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Family Fun: Downtown Spokane promotes kindness with challenges for shoppers

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 7, 2020

Downtown Spokane Partnership is rewarding acts of kindness for people living, working, shopping and playing in the city center. It’s a way of highlighting what people and businesses are doing to slow the spread of COVID-19, said Elisabeth Hooker, the group’s marketing and programming director.

The group started the Kindness Challenge Scavenger Hunt and Kindness Crew as a downtown complement to Great Spokane Inc.’s regional Spread Kindness, Not COVID campaign, which is funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, aka the CARES Act.

The GSI campaign is “spreading the idea that when you’re wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing and engaging in kind acts, you are both helping keep our businesses open and move us closer toward a time when the spread is slowed enough that we can return to a more normal pace of life,” Hooker said.

The Downtown Spokane Partnership “wanted to create some programs that encouraged these kind actions while supporting downtown businesses,” she said.

For the scavenger hunt, each Friday the group posts on its Facebook page something to look for at downtown businesses. The first week, it was a mannequin wearing a mask, other weeks it’s been things like clean and dirty pen holders or sanitizer at checkout stations.

To participate, people have to find an example of that week’s challenge at a downtown business and reply to the post with a photo and tag the business. Participants are entered into a raffle for a $20 gift card to a downtown business.

The hunt can be a fun distraction, Hooker said, especially for children who aren’t excited about shopping, as well as a lesson about things we can be doing to stay safe during the pandemic.

Another way to win a gift card is by doing kind acts. The Kindness Crew is watching for people wearing masks, practicing social distancing, holding a door or practicing other kindnesses, as well as following Lime scooter protocols.

“The Kindness Crew is there to say thank you on behalf of local business, because you’re taking an action that shows you care,” Hooker said.

And that’s the goal of the program, she said, to encourage good behavior while supporting local business. To that end, the Downtown Spokane Partnership has spent $2,000 buying gift cards from local businesses.

The scavenger hunt will continue during weekends through Oct. 4. And, later this month, Downtown Spokane will launch Kindopoly, where people will win a prize for visiting all the participating businesses, plus be entered into a drawing for a grand prize.

“Downtown has been impacted in different ways than other neighborhoods because so many of the people who are usually here are workforce,” Hooker said. But, in the past few weeks, life in downtown is “feeling a little bit more normal than we’ve been allowed to feel recently.”

There are now more outdoor dining opportunities downtown, she said, which makes for fun people-watching. And, “it’s not packed, it just isn’t,” she said. There’s lots of room to spread out in the shopping areas and Riverfront Park.

Plus, it’s good to have a chance to interact with people.

“People have been nice to each other, kind to each other,” she said. “I think we’re all so much more understanding.”

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