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One of the great aspects of being an independent grocer is the flexibility and ability to step up when an opportunity to give back presents itself. That’s the case for Patrick Ptacek of Ptacek’s IGA in Prescott, Wisconsin. Last month, Ptacek said “yes” to providing the site, staff, and fixings to make 2,300 sandwiches as a contribution to feeding the homeless in nearby Minneapolis.
The sandwich session was part of a national effort to promote “Random Acts of Kindness,” a movement that seeks to inspire others to give back. To raise awareness, the organization behind it has designated February 17 as Random Acts of Kindness Day. In addition to contributing time and materials to the cause, Ptacek’s also signed up to be part of a short, 3-minute film made by TFA Productions and Acowsay Cinema, in partnership with the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation and IGA.
The film focuses on Allan Law, a retired school teacher and one-man charity operation who has made helping others his life’s work. Known by many as “The Sandwich Man,” Law spends his nights driving around the greater Twin Cities, giving out sandwiches and Metro tokens to those who need them.
On any given night in the Twin Cities there are an estimated 10,000 homeless people, including 3,000 youth and children. Since 1999, Law has given out more than 12 million sandwiches. He sees it as his way of giving back.
“I truly believe that this is what life is: What kind of impact can you make to help other people? And then encourage them to help other people,” says Law in the film.
The film came together through TFA Productions, which has a mission of driving social impact through the power of storytelling, said Jeremy Snyder, company partner and co-producer of the film. “Our motto is to ‘excite, inspire, and empower.’ Through our storytelling, we aim to get people excited about a cause, as well as inspire and empower them to take action, to do something about it,” he said.
Law’s work giving away sandwiches was the perfect illustration of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation’s “Kindness Starts With One” campaign, said Snyder, showing how such a simple gesture of giving someone a sandwich can have a huge impact when magnified on a larger scale. The goal was to produce this particular story for Random Acts of Kindness Day, and Snyder said the bigger plan is to continue sharing stories such as these through an ongoing series.
For Ptacek’s contribution, 15 staff gathered at Ptacek’s banquet hall (housed in its former grocery store location) and assembled 2,300 sandwiches from 58 pounds of peanut butter, 39 pounds of jelly, 900 slices of cheese, and 250 pounds of ham and turkey.
Originally the team was going to be assembling sandwiches from foods donated from other sources, but a snowstorm right before filming day meant the donations wouldn’t arrive in time. “Everything was locked in transit,” said Ptacek, who managed to make new arrangements with his own distributor. “It worked out really great,” said Ptacek. In addition to staff and other volunteers, Ptacek’s young daughter joined in on the sandwich session. “It was good for her to help out. We are fortunate in our means, and this was a reminder that others aren’t as lucky.”