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October 10, 2019
Meet the Kind Mouse
You could say that The Kind Mouse has been in the works since founder and CEO Gina Wilkins was born. Her father gave her the nickname Mouse and she was raised to always be kind and give back where she could.
It was years later, when the economy was in a recession and many were struggling to make ends meet, that The Kind Mouse fully came to life. Working in the architecture industry, Wilkins was not immune to the effects of the economic downturn, nor were her friends, colleagues and clients. She recognized that if they were struggling, surely there were those out there in the Pinellas County community who felt the fear of not knowing if they would be able to feed their children, and Wilkins found her opportunity to give back in a big way.
“I had always thought I would be doing architecture for my whole life, I thought I had the world’s best job. And when the economic downturn hit, so many families were downsized and there was such a need right here in my own backyard, I started The Kind Mouse to feed the hungry kids. I really can’t believe how we’ve been able to grow and the impact we’ve made over the last seven and half years,” Wilkins said.
The Kind Mouse is known for helping to feed the 7,000 chronically hungry and 36,000 food-insecure children in Pinellas County through their Mouse Nibbles Feeding Program, but what’s truly unique is how The Kind Mouse goes about feeding these children. What started as feeding five kids and packaging meals in the spare bedroom of Wilkins’ house has grown to feeding an average of 800 children each week from a building often filled to capacity with food donations.
The meals for these kids are packed by volunteers, including kids involved with The Kind Mouse’s Mice in Training and Mice Interns programs; Mice in Training is for kids ages 5 to 12 and Mice Interns is for kids ages 13 to 18. Both programs are about teaching our future leaders how to lead and give back. They meet several times a month and can be found running their own board meetings, packing and purchasing the food that is delivered to schools, and even visiting the local schools served by The Kind Mouse. Through these peer-to-peer interactions, the Mice in Training and Mice Interns encourage other kids to work hard in school in the hope that one day they won’t have to worry about food anymore.
“These kids are amazing,” Wilkins said. “They often stay with us for years, starting in Mice in Training and continuing through Mice Interns. It’s really beautiful; we’ve built a big, beautiful family here. These kids understand, they all have kind hearts and understand that you must serve, you must give back to the community. They’re doing it,” Wilkins shared.
All told, The Kind Mouse has filled over 296,000 little tummies and is poised to keep that number rising. With all of the donations and community support The Kind Mouse receives, they are doing so well in South Pinellas County that they are outgrowing their facility and are looking to increase their reach to fulfill the need in North Pinellas County. 2020 will be a big year for The Kind Mouse as they kick off their capital campaign to raise funds for a second location.
“We’re already finding children and babies who are hungry, and we’re feeding them, but through this campaign we hope to be able to get a much larger facility which would allow us to serve even more children and babies, plus their families with our outreach program,” Wilkins said.
Serving business members is even better when they are serving others. And to Wilkins, there is nothing better than serving hungry kids in her community.
“To me, this has become my life. I am The Kind Mouse,” Wilkins said.
If you’re looking for ways to get involved and support your community, learn more about The Kind Mouse.
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