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JoAnne and David Bennett take random acts of kindness for strangers affected by destruction to heart

In 2018, when the deadliest and most destructive wildfire to date hit California, Gladstone residents JoAnne and David Bennett decided to do something about it.

COURTESY PHOTO - Devon, Dusti and Dalton Hildreth celebrate under a Christmas tree in 2019 after a Gladstone couple organized an ornament drive to replace those lost in California wildfires."Ever since I was a little girl, I've had a lot of faith in humanity and truly believe kindness is going to win in the end, especially if we keep spreading more light and being positive examples," JoAnne said.

To adopt families affected by the fire that destroyed a town of about 25,000 people, JoAnne joined an online forum where volunteers would ask survivors questions like, "What's one small thing you or your child miss the most?" She was moved by how many survivors answered that they missed their wind chimes.

"From my own life story, I can still hear my longtime friend who passed away in 2013 cheering me on when the soft breeze hits my wind chime just right," she said.

David, a stained-glass artist, made nine wind chimes to send to fire victims in California last year, using a design inspired by JoAnne with fused-glass hearts and complementary confetti glass pieces hanging below.

COURTESY PHOTO - Lisa Englant, who lost her home in California to a wildfire, received a stained-glass panel donated by JoAnne and David Bennett of Gladstone."She's always looking for people who need a little pick-me-up, and it's not a lot of expense for us, but it's brought joy to so many people," he said.

JoAnne says that many who were affected by the fire in Paradise, California, feel forgotten by the rest of the nation.

"I hope they will be able to hear that many of us are praying and cheering them on when the soft breeze hits their gift just right," she said.

Many were willing to help handmake and gather ornaments for the Bennetts to send with their Christmas tree, donated in 2018, which was the first of many projects that started their mission for California fire victims.

JoAnne sent out a last-minute call for ornaments on Nov. 7, and by the end of the month, boxes of Christmas decorations were arriving at their Gladstone home from across the nation, and on Dec. 7, David drove the tree and decorations to California.

Ornaments kept coming long after Christmas 2018. The Bennetts said there were enough gifts from the heart to give another family in Paradise, California, the rest of the ornaments this past year.

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