Two sisters who own an award-winning coffee and sandwich business are organising a series of Random Acts of Kindness throughout December for unsung heroes they believe deserve public recognition.
Karen Gibney and Denise Shields, joint proprietors of the Barista Coffee House and Sandwich Bars in East Belfast and Loughshore Park in Newtownabbey, plan to surprise a series of worthy individuals and organisations with treats every week day in the run up to Christmas.
Karen and Denise share a congenital heart defect and one of the organisations they have chosen is the Children’s Heartbeat Trust, which is campaigning to keep children’s cardiac services in Ireland. Heartbeat works closely with the Clark Clinic in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children which is under threat of closure.
The pair delivered colourful Christmas cupcakes to staff and patients at the clinic and trust to say thank you for their great work.
Karen, the Managing Director of Barista, was born with a hole in her heart and had to have surgery at 18 months old. But even after surgery she had a very low heart rate and wasn’t able to do a lot of the things that other children could do.
At age nine she was fitted with a pacemaker that totally transformed her life and she now has a full healthy life. Her sister Denise had a similar heart condition and still has an irregular heartbeat.
Karen said: “Heartbeat is our chosen charity and we fully support their campaign to retain children’s cardiac services in Northern Ireland. If cardiac surgery hadn’t been available here when we were children, we may not have been around today working to build a successful business.”
Other people they have identified as deserving of an act of kindness include ‘Gertie’, a 93-year-old regular customer who lives alone and was recently affected by a traumatic incident.
Karen said: “Gertie was a victim of a rogue caller, which really shook her up. She fell and sustained a black eye. But she is a strong woman and is determined to put it behind her and continue to live an independent life.
She added: “We wanted to do something special for all the unsung heroes who do so much for other people. We looked at the people around us who make life better – from our customers to the nurses in our hospitals and our local street cleaner who does such an amazing job but won’t even take a cup of coffee from us.”
“These Random Acts of Kindness is our way of saying thank you to all these groups and individuals, particularly Heartbeat, which does such great work to help children with congenital heart problems.”