Someone somewhere right this second wants the very best for you. How do I know? Because it’s me. I want to know that life feels warm and full to you. Full of love, full of gratitude and full of Thanksgiving leftover deliciousness. That’s what I’m wishing for you this very moment.

I wish I didn’t have to wish. I wish I knew that every single person reading this column was filled to overflowing with everything they need to get through today and tomorrow and the day after that. But that’s not the world we live in. Abundance is often in short supply. Thank goodness kindness is not.


This world is full of people who dream big to make life easier on others. Like the person who decided to put up a Christmas tree with name tags on it for children whom Santa may miss. Or the person who decided to put a cart in the grocery store for food donations for the hungry. Or James VanRaden, a Moorhead man who decided $5 could build a house.

James came up with an idea back in May, on Mother’s Day, to be exact. He and his wife were discussing the question, “Do you think it would be possible to raise $100,000 in a year’s time at $5 increments?” It was from that conversation that “The House That $5 Built” was born.

James started a GoFundMe account, asking people to donate just $5, the cost of a fancy cup of coffee.

While the project caught fire for a little while, it eventually simmered down and the donations grew stagnant. So far, 60 people have given for a total of just under $600. That’s a far cry from $100,000, and he only has six months left to meet that one-year goal. But that can’t stop a dreamer like James.

The House that $5 Built has teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to be one of three builds in the Fargo-Moorhead area in 2016.

James is continuing to urge people to make an investment in the community by buying a “share” in the project, and contends that this is not frivolous or flippant giving.

“Every share purchased moves the project closer to being fully funded. A step closer to a deserving individual or family getting the keys to a new home. This is not a handout. These are homes that have mortgages, so this is a hand-up.”

There are plenty of prospective homeowners hoping this venture builds a strong foundation. Numerous applications have come in from people who want to make their dream of owning a home a reality, like the woman who works two jobs, is taking care of her mother with cancer, and still has a tough time making ends meet. And the couple who can’t afford the rent on their apartment now that one of them is disabled. And the mother who chose to leave a very nice house in order to raise her children in a non-abusive home.

James adds, “When I speak of The House That $5 Built, I speak of not a project, but a change. A change in the way we do things in an industry. But it starts with one.”

11009875_1417981071858573_5310055129363335828_oOne dreamer, one $5 bill, and one community of people who agree that everyone deserves to feel warm and full.

To learn more about this project go to or

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at