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MAKING A MARK: Nonprofit delivers big smiles with little gifts

Even the smallest gesture can change someone's entire day. Boxes of Smiles is doing just that, giving away tiny gifts with a major purpose.

NORFOLK, Va. — It all started on Alex McBath's 28th birthday.

"It was a pretty difficult year for me mentally, in terms of just mental health," he said. "So, I had told my sister, Lydia, that I wasn't [going to] do anything for my birthday that year... She surprised me with a full day full of wellness activities."

The day brought McBath so many smiles, he decided to share.

"What if I could take all of that joy," said McBath, "box it up, and then give it to someone else?"

McBath founded the nonprofit Boxes of Smiles

He and his team, known as "selfless smile smugglers," fill small, takeout-style boxes with gifts and notes and hand them out every three months to different people and communities that could use some cheer.

Credit: Boxes of Smiles

"We generally like to focus on groups where advocation for mental health is usually sometimes overlooked," McBath explained. "Minorities and young African Americans... Burn victims... Homeless individuals or displaced individuals."

Through numerous distributions, known as "journeys," the nonprofit has passed out more than 900 boxes -- each packed with the message that somebody cares.

"We learn other people's stories, what they've been going through," McBath said. "We talk to them, we love on them, and we pray for them as well."

This year, McBath turns 32, and he and his team plan to give more gifts than ever.

"We [want to] get big numbers, get a lot of boxes. Hopefully a thousand boxes this year if we can," he said.

"Bringing joy, it just takes one smile," McBath said. "Just those basic elements of kindness and generosity are all we need to change the world."

Boxes of Smiles is handing out gifts at senior living facilities through July 23.

You can donate, volunteer, or nominate another group or community that could use some joy. 

Reach out to the nonprofit on Instagram or email boxesofsmiles757@gmail.com.

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