stay committed to a major lifestyle change she made during the pandemic.
Kayla Nestor moved to Portland from Colorado five years ago and started working in the mental health field. She was working with teenagers and coached them on coping skills and how to avoid substances – all while battling her own reliance on alcohol.
Nestor said drinking had always been part of her life, from celebrating events, to going out with friends in college. But when the pandemic hit, she noticed the habit worsened quickly. She was drinking seven days a week, sometimes even while she worked.
She knew she needed to quit and with the help of her partner, she did in August 2020.
“I’m almost two years alcohol-free, which feels so amazing,” Nestor said, “but in that journey of trying to give up alcohol and find myself, I realized I had no skills. I didn’t know what to do with my day on my weekends when I wasn’t working.”
Up until that point, every day had revolved around how much she was drinking and how she was going to hide it.
Nestor said the one thing she knew she loved to do was performing random acts of kindness.
In the past she’d bought coffee for the people behind her in the drive-thru line, or she’d surprise people by purchasing their groceries – and it always made her feel good.
So, she started using her random acts of kindness to cope with her sobriety. Every time she wanted a drink, she’d instead do something nice for someone in the Portland community.
The only problem was the cost of these random acts of kindness was adding up quickly. She needed a way to earn money to continue on her mission.
“I remember six months ago, breaking down to my partner and crying and saying, I wish someone would just pay me to go do kind things in the community,” Nestor said.
That’s what inspired her to launch the non-profit called Wildly Kind. The non-profit was formed in April 2022 and Nestor said she and the non-profit’s board of directors will submit its tax-exempt status in August.
Nestor hopes this non-profit will allow her to continue spreading good in the community.
So far, the non-profit is focusing on three things: self-care kits, kindness pop-ups, and random acts of kindness.
The self-care kits will be distributed to people quarterly. From July through September, these kits will be given to healthcare workers in the Portland area. Over the next year, Nestor plans to give them out to homeless people, then mental healthcare workers and teachers.
The kindness pop-ups take place in public locations like Laurelhurst Park. Wildly Kind volunteers will set up a booth and give out things like flowers with handwritten affirmations on them, or dog treats to people who have pets.
In its random acts of kindness, Wildly Kind places what Nestor calls “kindness cards” throughout the city.
“‘To the stranger who finds this card, I hope you know that you are loved. This world is better because you are here. Spread kindness wildly,’” Nestor said, reading the message on the back of one of the cards.
People can either keep the card or hide it somewhere else to pay it forward. They’re encouraged to share on Wildly Kind’s website where they found the card and how it made them feel.
Nestor and her Wildly Kind volunteers have also posted positive messages on telephone poles and written uplifting things on the sidewalk around Portland to spread kindness. Sometimes, Nestor said she’ll even just send a random person a positive message on social media to brighten their day.
The reactions she’s received from people have let her know that what she’s doing is important.
“I’ve had people who have reacted so strongly and dropped to their knees,” Nestor said. “And so the fact that people’s reactions are so strong really tells me that there’s a desperate need for more kindness out there.”
She’s inviting more people to get involved in spreading positivity throughout Portland. People can volunteer to help at one of the kindness pop-up events or can make a donation on Wildly Kind’s website. Any vendors interested in making donations for the self-care kits can also contact Kayla by emailing her.
Nestor hopes one day to expand her non-profit beyond Oregon, but said even if it doesn’t grow beyond Portland, she’ll still continue to do the work.
“It’s just something that I think is going to be needed as long as people are struggling and I see a lot of people struggling,” she said.