Our Story

The campaign for Kindness Monterey began the way many worthy projects begin, with two good friends sharing an idea for a worthwhile cause. Friends, Annee Martin and Maren Elwood were talking about how they missed going out to their favorite restaurants and how they could support them during the pandemic-induced closings and reduced operations.

Annee, founder of Sanctuary Vacation Rentals felt the emotional and economic pain that the Covid-19 pandemic was having on restaurant owners, many of whom are friends. She was sad as she read some of the signs posted on closed restaurants and messages posted on their websites. She also noticed that everything that was being asked of restaurants to be able to serve customers was not sustainable.

Maren who is a visual anthropologist and small business owner herself, also felt the pangs of her customers, many who also were being challenged financially and emotionally. She would leave small gifts of cheer, such as home-baked goods or flowers from her garden to help brighten their day. She saw that these small acts of kindness really made a difference.

Annee had learned from Executive Director Moe Ammar, that the Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce had purchased 25 gift certificates from their restaurant members and delivered them to 25 chamber business members who were experiencing hardship due to the COVID-19 health crises. He told Annee that it really lifted their spirits and that he was going to purchase another 25 the following week and deliver them.

That small but meaningful action inspired Annee and Maren to start a campaign to purchase gift cards from restaurants and distribute them to those in need. Annee decided to adopt one of her favorite restaurants, Mezzaluna Pasteria & Mozzarella Bar in Pacific Grove, and began ordering takeout for her family and friends. She would leave notes of encouragement for the owners Chef Peters and Amy but knew something more still needed to be done.

To have a positive impact on Monterey County restaurants and the community at large called for an internet platform for gift card giving and information. Annee reached out to Marci Bracco Cain of Chatterbox Public Relations for help in bringing together a team to develop a logo and website and to use social media as a platform to spread the word and find sponsors.

Annee also connected with Kiki Whitman of Kiki Wow Events. Her passion is bringing people together through music, making a connection and sending them home with a smile on their face. Kiki, upon hearing of Kindness Monterey’s vision saw this as a way to support the community that she has been such an integral part of and will be reaching out to restaurants and sponsors to help get them on board.

With a lot of teamwork and many late evenings, KindnessMonterey.com was born. While still in its infancy Kindness Monterey continues to grow and expand with the love and support of the community.



Meet the Team
Annee Martin Founder

Annee’s background includes having worked in the restaurant and hospitality business since she was 11 years old as well as  being a therapist, professional chef, Inn owner, cookbook author, interior designer, real estate consultant, professional stager and occasional artist and writer). Annee took her love and passion for creating beautiful, nurturing spaces and founded Sanctuary Vacation Rentals which allows Annee to use many of her talents and interests. She is an ambassador for the Monterey County Hospitality Association, and a founding board member of the MCVRA.

Annee co-authored a cookbook with her best friend and former business partner – Anne Marie Defreest called “Recipes and Reflections: A journey of food and friendship from the Inn at the Round Barn Farm” in Waitsfield, Vermont. She is currently working on a second cookbook with Anne Marie called “There is nothing that a freshly baked cookie can’t solve” Annee lives with her husband David Martin a well-known local architect and their AFRP rescue dog, Gracee Blossom Joy, ambassador of Goodwill. >> Read more…

Maren Elwood Founder

Maren is the owner and founder of On-Site Research Associates, a full service marketing company.  She has over 30 years of marketing experience working with Fortune 500 companies like Verizon, General Motors, Pier 1, and L’Oreal. As a Visual Anthropologist Maren has studied cultures around the world using visual and social media. She provides clients with sound marketing strategies that bridge from the traditional media world to the new digital world.

Maren’s skills include video production and ethnographic consumer research.  She also conducts “The Cyber Census.”   The longest running ethnographic study of Americans’ cyber lives…a syndicated trend study called the Cyber Census. She has been busy during the COVID pandemic helping people with their technology and she will be in charge of working with the local restaurants to make sure people can easily buy gift cards to support these great eateries and people in need. >> Read More…

Kiki Wow Musician

A lifelong musician and music promoter, Kiki’s background includes working for Dick Clark, Neil Young and Warner Bros. while living in L.A. She has been a resident of Carmel Valley for the past 15 years and has produced many incredible concerts featuring local and touring musicians. Kiki is a producer, recording artist, musician, writer, booking agent, who has booked more than 300 artists in various venues over the past two decades on the Monterey Peninsula.

She also publishes a weekly entertainment newsletter that goes out to thousands of people and has joined forces with Kindness Monterey to create an online music concert “Monterey Care-A-Thon” an online music concert to share the healing power of music by local musicians in an effort to raise donations for local restaurants and feed those in need with the common goal to benefit the community. >> Read More…

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