We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Reiss and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laura, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I started the Kindness Matters 365 Foundation because I believe that all children should live in a world filled with gratitude, compassion, and kindness. A world where kids and teens have emotional well-being; where they feel supported and accepted; where they develop the skills to cope with challenges and to achieve their full potential
I had three young daughters and noticed something was missing in their formal education – there was a need to guide kids in their discovery of how to best take care of themselves, each other, and our world. Step by step and with tremendous support, I began to create a Foundation that supported our kids to build the strength of character and emotional well-being to feel good, handle a challenge, flourish in school and be leaders in our communities. I started in our local school and created a model that could expand in every community and for all children.
I genuinely believe that anything is possible. I want to leave this world better than I found it, and I have found my true purpose. GLOBAL KINDNESS is possible, and it starts here and now with our children and us.
What should our readers know about your organization?
I am so proud and excited about where KM365 is today! We have 13 years of success as a multi-dimensional educational program of on-site and virtual school clubs, teacher/parent workshops, and community service. We developed a formalized approach to teaching kindness that bolsters cognitive intelligence and provides the opportunity to practice skills through community engagement. KM365 created a curriculum and model grounded in Social Emotional Learning (SEL) tenants to guide children through competencies like self-awareness, self-navigation, empathy, growth mindset, and a dedication to service learning. They collaborate with local charitable organizations to provide direct service in-community with neighbors. As participants in KM365 programs, kids and teens actively develop life skills, resiliency, healthier relationships, safer environments, and stronger communities. Not only is KM365 unique, but we are also engaging, relevant, and fun!
Of course, there are many ups and downs in life, many highs, and lows, and now I better understand the importance of learning through the challenges and celebrating progress. It is all part of the human experience and what supports our growth and development.
As it did for everyone, the pandemic created challenges for us. At the time, our programs were on-site in schools, and schools were closed; simultaneously, reaching children to support their emotional well-being, community service, and taking care of ourselves and each other was never more important. In response, we learned how to provide our programming online and created an accessible model that is still successful today. We also forged a new commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
We experience challenges including funding, human resources, establishing measures that quantify our impact, and expanding our outreach and efficacy. One of the ways we learned to address these and many challenges is to partner with our community for support – we created an advisory council of diverse and talented professionals who advise and guide us along our way.
Together, we have made, and we will continue to make, a profound, positive impact on the world – one child, one family, one school, one community, one state, one country at a time. The work we do now will ensure a better future. I believe in a world where we celebrate and support each other, and I manifest it every day. With a heart filled with gratitude for the many accomplishments of our KM365 Foundation and knowing we have so much more to do, my commitment is that our children and their children’s children are raising families in a better world.
February has been a jam-packed month for KM365! We participated in an incredibly moving Stoneman Douglas High School shooting remembrance event with 50 drums of peace and gratitude at Pine Trails Park, our community together drumming in unity to honor the victims and survivors of MSD. We took part in the inaugural Black History Youth Awareness Art Festival at Spady Museum in Delray Beach—an incredible gathering in celebration of and opportunity for our youth to showcase their art, perform live, and shine a spotlight on their amazing talents and passions.
Oh, and tonight at 7pm EST we have our Kindness Anywhere virtual program for high schoolers! It’s free to join and really such a unique and amazing opportunity for teens to meet new teens across the country, engage in meaningful conversations, reduce stress, give back to their communities, and receive community service hours for attending.
We have a ton of great Kindness events in the pipeline, too. We’ll be representing and spreading Kindness at Yoga Fest Fort Lauderdale this Saturday, Feb. 26 at Huizenga Plaza on Las Olas Boulevard. And I can’t not mention our KM365 online Kindness Shop, which has variety of products and Kind merch like our Limited Edition Be Kind Heart Collection! And the amazing Hopey Soapy handcrafted soap creations made locally with love by one of our favorite Kindness Angels Janet Baum, who’s generously donating a portion of proceeds from sales to KM365 through the end of February!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, I’m all about showing my best friend a good time, moving our bodies, enjoying healthy, yummy food and promoting Kindness. So we would hit some fun hot spots like the beach, Spanish River Library walking path, Yoga Journey for some seriously healing yoga flowing, yummy healthy restaurants like; Farmers Table, Ripe, Old School Bakery, Palm Beach Bagel, Fit Foodz, and more moving our bodies and enjoying Sup Yoga with Heather Berg, while showing and spreading Kindness, of course. So many great places to go and Kindness adventures to experience here in South Florida!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people in my life who have and continue to lift, powerfully support, and celebrate me on my journey and life’s work. There is no way I could mention everyone, so I’ll start at the CORE, feeling blessed and grateful.
My mom, Linda Baratz, Kindness Angels Founder, and fearless leader, for instilling the strong, powerful, anything-is-possible woman in me. My dad, Larry Waldorf, who gave me my creativity and playfulness. My sister Lisa Lee, my first and original best friend, who taught me there is nothing like a sister and the rest of my incredible and extensive extended family.
My best friend from 5th grade and forever friend Stephanie Young, who has been there through many of life’s ups and downs.
My husband, Andrew Reiss, who is my soulmate, greatest supporter, and the love of my life.
My three AMAZING daughters, Marissa, Samantha, and Ella, who inspire, lift me up and teach me every day.
My Soul Sisters Group: Mia Paolini, Karyn Hoffman, Jill Bershad, Jenny DiMario, Katia Rudnick, Heather Berg, Andrea Blakesberg, Sara Green.
Our KM365 Executive Director Karin Gellen and our KM365 Staff: Shari Kline, Julie Rios, Liz Wein, Mallory McQuail, Lori Kerce, Stephanie Blue.
Our KM365 Executive Board: Andrew Reiss, Melissa Cohen, Karin Gellen, Jill Siegel, Allyson Harman, Laurie Riopelle, Dido Balla, Shelly Himmelrich, Robin Rubin,
Our KM365 Advisory board: Summer Faerman, Sandy Gerstein, Carla Sadoff, Nandini Mittal, Sarena Sagoo, Patricia Anderson, Yohai Borenstein, Anne DeFrain, Dr. Frank Marangos, Chris Purcell.
Our exceptional, committed, empowering KM365 trained Ambassadors, past, present, and future, and the hundreds of beautiful volunteers who come together in unity to inspire, share, and spread kindness.
My self-care, life coaches, mental healthcare providers, teachers, mentors, guides, and support team: Panache Desai, Marianne Altschul, Linda Hampton, Sai Maa, Mary Sise, Carla Sadoff, Maria Costa, Dr. Jane Rudoff, Soraya Kister, Stephanie Banks, Leslie Glickman, Georgie Boynton, Jill Rapperport & EVOLVE acupuncture; Kim Marrone, & Adriana Goettelmam.
Our local elected officials: U.S. Congressman Ted Deutch, State Senator Tina Polsky, City of Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer, PBC Commissioner Robert Weinroth, State Senator Lori Berman, and State Representative Kelly Skidmore.
KM365 Photographer: Mia Paolini: www.mialynnphotography.com/
itEvents Julie Cohen: https://www.iteventsbyjulie.com/
VoyageMIA Media: Emma Jacobs and team
The Sise Advisory Board: Mary Sise, Carla Sadoff, Lockey Maisonneuve, and Cara Compani.
The original km365 OG’s from 2008: Sandy Gerstein, Michelle Santaniello, Laurie Riopelle, Alicia Steiger, Angela Brent Harris, Dina Marschke, Lisa Eisenberg, Lisa Cohen, Stacy Dorb, Beverly Carter, Ellen Budish, Ellen Winikoff, Charlene Blusiewicz, Shari Kline, Jenny Einhorn.
It takes a village, and we would not be where we are if it wasn’t for the support of our Kindness Family. Everyone who has shown up, worn our merch, and stuck our magnets on their cars; everyone who follows our social media, donates to our programming, attends our events. I acknowledge and am grateful to each and all of you.
Mia Lynn Photography: Andrew Blakesberg Photography Nilaya Sabnis Photography Max Duckworth Photography