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Iowa City encourages acts of kindness

BY ERICA MAHONEY | OCTOBER 20, 2014 5:00 AM

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Last year, Iowa City downtown-liaison police Officer David Schwindt dealt with a man who kept littering the streets with food thinking he was feeding the birds — in reality, he was making a mess.

Then one day, Schwindt said he saw him sweeping the food up and throwing it away.

“He told me he was trying to make things cleaner and nicer and I said, ‘You know what, that’s exactly what I’m looking for, so let me treat you to something.’”

Schwindt bought the man raspberry frozen yogurt and was inspired to create the #ThankYouIowaCity campaign.

Iowa City launched the new collaboration program between the Iowa City police and the Downtown District on Oct. 18. It is an incentive program that encourages the people of Iowa City to do good deeds and show acts of kindness to one another.

Downtown District Executive  Director Nancy Bird said the program works through a downtown police officer who presents people with cards redeemable at various local businesses when they see them doing a good deed.

Bird said the city’s main goal with the program is to motivate people to do nice things to make the community better in small ways.

“It’s intended to essentially reward people who do things like pick up a wrapper off the sidewalk or do something nice for someone else,” she said. “It’s just a good way to encourage and reward those who are doing good things downtown. We hope it encourages more people to do good things.”

Schwindt said another past initiative also contributed to the creation of #ThankYouIowaCity.
The previous incentive program for kids was called “I Got Caught,” and was put on by the Iowa Health System. “I Got Caught” rewarded kids for things such as wearing helmets while riding their bicycles and looking both ways before crossing the street.

Schwindt said the program will help police officers have more positive interactions with individuals.
“Typically as police officers, we’re called upon when there’s negative activity occurring,” he said.

“So when we come to someplace, there’s usually a problem. This program just gives us a chance to have completely proactive, positive interaction with people. It gives us a chance to approach someone and acknowledge their positive behavior.”

Schwindt said the businesses involved will benefit from the program.

“The businesses that I approached loved the idea,” he said. “It’s a way for them to reinforce positivity downtown and thank people for doing good things, and maybe those people will choose to go and try products and businesses that they normally wouldn’t try otherwise.”

Businesses involved include Yotopia Frozen Yogurt, Molly’s Cupcakes, Java House, and Iowa Book.
Monique Singson, an assistant manager at the Java House, 211½ E. Washington St., said the coffee shop decided to donate to the program as a way to support the community.

“We think of ourselves as a community-based company and supporting a local sense of community is very important to us,” she said. “We want to reward and encourage guests and customers who do nice things for the city and support each other in that way.”


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