In honor of her late husband, Forest Park resident Michelle Melin-Rogovin donated $2,500 to District 91’s Project Kindness. Presenting a check to the school board and first-grade student representatives Elena Baker and Bryce Grandberry at the Dec. 12 school board meeting, Rogovin spoke about her husband, Mark, who died in September 2019.

“Although we didn’t have children of our own, from looking at our house, you wouldn’t know it,” said Melin-Rogovin with a laugh. “Our house was the place for kids to go after school if nobody was at home for them. Mark was the person who would walk kids to school if you had to work early in the morning.”

She spoke about neighborhood children whose love and knowledge of gardening and nature were fostered and grew under Mark’s guidance. “He wasn’t a teacher, but he taught things to kids,” she said. “He treated kids as people.”

To continue Mark’s legacy of teaching others about nature, Melin-Rogovin will also distribute a packet of zinnia seeds to every District 91 student at the Project Kindness 2020 kickoff assembly in January.

In giving the check to the district, she said that everyone’s told her what a nice thing it is, but she’s the one who will benefit most.

“You’re giving me a gift,” she said to the board and students. “It’s an act of kindness you’re doing for me. It’s my pleasure to be able to do this, to help a project that [Mark] would have loved.”

Melin-Rogovin’s gift will be used to pay for the materials and printing of over 10,000 “kindness” labels designed by D91 students and distributed to local area retail businesses.

Project Kindness was an idea brought to life by Betsy Ross first-grade teacher Amy O’Connell in the fall of 2018. She wanted to begin an art project where the students would produce labels with kindness-related sayings on them. These labels would be distributed to local area retail businesses who would give them to customers, in the hopes that the message of kindness would spread throughout the community. 

The labels, which are illustrated by students, say things like “Smile” and “Spread kindness all over the world” and “Have a great day” with the hashtag #District91Cares written on them. 

Although it began at Betsy Ross, it has become a district-wide initiative, engaging all students in all schools. In February 2019 over 700 original labels were created by students with the help of art teachers throughout the district. Over 10,000 labels were printed and distributed to Forest Park retail businesses. 

Former Mayor Anthony Calderone proclaimed the week of Feb. 11, 2019 as “Kindness Week” in Forest Park, and current Mayor Rory Hoskins will do the same on Feb. 10, 2020, as D91 hosts Project Kindness for its second year.

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