02/29/2012 05:01 pm ET Updated Apr 30, 2012

Real Life Lessons From Real Life DoGooders: Start Small for a Big Impact

Every week, I have the privilege to learn about an individual or organization achieving amazing things in the world by contributing to the greater good. shares their stories to inspire our users to emulate these acts of service. When we started our series, I was hopeful that it would empower our users to look within and determine how they could best use their skills to give back.

I knew these stories would be inspiring, but I didn't realize on a personal level how many life lessons I would gain from observing people completely fulfilled and aligned to what they were put on this earth to do. I believe we are all teachers to one another, and I am excited to share the lessons I have learned from DoGooder Spotlights each week.

I took away a valuable lesson when I read TheDoGooder Spotlight feature about Kendra Stitt Robins and her nonprofit Project Night Night, an organization that provides care packages to children caught in the middle of domestic violence. I learned from Kendra's example that you don't have to do something big to change the world.

Prior to becoming a mother, Kendra Stitt Robins worked as a corporate attorney in San Francisco. Although she loved her job, she wondered after her son was born if she could find another satisfying career that accommodated her new family. Robins formed nonprofits for other people and always had a whimsical desire to start one of her own. She figured if she could do it for others, she could do it for herself.

Overwhelmed by the amount of need in the world, she initially listed a variety of broad issues she'd like to tackle. By doing this, she successfully recognized her ability to address a small problem in order to make a big change.

Kendra discovered her nonprofit's mission by developing a sense of empathy to mothers struggling from abuse. Even as a powerful corporate lawyer specializing in complicated contract negotiations and nuanced law theory, Kendra first defined a commonality to the abused women she was trying to help and used that as a road map to launch her foundation.

Although she couldn't relate to their personal abuse, she could as a new mother. Kendra noticed how she eased her son, Cole, to sleep when they traveled by having even the smallest comforts with him. She focused on that commonality and built an understanding of a real need to these mothers. She dwelled on the fact that many domestic violence victims have to flee their homes without any belongings for themselves or their children.

She didn't lean on providing her legal expertise that had given her so much success, but focused on what was simple, real and relatable. She started Project Night Night intending to provide as many homeless, displaced children with a stuffed animal, blanket and a book as she could. The mission launched an organization that has helped thousands of mothers and their children acclimate themselves away from abuse in safe environments. Her foundation has grown from a small operation stationed in the middle of her living room, to a grassroots nonprofit reaching over 25,000 homeless children every year.

Many of the children at the shelters have never owned anything brand new, so Project Night Night strives to make sure all of the packages contain new or gently used items. Kendra's impact is evident when she tells the story of how a little boy at a shelter received one of her packages. When he saw the tag on his new blanket, he asked specifically if it was new. She remembers how pleased he was when she confirmed it. A few days later, she heard from the shelter leader that he refused to let her remove the tag because he had never received anything new before. He thought that if she removed it, "it wouldn't be new anymore." This small act meant so much to this little boy and perhaps made this very difficult transition a little easier.

You can read more about Project Night Night and Kendra's full story at

Kendra's story reminds me that to change someone's life, you don't need to obsess over society's largest issues. Yes, the world has complicated problems! They are undoubtedly overwhelming, but if you step back and focus on the simple things, like Project Night Night offering simple gifts to kids in dire situations, the impact can be greater than you know.