People Issue 2016: Sarah Edwards, the big heart

Sarah Edwards shows kindness is infectious.

Sarah Edwards shows kindness is infectious.

The City Pages People Issue celebrates ordinary folks who do extraordinary things. Though their triumphs are rarely acknowledged, they make the Twin Cities a better place.

Sarah Edwards doesn't just engage in small acts of generosity. She founded a charity based on the notion.

I AM Kindness, her nonprofit, began as a volunteer group promoting random acts of altruism. One of their first efforts involved putting together care packages for Metro Transit bus drivers. The inspiration came from a member of the I AM Kindness Facebook group who regularly rode the bus.

"We did it guerrilla-style," Edwards recounts. They hit up Costco for goodies, which included juice boxes, candy bars, and trail mix, and put together bags with a note thanking each driver for their hard, often underappreciated work. The group then split up, randomly bestowing drivers with a gift. The surprise was well-received, if a bit unexpected.

"Many were genuinely shocked that someone thought of them and took the time," she says.

High from the joy they created, I AM Kindness continued to expand, doing ambush makeovers for residents at retirement homes. Then came a fashion show at the Varsity Theater, dubbed I AM Fabulous, where non-models like single moms and seniors were pampered, celebrated, and sent down a runaway.

"My favorite thing is making all people feel valued and important," Edwards says. "I know that can sound kinda cheesy, but I think we often put the wrong people in the spotlight. Or, not wrong, but the expected people."

One of I AM Kindness' bigger happenings is an annual party where artists barter for the sale of their pieces. They don't exchange money. Instead, buyers agree to pay for the piece with a do-good act determined by the artist — like walking neglected dogs at a shelter, donating time at an art gallery, and giving a cat a new home.

"My favorite part is that money has no value," Edwards says. "Anyone — from executives to someone with no money — can have the same experience. It evens everyone out for an evening."

She's also the founder of annual Twin Cities talent showcases I AM MPLS! and I AM ST. PAUL! And then there's I AM Rescued, which aims to find homes for rescue animals. She's even had a hand in the revival of Fashion Week MN, a weeklong celebration featuring runway parties, trunk shows, and other pop-up happenings.

Edwards is currently working on a back-to-school anti-bullying event, which will celebrate unique style and creativity.

"One of the things with I AM Kindness is that it's about doing things, but it's also a state of mind," she says. "There are simple ways you can go out of your way for someone. Just be mindful."

Click here to read the rest of our People Issue 2016 profiles.