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The Apprentice Meets the Bible; Interview with Do Good Project Founder Aileen Bennett

There has been a lot of buzz around Lafayette over two topics: Being voted #1 as Southern Living’s Tastiest Town, and a grassroots effort started by local resident, Aileen Bennett, called the Do Good Project.

While I hope you’ll vote for Lafayette as the “tastiest town,” it’s the second buzz-worthy topic I want to address in this post.

The Do Good Project was an idea that sprang into Bennett’s mind a couple of years ago.Bennett, a celebrity in the local business community and a motivational speaker, is well-known for her creativity and “out of the box” way of thinking.

With the holidays approaching she decided to create a campaign that would involve local businesses (and residents alike) in doing good deeds for the community. She labelled the idea Do Good Project and submitted a post to Facebook to see if there would be interest.

“Initially, I was hoping a local business would come to me and ask that I spearhead a charitable project,” Bennett said. “Realizing this would be unlikely, I decided to make it happen.”

Following that initial step, businesses did come to her, and in droves. For example, the next day Home Bank contacted Bennett saying it wanted to become a sponsor. Other companies, including Bizzuka, began to contact her, as well.

Bennett’s idea was simple. Give 20 people $50 and tell them to do two things: 1) Do something good for an individual, family or the community; and 2) document their efforts.

From the many that expressed interest, 22 participants, mostly well-known local businesspeople, were chosen and were given carte blanche to do anything they liked, so long as it met the above criteria.

Some members of the group raised thousands of dollars for various community projects, while others helped one person.

Here are a few examples:

Geoff Daily created “Do Good dollar bills” and gave one to each do-gooder to remind them of the effect they had and to continue the process (the other dollars went to those who helped in other ways). It was a wonderful reminder of the project.

Doug Meaux used his money to create ‘Christmas on a bus” – he took the city bus on Christmas Eve and bought passes for those in need, he and his beautiful daughters also handed out donuts and maybe, most importantly, made real connections with the people traveling and listened to their stories. I’m sure when they get on that bus now they remember his kindness.

Brian Bille is using his $50 (and a donation from Academy) to help a kid with sports equipment and to mentor him. Brian told us how sports had changed his life and how he hopes he can pass this one to a new generation.

The project took on a viral effect with people other than the official participants taking part. “I would get emails and Facebook messages almost every day from people telling me that they were taking $50 of their own money to do something good to help others,” said Bennett

When asked about her motivations in starting the project, Bennett listed two:

  • Everyone is creative
  • Everyone can make a difference

“To me, this was like The Apprentice meets the Bible,” quipped Bennett. “It recognized the good that resides within people and provided a framework for them to be able to express that in a tangible way under the guise of some friendly competition.”

Though the Do Good Project has wrapped up, its positive effect still lingers. Word has it that some have vowed to continue the project in one form or another.

Continuing Bennett’s “Apprentice meets the Bible” meme, I’m reminded of the loaves and fishes story, which Christ divided up and gave to each of his apostles, telling them to share the food with the 5,000 gathered in attendance.

Though doubtful that such meager provisions would be enough to provide for such as large number, they obeyed and were amazed to find that, not only was there enough to feed everyone, plenty left over.

Luke 6:38 says, “Give and it shall be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.” That’s the nature of giving. The Do Good Project is proof positive and, as a sponsor, Bizzuka was proud to play a small role in its success.

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