Who could use some good news today? How about stories of passing it forward with kindness?!

In this virtual chat, Bob Hoffman, founder of ePIFanyNow.org talks about the inspiring acts of kindness and generosity as members of the community Pass It Forward.

The mission of ePIFanyNow™ is to create a revolution of positive transformational experiences through exponential acts of kindness. Each year, ePIFanyNow™ honors local youth passing kindness forward with the annual Y-PIF™ Award.

Learn more: ePIFanyNow.org

Transcript:

Julie: This is Expert Connexions our special series where we are connecting our community to experts with resources and information during this coronavirus pandemic. My name is Julie Holton and I’m the Founder and Principal Strategist of mConnexions Marketing Agency. We work with a variety of businesses and nonprofits and I’m so excited today to bring you our next guest. We have the pleasure of working with Bob Hoffman with ePIFany now, an organization that Bob started about 10 years ago. He is also the PR manager for the Wharton Center. Bob thank you so much. I know you are really busy and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us this afternoon.

Bob: Oh my gosh Julie, I’m so glad that you asked. Thank you.

Julie: Well Bob let’s dive right in. I want to talk to you both about the Wharton Center and all of the changes there, but first I want to talk to you about ePIFany Now because with so many changes and so much that we are all dealing with on so many levels with the coronavirus, I want to actually bring some good news in and kind of have this ray of sunshine which is how I see epiphanynow.org. So first of all tell us what is ePIFany Now?

Bob: ePIFany Now is the mission is to create a revolution of positive transformational experiences in your community, in your neighborhood, in your place of work and your school, wherever and we want to share those experiences and we want to know about them because one of the things that I know is that especially in mid-Michigan there is this incredible bond of kindness that exists all over and especially during this pandemic I have been seeing that kindness over and over and over. Unfortunately, it takes those acts of bad things to happen to really understand the good that happens. People pass kindness forward all the time, this is nothing new, but we hear more about it when we’re hearing a lot about the negative. So ePIfany Now is trying to get those messages out all the time and really help give that sunshine to people.

Julie: I love that Bob and I’m actually going to scroll your website across the screen because I think it is so cool the spelling of the name, ePIFany Now. Can you talk about this unique spelling and why there are some lowercase and uppercase letters? What does this mean ePIFany Now?

Bob: So about ten years ago I had an epiphany that you know sometimes you live in your head and you think oh my god especially right now we’re living in our head a lot of us because there’s so much stress of what’s going to happen? You know we’re kind of we don’t know what’s going to happen and so ten years ago eleven years ago actually I found that I was living my head and I was saying a lot of negative messages and I had an epiphany that you know what just step outside yourself and realize that it’s going to be okay and everyone’s going through something all the time and my epiphany was if I could do something just one thing to make a difference in somebody else’s life that automatically I learned that it makes a huge difference in my life and so that’s what epiphany is now is all about. I got to tell you if you want to feel good, do something kind for somebody else and that kindness could just be a smile. Looking somebody in the eye and saying hey how you doing? That makes a huge difference and it makes you feel incredible. That’s the other thing is that it comes back to you. You start feeling incredible the more that you feel good the more that the people to get you around and feel good.

Julie: Isn’t that amazing? It’s just what you put out into this universe you get back. I love that Bob and I’m so glad you had that epiphany. I think this organization is doing incredible things in our community and I want to talk about that a little bit more because I know because of coronavirus some of the plans for epiphany now have been changing like many other organizations and businesses as we all deal with this but I think there are some really good things coming out of this so first of all let’s talk about for those who don’t who may not know every year epiphany now has an annual event can you talk about this event and then talk about maybe how we might see this morph this year?

Bob: So every year we have an annual event where we draw hundreds of people to the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, their main headquarters, and at the headquarters people gather and they share what they’ve done to pass kindness forward. The interesting thing about that is when you do that, the energy that’s surrounding that and in the room is amazing. We also honor kids who are passing kindness forward with our annual youth award, Y-PIF award. So every year we do that and we’ve been doing it for the past ten years, 11 years excuse me. This year unfortunately because of the pandemic were not able to do that. However, ePIFany Now started virtually. It started by me emailing a bunch of my friends, putting it out on Facebook, talking about the fact that I wanted to get people together. So when we learned that we weren’t able to do an event this year, we said let’s do an event virtually. So we are still having our Y-PIF award and we’re still inviting people to share their good news with us. It’s so important that there’s a community that’s consistently spreading good news because we’re consistently bombarded with negative news all the time. We’re giving you is an option to go to every day to get an uplifting message. It’s not religious, it’s not political, it’s just about you and me everyone else helping each other because ultimately we’re all human, we all feel the same things, and I guarantee that a smile, just the act of smiling can change a person’s life. I heard a message one time where there was a guy in San Francisco who was going to commit suicide and he wrote a note and said if just one person smiles at me on the bus on the way to the Golden Gate Bridge where he was going to jump off, he wouldn’t jump off, he would come back. That didn’t happen. That affects me. That is huge. You never know what people are going through and we all wear this mask right. So what I’m saying is just smile just pass it forward just be kind. You know stress builds up, it’s hard especially you know living with somebody in your sequestered day in and day out.

Julie: Especially right now absolutely.

Bob: But if you can just take a breath and you could just smile, makes all the difference.

Julie: Okay so there is just this incredible energy that you have Bob and one of the really cool things about epiphany now is what you are doing to support the children, the teenagers, the youth, in Michigan and Stephanie is asking she says, he Stephanie thanks for joining us, she says, Bob can you share about your program with showcasing youth who are spreading kindness and joy? And Stephanie I love this question because Bob I know it’s part of your mission to really be supporting these youths so that they start really increasing the amount of kindness that they’re spreading and changing the next generation.

Bob: Yeah I think it’s important for especially the youth to understand the power of kindness and so we started the Y-PIF award about six years ago and its honoring youth who have come up with ideas to pass kindness forward. Those ideas can be small; they can be big. There’s so many youths that are out there that are doing incredible things. They’re holding bake sales to raise funds for cancer patients. They are singing for cancer patients. They’re raising money for the Humane Society. There’s so many different things that kids are doing. We want to know about them and we honor them every year because it’s so important. We hear about kids who are excelling in sports, but rarely do we hear about kids that are passing kindness forward. I was inspired by Steve Hartman with CBS News Sunday morning you can see him all the time he does amazing stories on kids and adults.

Julie: On the road with Steve Hartman yes.

Bob: Do you know what? You need to hear this, I need to hear this. Frankly, I’m being selfish right because I thrive on good news. I need good news to survive because I can go into that rabbit hole really deep and when I’m in the rabbit hole it’s hard to get out of the rabbit hole so it’s like exercise right the more you exercise the better at it you become the better and shape you become. The more you think about the positive the better you are as far as being positive and so for youth they’re surrounded by the negative news they’re surrounded by bullies in school. I mean we the bullying epidemic is all over the place. We hear about it all the time and so I want to highlight kids who are doing incredible acts of kindness and any kindness is incredible small big whatever.

Julie: Absolutely okay so Amy has a really great question Bob. Amy Jackson says, from all of the amazing things that you have seen others do what are maybe a few ideas that we could do safely from home to help others right now? Great question because Bob you’ve been talking to a lot of organizations who are helping others.

Bob: So two things that come to mind really quick is to write a letter to a person who’s important to you, who’s made a difference in your life. Maybe that’s a teacher, maybe that’s a doctor or a nurse, especially if you’ve been in the hospital. Write a note maybe it’s a boss, whoever or a friend. Write a handwritten note and email it to them or a mail it to them excuse me and tell them we could email too why not? Email it but I love a handwritten note because we don’t get enough of those so send it to them tell them how important they are. The troops right now I mean go online and find an organization that you could write to the troops who are overseas or on a boat or you know wherever they are. There’s a lot of lonely people out there and so a note, a phone call, just means so much.

Julie: Absolutely and I love that it’s just a simple act of kindness. Just something small to help pass it forward. These have been really great questions you guys so keep them coming. Bob in the meantime I want you know I want to talk about this COVID-19 pandemic. There has been so much anxiety and fear surrounding what’s happening so much what’s uncertainty in the unknown and of course that’s to be expected, but there are also a lot of really positive things happening in our communities and you’ve started doing something over the last several weeks to really highlight other nonprofits, not even putting the spotlight on your own nonprofit, but on others tell me why are you doing this and what kind of what are you seeing as a result of this?

Bob: Well we just decided right now especially during this pandemic that people wanted to know what’s going on and wanted to know how they can help out and so I’ve been reaching out to nonprofits and organizations and people individuals and saying they tell me your good stories let us know. So we’ve interviewed Delta Dental Foundation which gave $500,000 towards the pandemic to give dental care to those who are in need, who might not have insurance. We’ve spoken to Ellie’s place who continually has virtual meetings for grieving children and adults we’ve spoken to origami brain injury rehabilitation center and so we’re reaching out to these organizations. First of all, there’s a couple of reasons, so people know what they are and know that it exists in our community and also maybe they’re interested in being part of it. Maybe they’re interested in learning more about it and then the other thing is that trying to do these at 7 o’clock every night or give or take a few minutes before or after 7:00 and consistently doing these just to send a positive message out there in our community because as you said right now we can focus on a lot of negative. You know I have to be honest I’m sick of turning on the news and hearing about all the bad things and granted and I’m not making light of everything that’s happening because it’s so important that we know, I just need to know the other story too. I just need to know the good things that are happening too.

Julie: Absolutely and I keep saying absolutely because I just agree with you so much Bob. We all need that break from the negativity, but even more than that I think that we need to kind of overwhelm our system with the positivity because there are so many really amazing things that are happening especially right now when there’s just so much focus and like you said of course there has to be. We need to know what’s happening in our community, we need to know the severity of the situation, so that we can respond appropriately but it’s also so important to know about the good things that are happening. So you’ve mentioned a couple times the community that you have with the ePIFany now so could you tell us because I have a feeling that everyone watching wants to be a part of this community, how could you not, how can we get connected? What are the best ways to connect and tap into this community?

Bob: So we have an interesting website as you said earlier it’s e pif meaning pass it forward and any meaning you can have an epiphany right now to do something kind. So ePIFanynow.org, you can go to our website, you can follow us on Facebook, you can follow us on Instagram, on YouTube, we’re going to be doing a YouTube channel so you can go to those places and follow us and we are that conduit of good. We want you to plug in to us but we want to hear from you because what keeps us going and the energy going is by hearing from other people who know about that and so maybe it’s your neighbor who is lonely and you’re going to visit and so share that with us. Let us know all the good things that are happening in your community, in your school, in your neighborhood, and plug in and share that especially join our group page. If you’re like-minded if you want to know about the good things yeah we are Pollyanna right here. You know we are about the good because you can find bad anyway we’re going to be about good here.

Julie: I love that and so for sure the group page is of course I have it on good authority it’s a page where everyone can give and share this news freely. So if you know of these amazing things happening just jump on in and as Bob said, join that conversation on the group page. Also the Facebook page is a great way to get connected with other like-minded people in the community. Find out about these good things that are happening and how to be a part of it and of course as bob was talking about earlier for those of you who may have just recently joined in there is an annual award every year with funding involved that goes to honor children and teenagers who are doing good things. Bob can you also talk about that funding component because I think that’s important too. That there is some financial support here to help promote the good things that children are doing.

Bob: Yeah absolutely, thank you about that. So MSUFCU is one of our main supporters. We also have support from the good neighbor foundation and some other organizations that help us out and so through that we are able to donate five hundred dollars to our winning Y-PIF participant every year. So what happens is kids are nominated we vet them we put the ones that have been gone through the nomination process on our website where the public can vote for them every vote is a dollar. Those dollars go right back to the kids and if they don’t have a project, we ask them to find a project or a charity that we can donate the money to in their name and so we give five hundred dollars to the winner. So that adds to their pool of money and then we get five hundred dollars to the winner school to have a pass it forward event in their school. We’ve been doing this for six years now it’s been very popular. We hear actually from kids all across the state honestly who are doing amazing things and it’s just a really nice way to give them an opportunity to raise some funds for their charity, for their organization, for what they believe in because we all know that funds do help out and it helps the mission and expands the mission and so that’s what the Y-PIF award is all about. We also have the Chris Rosati Hero Award that we be giving out. That is named after Chris Rosati of Durham North Carolina. Chris had ALS and he wanted to rob a Krispy Kreme donut truck and give away Donuts he just had an epiphany that he was going to do that and unfortunately he didn’t have to rob a Krispy Kreme donut truck and he did get away donuts. Unfortunately, he died of his disease but I was so moved by his mission and I learned about him through Steve Hartman on the road and so I contacted his widow and the children and said I just think your husband’s amazing and I want to do something to honor him because people like that I don’t want what he’s doing to be forgotten. So every year we have the Chris Rosati hero award. We’ll be doing that virtually as well and so we haven’t announced who this year’s winner is but we will be doing that coming up on our website, but yes so it’s been it’s really cool.

Julie: And you can learn more about that award and more about the Y-PIF award as well, that’s the Youth Award, at ePIFanynow.org. E P I F A N Y now.org. Bob thank you so much for talking about apathy now for all of the work that you do in sharing this good news. Before I let you go because I have you and you were my Facebook live hostage at the moment. I also asked you to wear so many hats in our community and Bob I want to ask you about the Wharton Center. Of course another important organization in our community that has done a major shift into this new virtual world that we now have. So can you tell us a little bit about some of the happenings at the Wharton Center?

Bob: So just this morning we announced that the final week of wicked is canceled. So wicked is canceled. Everyone who’s purchased tickets will be able to get a refund if they purchased them through our ticket office. You know it’s unfortunate and sad but we have to make sure that people are safe and Wharton Center is a place that attracts a lot of people. The good thing is that we have an amazing season coming up that we will be announcing soon and I think Wharton Center the reason I love Wharton Center so much is because the mission is about you know reaching out and spreading the good news kindness and that’s what theatre is all about and making people think and tying the uncommon ground together, tying the binds that together and so Wharton Center will continue. We’re looking forward to our 2020 2021 season which will be which hopefully will we will be announcing in the next few months and will recover but you know thank you to everyone who supports Wharton Center and loves theater and loves life theater and I’ve said it before you know what’s going to happen is we will see a major Broadway show based on what we’re going through right now because that’s what theater is about. It reaches into the ethos and touches us in ways that experiences and things that we’ve gone through and uses that for a vehicle to remind us of our connection.

Julie: Bob you are so good at pointing out the positive in so many ways. I love to hear of course I don’t love to hear about the cancellations with Wharton Center but of course I think they were certainly expected given what we’re going through and certainly we want to promote people staying home staying safe during this time and I am so excited to hear what the next season is going to have in store for us. So Bob thank you for sharing that and also I just have one more comment that I want to share as we wrap up here because I think this is such a beautiful way to sum all of this up. Finding the positive Stephanie says is so important and can help us stay focused on how to be purposeful and productive. We need hope and inspiration in times of crisis. Being able to see the good and bad situations is key, thank you Bob.

Bob: Thank you Stephanie and I couldn’t agree with you more. So thank you Stephanie, share your positives at our ePIFanynow Facebook group, Facebook page, email me, I just want to hear everything good that’s happening out there and Julie thank you for everything that you’re doing because I’m watching you every day of the week. You have amazing interviews and you’re doing such a good job and I’m really proud of you.

Julie: Well thank you Bob and right back at you. I’m really enjoying your live interviews that you’re doing with other nonprofits and certainly hope that all of our viewers here tune in to see what Bob’s doing in the good news of these spreading over on the ePIFany now page here on Facebook. Bob thanks again so much for joining us.

Bob: Virtual high five my friend.

Julie: Alright thanks to Bob for joining us from ePIFany now. We have three more live interviews coming up for you on Thursday. So head over to our events tab, you’ll see those interviews that are coming up. We will be talking at 11:00 o’clock Thursday morning with the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, then at 1:00 p.m. we will be talking with an angel investor and startup advisor on his advice for startups and small businesses and then at three o’clock we’re going to be talking with another nonprofit, this one focusing on domestic violence issues and talking about resources available. So we hope you will join us again on Thursday starting at 11:00 a.m., Thank you, everyone, see you then.