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

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.

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