La Costa Glen’s ‘Ms. Sunshine’ completes daily acts of kindness

"Ms. Sunshine" Carol Dykstra
(Luke Harold)

As a New Year’s resolution, Carol Dykstra wanted to find a way to lift people’s spirits in her La Costa Glen senior living community, especially after almost a year of COVID-19 that was particularly difficult for seniors.

“It was a really rough year for everybody and I just decided to do something every day to bring a little sunshine into people’s lives,” said Dykstra, 78, a former school teacher and social worker from Pennsylvania who met her husband of 50 years in his home state of Iowa.

Over the past few months, she’s followed through by regularly giving a variety of gifts, including flowers and balloons, and other packages to her neighbors and friends to welcome people to the neighborhood, celebrate birthdays or milestones, and more. She also takes people to lunch or helps them with errands that they struggle completing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve always done things, but I’ve never done it every single day, which is frankly quite a bit of a challenge because you have to come up with something every day,” Dykstra said.

She and her husband eventually retired to California. They moved into the La Costa Glen senior living community in Carlsbad five years ago, about three years before he died.

A while back, when Dykstra was having a hard time at one of her teaching jobs, her husband gave her some advice that she still keeps in mind: “Stop feeling sorry for yourself, it’s not productive.”

That philosophy helped inspire her New Year’s resolution to “bring a little sunshine” to her community, inspiring others to call her “Ms. Sunshine.” “Sunshine” also happened to be a nickname given to her by a roommate at Kutztown State Teacher’s College in Pennsylvania.

Some of the many other acts of kindness she’s completed include delivering Valentine’s Day gifts to 29 in her La Costa Glen community and making goodie bags for the landscapers.

Dykstra said she sometimes completes as many as two or three acts of kindness each day. If it gets to be late in the day and she hasn’t been able to do one, she sends out an email or e-card to people she hasn’t been in touch with for a while.

“People seem to be so happy,” Dykstra said of the reactions she’s been getting. “It seems to bring a lot of smiles and happiness.”