We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeanine Rountree and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jeanine, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I had a very close friend who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was given 6 months to live. I placed myself in his shoes and began to think about my purpose and why I was placed on this earth. What kind of legacy did I want to leave behind for my daughter? I happened to come across a volunteer opportunity on social media called the Burrito Project. This project served the homeless people living in “Tent City” in downtown Santa Ana. I came to the event not knowing what to expect as I never volunteered for a homeless shelter before. The experience of serving the homeless really humbled me to the core and made me realize that there is so much that I can do to give back. I saw the living conditions and the many faces of people who are someone’s son/daughter, mother/father or friend. I came home that night and told my daughter that we need to be kind to everyone because we don’t know what struggles people are going through. The very next day, I woke up with an idea. I told my daughter that we are going to start a project and call it Operation Be Kind. Our mission is going to be spreading kindness to everyone, especially those in need.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I went from being a full-time mother to running a non-profit full time within 6 months of starting Operation Be Kind. It started in my backyard with friends and families volunteering their time to help pack our yellow kind bags filled with donated essential items. My home was filled with boxes of donations and supplies and before I realized it, I ran out of space. I had to transition into a warehouse space after 3 months of becoming approved as a 501(c)3. I had over 50 volunteers monthly and that number grew with each mission. Thanks to social media, our non-profit gained visibility and grew so quickly that I had to commit more time running the day to day operations along with our fundraising efforts. The work was rewarding on so many levels that I didn’t mind committing all my time to growing Operation Be Kind. I met so many community leaders and so many great volunteers with hearts of gold in the last 4 years. As a fairly new non-profit, we are always learning from our mistakes and from many people who have come before us. Fundraising is probably our biggest challenge,however, I have managed to get through this past year with all that has been going on with the pandemic and shut down orders and loss of fundraising opportunities. I am hopeful that this year, 2021, will open up for more opportunities for us to serve the community.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My friends and I bond over food and we love to gather around the table filled with authentic cuisine. Some of my favorite places to eat is in Little Saigon, in the city of Westminster. I love Vietnamese food and one of my favorite spot to eat in Little Saigon is Quan Mii. They offer a variety of many authentic Vietnamese dishes such as spicy beef noodles, rice dishes and my favorite is Banh Xeo (vietnamese crepe). After a great meal, I would love to take them to see our coast line and enjoy bike riding in Huntington Beach on the boardwalk and stop in Pacific City for a little bit of shopping. I also enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and we are blessed to have many great hiking locations locally in Orange County. A couple favorite spots of mine are Peters Canyon in North Tustin and Top of the World in Laguna Beach known for their amazing views. To end the evening, I would take them to Mastros or Marche Moderne for a delicious dinner and great entertainment. Dining out is fun to do every now and then but I truly enjoy intimate gatherings at home with friends the most. I also love to cook and enjoy sharing a nice meal together gathered around a table with delicious food, great wine and amazing company. That would be a perfect day spent with friends.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The success of my non profit is due to the amazing group of women who make up my board and the amazing community that supported us since day one. I like to thank the following people for always coming through to support our many events and mission to serve our community. My Kind Squad: Michelle Duong Elizabeth Yeung Teresa Dinh Watanabe Sophia Tran Anne Amand Sophia Koo Sandy Knoski Monique Hale Anne Conrad Vi Ann Nguyen Cecile Wight Melissa Nguyen Christine Tilman