Olalla teacher inspires community to change their corner of the world

OLALLA, Wash. -- Three years ago the thicket across from Olalla Elementary School in South Kitsap County was an overgrown mess. Today, it’s a beautiful spot with benches, paths, flowers and play spaces; it’s called Triangle Park, and it’s thanks to Lisa Wickens.

Wickens teaches across the street at the school and has for two decades.

“I’ve just always felt it’s really important for people to treat each other kindly, but also to have the chance and the opportunity to do kind things for others,” said Wickens.

She has done community service projects in her classroom for years, but, one day, she was inspired to do more.

“I expanded it into the families of my students and then the whole school,” she said.

She says she called a community meeting and set out a plan to create a new nonprofit aimed at service and kindness.

“Just from what people were saying, I wish I knew how to make a difference," Wickens explained. "I wish I knew how to help.”

The park restoration followed, and so did a community garden.

“We have a community kids closet for kids in need," Wickens said. "We have parenting classes that are brought in. “

Students like second-grader Gloria were inspired to do even more.

“I think she’s a pretty cool teacher,” said Gloria.

Gloria worked with Lisa to collect art supplies for Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma.

“I just wanted to help her, so I started doing a fundraiser and she helped,” she said.

Classmates noticed and asked to start a kids nonprofit.

“There are four little founding members, and they were inspired by Gloria’s project and came to me and said, 'We want to do something really cool too,' and I was like, 'Let’s do it,'” said Wickens.

It’s not just kids. Lisa’s boss, Olalla Elementary Principal Ted Macomber, was inspired as well.

“What I try to do is do one random act of kindness for a stranger every day,” said Macomber.

Now he writes down what he does every day.

“What I found is when you start doing those little small acts, it becomes your character and who you become as a person,” said Macomber.

It’s not just kindness, it’s creating a promise of more kindness to come.

“That is absolutely the most exciting part for me,” said Wickens. “So, here’s my quote. One day it will be famous I’m sure, "I can't change the whole world, but I can change my little corner of the world.'”

Last year, one military service project involved nearly the entire school population and POP started with 45 people now counts up to 500 people as active members.