BERKELEY, Calif. (KRON) — A UC Berkeley professor is rewarding community members $1,000 monthly for demonstrating acts of kindness.

Alan Ross had the idea for the Chris Kindness Award before the pandemic and officially launched the effort in October of this year.

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“Everywhere I went in Berkeley, all I heard were issues of homelessness and crime, people upset about everything,” Ross said. “I know there are serious problems, but there are also incredible things happening in our community. Let’s shine a light on that.”  

The recognition is named after Ross’s children’s preschool teacher, Chris Walton, who passed away from cancer.

“I thought wow, he’s the kindest person I’ve ever met,” recalled Ross. “He’d show up at your kid’s birthday party, with his guitar, and sing songs, because he was a rockstar to those kids. He was there for them every day, just beautiful. Really miss him.”

In December, Ross and fellow organizers recognized the winner of the first award, Michelle Williams, at Berkeley Arts Magnet School. Williams teaches fourth grade there and was nominated by a parent for supporting a special needs student throughout the pandemic.

“There was a very strong sense of isolation for our students, and we’ve seen the affects,” explained Williams. “For this particular student, I felt […] that when the school shut down the year he was in my class, and we had to go to at distance learning, the isolation factor was very real for him.”

Williams said she feels honored to be recognized, but she finds the greatest reward in spending time with students. Coincidentally, two of her children were also taught by Walton years ago.

“I’m just really thankful for this [award] because I think it’s bringing attention to something we need right now in our society and culture,” she reflected. “Whatever people bring to the table might be something totally unexpected and our lives will be enriched possibly by those gifts they bring. At the end of the day, we’re all human; that’s something my father taught us our whole lives.”

Ross says he now plans to raise enough money to recognize kind acts outside of Berkeley.

“When you stop and appreciate the kindness of others, it makes you feel better as well, and more likely to do kind acts for others,” he said.

You can learn more, volunteer or nominate the next winner of the Chris Kindness Award here (