Heather McDowell sets a table for Christmas dinner at St. James Anglican Church in Stratford.
Heather McDowell sets a table for Christmas dinner at St. James Anglican Church in Stratford.

In 2020, sales rep Heather McDowell and her family in Stratford, Ont. completed 30 random acts of kindness, held a Turkey Trivia Competition to ensure a family in need had Christmas dinner, and found creative ways to support the local economy and charitable projects.

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“I came from very humble beginnings and was a single parent for a very long time,” says McDowell, who is with Sutton Group – First Choice Realty. “I had the benefit of a helping hand when times felt dire for me, so it’s extremely important for me to give back to my community. Last year, my family and I did 30 random acts of kindness including paying it forward in the Tims’ line or secretly picking up the tab for folks at Swiss Chalet, bringing sustenance to gift wrapping volunteers and shelter staff and filling in gaps in the Christmas lists of community organizations.”

McDowell also focussed on supporting local businesses hit hard by the pandemic. “My family and I held a Turkey Trivia Competition where the correct answer was entered to win a turkey. My daughter Harrison spread the word on social media. We gave a prize to each household that participated, and the grand prize of the free frozen turkey (sourced from our local grocery store) went to a family in need, so it worked out well. We also gave grocery cards to two participants drawn at random.”

Each gift they gave this year also helped to support a neighbourhood business. “These included gift certificates bought at a silent auction benefiting the local women’s shelter, 20 purple pashminas to support the Wrapped in Courage campaign, 20 signed copies of a book written by two Stratford-area authors and local crafts bought in an online silent auction to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House,” says McDowell.  This Christmas, she provided a gently used iPad to a grandmother caring for her granddaughter.

McDowell also serves on the boards of four organizations: Optimism Place Women’s Shelter and Support Services, Tavistock Opti-Mrs. (as vice president), Roch Carrier French Immersion Public School’s Home and School Association (as vice president) and Tavistock Assistance Program.

“I love what I do and feel so very fortunate to be entrusted with people’s ‘big next chapter’, so I will donate $250 from each of my 2021 real estate transactions to two local grassroots charitable organizations that are game-changers for members of our community. From every single transaction, I’ll give $125 to Optimism Place Women’s Shelter and Support Services and $125 to the Tavistock Assistance Program,” she says.

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