Generous to the Core

A teenager’s drive touches her school and community.

Anna Petterson and members of the Random Acts of Kindness Club meet regularly to brainstorm ways to be generous. This article (PDF) | Current issue (PDF) | Archive

By Kathleen Childers, photo by Joanne Angles

Though she’s only 16 years old, Thrivent member Anna Petterson has an ambitious goal: Make the world a better place. And she’s been working at it most of her life.

“As a little girl,” says her mother, Judy, “we nicknamed her the animal whisperer because wild squirrels and deer would let her pet them. She helped them if they were hurt and even made outdoor shelters to protect them from winter weather.”

When she was 8 years old, a friend’s home was destroyed by a tornado, leaving the family with nothing. Anna donated half of her clothes to her friend. And with the help of her family, Anna organized a neighborhood drive to collect donations for the victims.

A year ago, she wrote an essay about the importance of protecting the environment. It was published in a local newspaper.

But she launched her biggest endeavor yet this past year at Waukesha West High School, when she was a sophomore. Anna, with several other students, created a new school club called Random Acts of Kindness. “The goal is to bring more kindness into our school and to help others be more generous,” she says. As the club grew in membership, students were able to complete dozens of activities: thank-you notes to bus drivers, inspirational messages placed on students’ lockers, Christmas gifts for families in need, blanket drives and more.

Joanne Angles, the club’s advisor, says its growth and the support it’s received from students and others are due mostly to Anna. “Anna is passionate and fearless,” she says. “She’s not afraid to approach anyone to ask for help, even local businesses.”

Anna – who credits her mother for inspiring her – is very pleased with how the club is working out. But she’s also got her eye on bigger plans for the future. “My dream is to start a nonprofit to help others,” she says. She seems well on her way to accomplishing that and a whole lot more.