‘It’s just needed more than ever’: Madison ‘kindness angel’ spreads positivity with signs


MADISON, Wis. – Between the devastating pandemic and contentious election, it can feel like negativity is everywhere. Doris Gassen is on a mission to spread positivity.

While political signs are scattered around all Madison neighborhoods, Gassen’s garage on the east side is filled with the supplies to spread a different kind of message.

“It’s just needed more than ever,” she said.

It’s perhaps the simplest tool of them all, and it’s in no short supply: kindness is all around Gassen’s workspace.

“I think I could write ‘Be kind’ in my sleep after 5,100 and some,” she said. “(It’s) just what we should be.”

Kindness Signs

Doris Gassen estimates she has more than 2,000 “Be Kind” signs in her garage ready to give away.

Gassen takes the kindness in her own heart and puts it out into the world, creating “Be Kind” signs for free. Since she began making them in late summer last year, they’ve ended up not only all around the city and the state, but across the country and even the world. She tracks them using stickers on maps.

“They’ve gone all over,” Gassen said. “If it changes one person’s day, that’s enough.”

The project takes a team. Gassen’s neighbor helps her paint and others have donated materials and helped her deliver the signs. The original idea came from Gini Bonnell in Virginia.

“She had retired and just didn’t like the negativity in the world,” Gassen said.

Bonnell dubs other Be Kind sign creators like Gassen “angels.”

“It’s kind of fun,” Gassen said. “I didn’t expect to be an angel yet.”

Nancy Battist, also an eastside resident, learned about Gassen and her signs on Facebook and was thrilled to find two signs waiting at home for her earlier this year.

“I thought, oh my gosh, that’s so needed now in this day of the pandemic and politics and negative politics,” she said.

For Battist, the signs are a reminder to hang in there as they pop up in more and more places.

“It’s really sweet when you see one, like, ‘Oh I see another one,'” Battist said. “It’s just to make people happy. Every day, whether you come home grumpy or not, if anyone looks at it the first thing you want to do is smile.”

“I guess other people keep saying how great this is, and I almost don’t fathom it,” Gassen said. “We’re just doing it, and I think I’d be lost if I quit.”

Even in dark times, Gassen knows kindness can lead the way.

“It’s just such a simple little message that I think it surprises people,” she said. “You look at it and just almost smile.”

Gassen currently has about 2,000 signs ready to give away in her garage. For more information, contact her at dgasn41@gmail.com.

It’s a message even grumpy cat Ziggy can get behind.

Doris Gassen has made 5,100+ Be Kind signs and gives them away for…

Posted by Madalyn O’Neill on Monday, October 26, 2020