Article by Miranda Chant for Blackburn News:

Retired coin-operated parking meters are getting a second lease on life in London. They’re being re-purposed as Kindness Meters.

Bright blue in colour, the refurbished parking meters have been installed in five downtown parks to allow people out for a stroll a place to drop their change, not to pay for parking, but to be distributed to local charities.

Londoner Lincoln McCardle has been working to bring the Kindness Meter to the city since he and his wife spotted them at the Ottawa ByWard Market on Canada Day 2015.

“We thought that was amazing and London should have something like this,” said McCardle.

Concerns from the city over a private citizen owning parking meters caused initial delays getting the project up and running, but with the backing of Downtown London, five meters were purchased from the city for $1 and repainted. The next slowdown came when Downtown London was unable to find a business to re-key the meters. But through last year’s Ward 13 Decides, a contest that allows neighbourhoods to vote on community projects, McCardle was back in business when his Kindness Meter idea won.

Since then, McCardle had been waiting for the city to change the locks on the meters, create signs to explain the initiative, and erect the meters. The waiting ended last week. McCardle received an email notifying him that the meters had been installed in the northwest corner of Victoria Park, as well as in West Lions, Piccadilly, Ivey, and A. Baran Parks.

“When I got an email last Thursday at 4:30pm saying that the meters were now installed there was no one more surprised than me,” said McCardle.

The Salvation Army has agreed to collect and disburse the money from the meters on a weekly basis for one year. The charitable organization will use 40% of the donations towards its own initiatives, while the rest will be given to a variety of different local charities decided by the public through the Kindness Meter Facebook Page.

“My goal, because this was never meant to be a fundraiser for one charity, is that we can spread the money around,” said McCardle. “So every week, or every month when we collect the money we try to give to three or four organizations that are trying to attack poverty and homelessness from different angles and are different sizes.”

Other Canadian cities have introduced Kindness Meters as a way to reduce street panhandling but McCardle insists that is not the case in London.

“This is really not meant to replace giving money to panhandlers or giving money to charities. It’s meant to supplement these awesome groups that are doing local work,” he said.