WARNER ROBINS -- Even on cloudy days like Tuesday, when the sun cant seem to find a crack in the sky, members of the Robins Federal SWAG Patrol will wear dark glasses.
They have been known to turn up anywhere, at any time, wearing their mint-green shirts with SWAG patches on the sleeves. The sunglasses are part of the dress code because they prefer to go incognito.
They are like undercover agents, swooping through the hours performing random acts of kindness.
Who are you? is the first question everyone wants to know.
Were kind of like superheroes, said Chris Spicer, marketing manager at Robins Federal Credit Union, who came up the SWAG idea with her assistant, Megan Allen.
Twice a month, the patrol circles Middle Georgia doing everything from filling gas tanks to grocery carts. They buy lunch for unsuspecting families. They deliver pizzas to the fire departments and show up unannounced at the power company to help someone pay an electric bill.
This week (Feb. 13-19) is Random Acts of Kindness Week. The half-dozen members of SWAG -- which stands for Showing We Appreciate by Giving Back -- call their twice-monthly, good-deed sprees Random Acts of Awesome.
On Tuesday, that heartfelt day we know as Valentines Day, a few of them made the 94-mile trip from Warner Robins to the Robins Federal branch in Swainsboro.
By lunchtime, they had wandered over to Shontay Jones at the Harveys Supermarket and announced right there in the checkout aisle they would pay her $120.57 grocery bill.
The idea is to do something nice for somebody, then encourage them to be nice to someone else, said Spicer. We ask them to pay it forward. It has a domino effect.
Spicer and Allen came up with the SWAG swagger in late 2010. Because Robins Federal is a credit union, and therefore a nonprofit, they were instructed at the end of the year to take some of the surplus funds and put the money back into the community.
They brainstormed and arrived at the philanthropic game plan.
The first kindness kiosk was the drive-through lane at Starbucks. They told the cashier they were paying for the coffee of the person in the car behind them. They pulled forward and waited. As it turned out, that person paid for the coffee of the person in line behind them.
It started a chain reaction, Spicer said.
Over the past 15 months, theyve handed out water bottles to students at Georgia State College & University in Milledgeville and distributed sack lunches to students on campus at Macon State College. On the first day of classes at Fort Valley State, they found freshman Breon Isaac in the campus bookstore and picked up the tab for his $400 purchase of textbooks.
Two days before Thanksgiving, they approached Quwahana Anderson in the lobby at Flint Electric.
I told her it was her lucky day. We were going to pay her utility bill, Spicer said. There were a lot of tears. She said her electricity had been shut off, and she had been begging and borrowing from friends to have enough to pay some of the bill. Its hard for us not to get emotional about it when we hear stories like that.
There is no instruction manual, playbook or blueprint to follow.
They are not judgmental, singling out one individual over another because they appear to be more needy.
Sometimes well just decide to help the next person that walks up, Spicer said. Fate steps in. We dont spend a lot of time analyzing the situation.
They once filled a mans gas tank at a Chevron station. He told them he had coasted in on fumes. He had searched the floorboard for loose change and had called a friend to bring him some money to help pay for his gas.
In Perry, they parked at the Sonic Drive-In and decided to buy lunch for the next family that drove up. It was a father, mother and their daughter. Talk about brilliant timing. It was the little girls birthday, and they had come to celebrate.
We catch people off guard a lot of times, Spicer said. They lean back and want to know: Whats the catch? Then they see the looks on our faces, and they realize were not joking.
On the Robins Federal Facebook page, they play a game of SWAG! Youre It! It issues challenges on acts of kindness as simple as smiling to everyone in your path to taking a neighbors trash can to the curb. When they urged folks to open doors for everyone behind them, a woman wrote back: I can honestly say I have held open 125 doors. Whew, I am tired.
Its no wonder the SWAG Patrol wears dark glasses.
Theyre in the business of spreading sunshine.
We have had people say they have been praying for this, said Spicer. We have been called angels.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or email@example.com.