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SMITH: Sometimes an act of kindness is, well, just an act of kindess

Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 2:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 2:06 p.m.

It was Ronnie Beigel's turn at the checkstand at the Grocery Outlet discount market in Rohnert Park.

Sixty-three and a newcomer to Sonoma County, she'd smiled at the young family in line behind her. But when the man addressed her and went to hand her something, her defenses clicked on.

“Redwood Credit Union would like to help pay for your groceries this week,” the fellow told Beigel as he gave her an envelope. Inside were 10 $5 bills.

Beigel was grateful but also wary. Later, at home, she checked her purse to make sure nobody'd lifted her credit cards while she was distracted by the startling gift.

I phoned the credit union and found Brett Martinez, the president/CEO, a bit reluctant to talk about it.

“We have intentionally tried to keep this out the news,” he said about the RCU's new random-acts-of-kindness program. “It's not why we do it.”

Martinez said RCU employees, board members and supervisory committee members received money to give away as they chose. Spontaneous gifts have surprised folks in line for coffee, riders awaiting buses, teachers needing classroom supplies, restaurant patrons, all sorts of people.

“It's kind of nice just to make somebody's day,” Martinez said.

Ronnie Beigel said the kind act certainly made hers. “They don't know what a blessing it was.”

SWEDE TOOTH: Our driven and empathetic Viveka Rydell just received the “2013 Women's Achievement Award” at an elegant affair by the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco/Silicon Valley.

Viveka runs the Windsor-based PDI Surgery Center, which treats low-income children with dental problems so dreadful they plague the kids' lives and threaten their overall health.

Born in Sweden, Viveka was a successful litigation attorney in San Francisco until a yoga retreat left her yearning to find work with a greater positive impact on the lives of others.

In its five years, PDI ( has performed dental surgery on more than 8,200 youngsters.

Viveka says her work in law was intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding. But now, “I get to see that every day there are 12 kids who have surgery and can smile again.”

YAH, HANS, TOO: What are the chances a second Scandi-Sonoman would

receive word of a significant honor at pretty much the same time as Viveka?

Hans Skalagard, the maritime artist from Petaluma, was invited to the Southland the other day for induction into California's Scandinavian American Hall of Fame.

Hans, who's 89, wasn't feeling well so the induction was put off. He and his wife, Mignon, will work with their hosts in the Thousand Oaks-based Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation to pick a future date for the Hall of Fame celebration.

Hans, a prolific and exacting painter of historic sailing ships, is a latter-day Viking born in the Faroe Islands. He'll join in the Scandinavian-U.S. Hall of Fame Olympic skater Sonja Henie, football coach Knute Rockne, entertainer Victor Borge and “Father of the Green Revolution” Norman Borlaug.

Mignon Skalagard said she can tell Hans is feeling better now than he was when he begged off the Hall of Fame trip. Because he's painting again.

CHAIN GANG: An analytical fellow read that item the other day about the three guys spotted working up a sweat on Santa Rosa's Dutton Avenue by running and pulling hefty lengths of chain.

RICH ANDERSON, a longtime local fitness trainer, alerted me via Facebook that it was him and a couple of his clients hauling those chains.

The lengths weigh 80 pounds, he said, and the guys doing the workout run with them for 2½ miles, stopping to perform push-ups, jump-ups, mountain-climbers, sitting kick-outs, jumping lunges and pull-ups.

Gad. But it beats a half hour alone on a Stairmaster in the garage.

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and

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