On Her Birthday, She Asked How to Help. Requests Flooded In

Virginia's Debra Ferrell decided to make people smile during her birthday month, with 53 gifts
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 15, 2020 8:44 AM CST
Apart From Family on Her Birthday, She Gave 53 Gifts Instead
In this October 2020 photo, small gifts are gathered for a neighbor of Debra Ferrell in Roanoke, Va.   (Debra DC Ferrell via AP)

The pandemic didn't allow Debra Ferrell to gather with her whole family for her birthday. So instead, she celebrated the day by giving back—with 53 gifts from her heart. Ferrell went on social media and asked people for suggestions on acts of kindness she could perform for others during her birth month, one for each year she's been alive. "It's one of the hardest times in my history, so I figured why not make other people smile," says Ferrell, of Roanoke, Va., per the AP. The requests for her Oct. 4 birthday arrived from across the US: Parents who hoped for words of encouragement for their kids on their first year of virtual school. A woman who wished for a gift basket for her fiance, a doctor at a hospital's COVID-19 unit. A friend of a Minnesota family that lost their 4-year-old to cancer, who wanted them to feel they weren't alone. For them, Ferrell found a memorial wind chime with a note on the clapper that says, "When you hear the wind, I am with you."

This isn't the first time Ferrell has shown her instinct for caring. On her birthday in 2014, she started "Love With Skin On," an organization she runs with family and friends that aims to "share tangible acts of love and kindness," per its Facebook page. "I know that might sound cheesy, but it's just one of my favorite things to do," says Ferrell, who works as a resident service coordinator at a retirement community. For her birthday, Ferrell also recruited her teenage granddaughters to paint signs with messages such as "Let your awesome out," "You're amazing," and "The world needs your light," which they planted in people's yards. "It's just a very painful time for people, our family included," Ferrell says. "If one random act of a yard sign can make someone smile at this time, then ... it's more than worth it."

(More uplifting news stories.)

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