One compassionate act of kindness.
Sometimes that’s all it takes to make someone’s day.
To change someone’s life.
Maybe to even build stronger bonds within a community.
Springing from a single gesture of goodwill, the Delmarva-based nonprofit organization Tides of Grace, Inc. has grown into one of the most active charitable entities in our region and, with a new year’s calendar packed full of upcoming events, is forming a powerful wave of positive energy, ambitious goals, and direct hands-on efforts to lessen the load for as many of our Eastern Shore neighbors as possible.
Because the circumstances of personal hardship are individual and infinite and not always financial, Tides of Grace operates from the perspective that on any given day each and every one of us could be, as founder Leann Rhodes-Ickes says, “coming out of a storm, in the middle of one, or getting ready to get hit with one.”
It was in the weeks leading up to Christmas 2020 that Rhodes-Ickes, a businesswoman, author, and mother of two, made the original small decision that sparked a larger idea. Culling through her young son’s toys, Leann thought perhaps she’d give away some of the things he played with the least. The stranger who took her up on the online offer explained that due to Covid both she and her husband were out of work and these slightly used toys would provide their family a Christmas that they otherwise might not have been able to afford. The conversation between the two women turned emotional.
Afterwards, Leann figured there were probably others who could use a holiday helping hand during those tough times, so with the recruitment of a few friends a semi-impromptu toy giveaway was quickly scheduled. The response from both those who donated and those in need was inspiring.
The toy drive grew in scope each year after that first event. In 2023 thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers and supporting business partners, over 600 local children had a much better Christmas than they would have had without the efforts of Tides of Grace and all their helpers.
Witnessing the community response to the toy drives, a decision was made that the spirit of giving shouldn’t be relegated to just once a year and that perhaps growth as an organization was a possibility. As Leann says, “When a community offers so much kindness its important to make the most of it.”
Beginning their second calendar year as an accredited 501(c)3 tax deductible NPO, Tides of Grace kicked off 2024 on January 20 with their sold-out Bingo For A Cause dinner, the first of three scheduled fundraisers designed to help support operational costs.
In February, the group will host a Community Baby Shower for expecting mothers, new mothers, and any mothers in need. Leann says that for many different reasons, parents sometimes don’t have the support system necessary to provide everything a baby may require. She says that no matter the circumstances, “Your bundle of joy is special and as a community we want you to feel the love.” Attendees will be welcomed with games, refreshments, and a personal photo opportunity. Each mom will be provided time to fill a bag with needed baby items. Then they’ll get to choose one large item like a crib or a highchair.
This event is scheduled for Saturday the 17th from 11 am to 1 pm. Now through February 9th, Tides of Grace will be accepting contributions to stock the free giveaway inventory. Among other basic necessities, items needed include new or gently used strollers, cribs, bassinets, booster seats, highchairs, car seats, play equipment, nursery necessities and decor, baby monitors, bottles, nursing accessories, bath and hygiene supplies, and clothing. Donations can be dropped off Monday-Friday between 9 am and 5 pm at 605 Main Street, Suite B in Stevensville, though other arrangements can be made by contacting Tides of Grace at [email protected], or 410-924-7744.
As the spring thaw begins, the next planned events are March’s Easter Basket giveaway and April’s Prom extravaganza. A success in 2023, the prom dress pop-up boutique approach utilized last year is going to be expanded upon this go round by adding suits to the clothing that will be available for teens who don’t have access to the hundreds of dollars that outfits for the big night can cost in retail stores. For $25.00 parents will be able to send their kids to the prom in style and if the need is there, the fee can be waived. Clothing donations will be accepted as the event nears.L ast year over 100 students said yes to a Tides of Grace dress.
The rest of 2024 shapes up thusly: May will focus on a clothing drive for summer wear. June will see the first Family Fun Day, a free event open to the public featuring games, large inflatable play spaces, music, and amusements. A Paint Night fundraiser’s scheduled for July. August will be a Back-to-School drive featuring school supplies and free haircuts. The organization’s first 5K fundraiser will be held in September. October’s efforts will center around a winter clothes drive, November will feature Family Photos Day and December will see the return of the original Tides of Grace event, the Used Toy Drive.
There’s a saying that goes, “Use your voice for kindness, your ears for compassion, your hands for charity, your mind for truth, and your heart for love.” Through their planned efforts and the generous support of individuals, local businesses, and other non-profits, Tides of Grace is on an enthusiastic mission in this new year to help more families struggling with burdens both financial and otherwise. “When a family is in crisis,” Leann Rhodes-Ickes says, “it’s the little things that can make a better life that often slip by too easily. Our big goals include trying to help break the cycle of poverty in our community and to erase the stigmas and prejudices about those of us who could sometimes use a safety net, but really, it’s just about helping the person standing next to you with a small act of kindness and compassion. Sometimes,” she says, “that’s all it takes.”
Tides of Grace can be found online at https://tidesofgraceinc.org/ and on social media. Volunteers are always welcome, as are those in need of community assistance. Donations are tax deductible and go directly to those in need.
Brent Lewis is a native Chesapeake Bay Eastern Shoreman. He has published two nonfiction books about the region, “Remembering Kent Island: Stories from the Chesapeake” and a “History of the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department.” His most recent book, “Stardust By The Bushel: Hollywood On The Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore”won a 2023 Independent Publishers award. His first novel, Bloody Point 1976, won an Honorable Mention Award at the 2015 Hollywood Book Festival. He and his wife Peggy live in Centreville, Maryland.