If kindness was a country, it would be fortunate to have Paige Cook of Cleburne as its ambassador.
The rising 8th grader at Wheat Middle School has spent her summer focused on the fall, and her ‘Kindness Matters’ effort which is meant to provide her district with all the school supplies she can.
What started with pencils — she now has purchased nearly 40,000 to be distributed to her fellow students in the Cleburne Independent School District — has now spread to all sorts of items needed for school. Through the end of June, Paige Cook has collected donations from the community to purchase items including:
• 211,500 sheets of paper
• 40,000 staples
• 33,190 post-it notes
• 13,600 index cards
• 2,197 pens
• 2,040 paint brushes
• 1,344 highlighters
• 1,101 glue sticks
All told, Paige Cook has collected nearly 500,000 individual school supplies, which she intends to hand over to her district on Monday, August 19.
“It really does matter to be kind to other people,” said Cook, with a smile. “It can brighten their day.”
Cook is responsible for brightening a lot of days, with her frequent public appearances around town dressed in her giant pencil costume.
That is how Officer Aaron Beseda of the Cleburne Police Department spotted Cook recently, while she was posing for pictures beside a giant yard sign display that says, ‘Kindness Matters.’
“It’s definitely refreshing to see that,” said Officer Beseda about Cook’s outgoing effort to get attention for her effort.
Officer Beseda stopped to speak with Cook on a recent patrol, and donated $20 to her effort. According to Cook, that money provided pencils for more than 60 of her fellow students.
“There are good people out there, plain and simple,” Officer Beseda said. “There is bad, but there is a lot of good, too.”
The current school supply drive is the third one that Paige Cook has put together. The first one began with pencils last fall, after Cook was embarrassed to realize she had forgotten a pencil for one of her 7th grade classes.
“And I was so scared to ask the teacher [for a pencil.] And the teacher noticed, and she came over, gave me a pencil and said, ‘You will always have a pencil in my class,’” Cook recalled.
It was her teacher’s act of kindness, and her own feeling about temporarily being without a writing utensil, that inspired Paige Cook to do what she could to help others.
“She is probably the kindest person I ever met, and it’s not because I’m her Mom,” said mother Angel Cook. “Anytime somebody is in need she’s like, ‘Mom, can we help them?’ She just really loves people, and so it is inspiring to me.”
About the recent interaction with Officer Beseda, Angel Cook emphasized how even a simple act of kindness can have a huge impact.
"He just reached in his pocket and gave her money, and she was floored. She came home and she cried that night and told her Dad, 'The first officer I ever met in my entire life changed my life,'" Angel Cook said. "He took the time to listen to her, and I’m just honored that it blessed him as well."