Milford mother’s call for help is heard

NHR_L_1014 act of kindness_ag.
NHR_L_1014 act of kindness_ag.

NEW HAVEN >> Department of Public Works employees recently heeded the call of Mayor Toni Harp to perform “acts of kindness,” by donating disposable diapers and a gift card for groceries to a needy mother from Milford.

The gift all started when Public Works public space inspector Honda Smith was in a Hamden clothing store and a woman recognized her as the person who leads the Winter Wonderland extravaganza for city and other area children. The woman told Smith how grateful she was for the event and all Smith does for the needy in the community,

Kelly Soter, the store employee helping Smith, heard the conversation and asked, “Do you help anybody? I’m so embarrassed to say this, but I need help,” Smith recalled Soter saying.

She had two children, ages 2 and 3, who needed beds.

Smith took Soter’s number and got on the case, as always. When they spoke later, Smith learned the children got the beds, but Soter still needed diapers and food. So Smith collected donations from Public Works Department employees, getting enough for more than 200 diapers and a $100 card for food.

Smith said such causes are uniting.

“It didn’t just do something for her — it did something for us at the department,” Smith said. “It’s not unusual for us to do an act of kindness like this.” Smith said she’s “grateful” the department has such a giving staff and such a strong, kind leader in DPW Director Jeff Pescosolido.

Soter could not be reached for comment.

Harp announced in recent weeks the launching of a kindness campaign for all city department heads. Harp said at the time, her hope is the initiative will encourage more acts of kindness by city leadership and support for the community.

In a recent act of kindness at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen on Whalley Avenue, interim Police Chief Anthony Campbell bought a man lunch when he was picking up food for a meeting.

Campbell, at the time, summed it up this way: “It’s just a little act of kindness where you’re providing someone with something. ... You make yourself approachable. You make sure that when you leave, that person feels that their humanity was acknowledged.”

Harp said she was inspired to have the city take part of the program after learning about the initiative during a U.S. Conference of Mayors event. Similar events were held in Anaheim, Calif., and Louisville, Ky,, and Harp said her counterparts there told her the campaign helped reduce bullying and even reduce crime in some categories.

Harp has said it is her hope the spirit of kindness will catch on and spread.


Kelly Soter, left, of Milford, wipes away a tear as she is presented with diapers and a ShopRite Supermarket gift card by Honda Smith at the New Haven Public Works Department on Oct. 14, 2016. Smith spearheaded the act of kindness with the help of fellow Public Works Department employees who donated money for the cause.