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Twenty-two tales of kindness

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By many measures, Yellow Springs is a kind place. We make time for each other; we make eye contact and small talk on the street. When help is needed, help usually comes. An act of kindness can be small; indeed, it often seems so from the outside. But not to its recipient.

The News asked readers to offer their stories of kindness given, received or witnessed in the village over the past year. These stories, spoken and written, illuminate “a year of kindness” in Yellow Springs. They’re a reminder that heartfelt acknowledgement is itself a kind act.

Jumping in to help
Not long ago Al Schlueter came to our office and said his neighbor, an older man, needs home repairs but doesn’t have the money to pay someone. He asked me if I had any ideas of ways to help. I knew that the Greene County Department of Development has some funds, so I passed that information along.
Recently I saw Al and asked how things were going for his neighbor. He said he had just driven the man down to Xenia to apply for the funds and everything was working out.

I’ll bet Al does at least 50 things like that a year to help people. I don’t think his neighbor asked for help, Al just jumped in to help like he does. He’s meant a lot to our organization and I’m sure he means a lot to many people in the village.
—Chris Hall, program director
Home, Inc.

Wallet lost, kindness found
This fall a person found my wallet outside our drugstore and turned it in at the store. Employees at the drugstore called the police. The police picked it up and brought the wallet to my residence. I was just leaving to retrace my steps when the squad car pulled up. This all happened within 10 minutes. Kindness abounded all around town. My deep gratitude to all.
—Suzanne Patterson

Meals for mailbox mice
We have a long, deep mail box. Many generations of field mice have built their delicate nests of thistle down inside of it. Carla Markley, our rural mail carrier, never complains about them. Now and then I’ll open the mailbox and see that she has left part of a dog biscuit there with the mail. Just this week she left the mice a wee biscuit for their holiday treat. Carla’s kindness to these innocent creatures always warms my heart.
—Vick Mickunas

Perfect seat for Santa
This year the Chamber collaborated with Jennifer Dunn and Liz Robertson and the Mills Lawn PTO to bring Santa to the Gingerbread Festival during Holiday Fest on Dec. 12. That itself is a wonderful story as these two women, with the help of parents, the schools and sponsors, pulled together a spectacular and successful first-time fundraising event. Special appreciation goes to the Oddfellows Lodge and specifically David Robinow and Richard Zopf who answered my call for a chair befitting the stature of Santa. Not only did they allow us to use their large, heavy wooden lodge chair, but they delivered it and picked it up from Mills Lawn. They definitely saved the day and provided the perfect seat for Santa.
—Karen Wintrow, executive director
Yellow Springs Chamber

Many acts of kindness
I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge John Gudgel. John being the person he is, I cannot believe that he hasn’t performed many random acts of kindness throughout the year. He is consistently thinking of someone other than himself, whether it be that this child needs a coat, this family needs a meal or help with a bill or someone just needs an ear to listen for a while. He is always there. Thank you, John!
—Patti Bates,
Village manager

In this new place called home
When we moved here we discovered that Yellow Springs was a village of kindness as strangers welcomed us in a variety of ways. We grew accustomed to our new home and found that older people are treated like family, kids are allowed to be kids, diversity is honored, creativity abounds, sports are competitive but inclusive and fun, activists enjoy a respected platform, animal friends are loved and cared for and roaming deer grace us with their beauty and feel safe because they are a part of us. We felt a sense of kindness in this new place we called home.
—Pat Stempfly

‘The Force’ is strong
One act of kindness revolved around the most anticipated movie of the year. A coworker surprised me with a ticket to an opening day showing of “Star Wars Episode VII.” My coworker knew it would be fun to go to the premiere with fellow fanatics, so when she bought tickets early online, she bought one specifically for me. The Force is strong among friends at the Emporium.
—Sharri Phillips

In good company
Storeowners in Yellow Springs form a good community that helps each other out a lot, from helping to hang a fellow business’s sign to one donating a mini-fridge to the kitchen of another. They also help the community in magnanimous and unique ways, such as donating a bunch of stoles and old-style hats to a tea party at the Senior Center.
—Flower, owner
Heaven on Earth Emporium

Help with a new dog
I got a dog from the shelter and he is a handful. He is a combination terrier and German shepherd, meaning that he has high energy and can jump like the dickens. He can just run and run and run. My neighbor saw the dog pulling me around and was reminded of a solution he came up with when he had a wild dog like that. He rigged up a leash that wrapped around the dog like a belt, so the dog wouldn’t hurt its neck when it took off running and strained on the leash. My neighbor saw my leash wasn’t long enough, so he went inside and came back out with his old leash. He helped me add it to my leash to make a more comfortable harness for my dog.
—Krista Magaw

$10 goes far
One of the first requests to [what became] the $10 Club was a family who needed $200 to keep their electric on. I posted the request to my Facebook page and to the Yellow Springs Bulletin Board and Yellow Springs Area pages. Someone messaged me within an hour. They said they would provide the whole $200 on one condition: that I never tell anyone where it came from. So I got the whole $200 on the spot. But meanwhile other people had given $10 so we were able to help out with other things.

That was last winter, and it’s continued from there. People are so supportive. Only once have we not been able to help [with the full amount]. We’ve done this maybe 14–15 times. At least 50–60 people in the village have chipped in. It’s a really special way to help people. A lot of people can’t afford to give a lot, but they can give $10. That’s why I call it the $10 Club. It’s all anonymous, but I put in a little bit of detail about the people needing help.

The other day I was contacted by a family we’d helped with a utility bill in the past who needed help with Christmas gifts for their kids. I put out the word and people began bringing Christmas gifts over to my house. A couple in town that chooses a family to help at Christmas each year made this their family. So the family went from no Christmas presents for four children to plenty of presents. It’s amazing.
—Chrissy Cruz

Fresh-roasted chestnuts
Kindness? Our neighbors John and Barbara Geri immediately come to mind. When we first moved in we thought they weren’t going to be friendly, because they travel a lot and are gone for part of the year. We were wrong! Now John will just pop over. One time he said, “Mandy!” Really gruff. “Open your hand and close your eyes. Just do it.” I did, and felt this warm, soft feeling in my hand, and the feeling of a lot of something. That something was fresh-roasted chestnuts. There was a chill in the air, and it was wonderful to have those chestnuts in my hand. John and Barbara had gotten them on their travels, and they roasted them at home.

They are continually kind; it’s amazing how kind they are. Barbara is the same way. They go above and beyond and don’t expect anything in return. I said to John when he volunteered his carpentry skills for a mural I’m working on, “What can I do?” And he said, “No, no, I’m going to stop being nice! That’s not why we do this.” They’re that way with a lot of people.

When Theresa and I lived in New York we didn’t get neighborly with anyone. People were tense and afraid of each other. Here, it’s more neighborly, but it’s not like we know all our neighbors. It’s just very different with John and Barbara. We have a lot of back and forth with them. They’ve made me more of a kind person, I think — not that I was mean, but I’m introverted. I’ve become more open and friendly because of them. They’re just good people.
—Mandy Knaul

‘Leaf fairy’ revealed
On a sunny autumn afternoon it feels great to be outside raking all those fragrant leaves. But 80 stuffed bags and two months later the chore gets old. Thankfully, Yellow Springs is full of organic gardeners who carry away our leaves and relieve us of that last job. But there was a mystery. Who was returning our used bags folded and carefully placed in a secure spot in the yard? Then one day I came around the corner to spot Mark [DeLozier] with a load of leaves in the back of his truck — and stacks of folded bags on the seat beside him. How kind!
—Amanda Wallace

Five kind villagers
Five names float to the top this year. Let me use my space to acknowledge these deserving villagers who spread good deeds in different ways.

YS School Based Mental Health Therapist Laura Taylor deserves a public nod for her ongoing behind-the-scenes generosity and support to local students in need of help. The long hours and personal contributions she devotes in service to her students make positive differences in their lives.

The same can be said for YSHS Intervention Specialist Donna Haller. When a holiday call was put forth recently to solicit items for needy students, she was first on the phone to respond with donations.
And while we’re on the subject of YS Schools, let’s be reminded of the quiet work of John Gudgel. Few people have earned the amount of respect from students and parents alike over the last almost-40 years as this talented educator.

Did you know villager Katie Egart is an ordained Buddhist chaplain, volunteering at two (soon to be three) women’s prisons in the area, in addition to serving on the board at the YS Dharma Center? Her good work centering on social justice abounds.

And lastly, my Good Neighbor Award goes to Joel Goldberg, for years of sharing his beloved New Yorker magazines with me, depositing them at the side door through rain and shine. Thanks, Joel!
—Pam Conine

Low-key kindness
John [Harruf] lives on Park Place and is always walking down Pleasant Street. He’s very quiet. Maybe he’s shy. We’ve never said much. One day on Pleasant Street, I was training a dog, Lacey, and took a chance. I was teaching recall, but Lacey ran off and wasn’t coming back to me. As a dog trainer, I felt pretty vulnerable. John was walking by and grabbed the dog and held her until I got there. He did it in a very kind way. He captured my loose dog as if it were totally matter of fact! What struck me was that he did it in the way he always does things — just like “ah, no problem,” and then he kept on walking by. It meant so much to me.
—Neil Silvert

‘Good on service’
One cold day, on my way home, I stopped into the BP to get a soda. After I got back out, I paused to get my gloves back on. I was carrying my drink in one hand and trying to get my glove back on with my teeth. In the meantime I was tipping my drink and getting my other glove and coat wet. At this not very brilliant moment, I noticed a man walking straight at me. He stood in front of me and silently put out his hand in cup-holder position. I gave him my cup and gratefully pulled on my glove, then said, “Yellow Springs is good on service.” He smiled and went on.
—Nancy Mellon

Love and justice
According to Cathy Roma, “Love is what justice looks like in public.” Cathy does so much to put that love into the world — directing three prison choirs, commissioning original pieces, serving as fearless leader of the World House Choir and being part of the core leadership for a recent Black Lives Matter Community Sing. I also have it on good authority that Cathy has discreetly paid other people’s tabs at the Antioch College Olive Kettering Library. Sometimes the smallest acts say the most. What a beautiful soul.
—Emily Seibel

Thanks, Nanny Annie
We couldn’t do it without Nanny Annie (aka Annalee Byers). She picked up two of our children, Quinn and Audrey, from Mills Lawn and took care of them after school for all of 2015. Plus, Juliette joined the mix at her house after preschool, raising the stakes to three children. More than watching them, Nanny Annie helps them with their homework, teaches them how to ride bicycles, plays legos, dolls and Wii, bakes treats — and that’s just the beginning of all she does as their grandma. What an amazing, generous person. Thank you, Nanny Annie (and Papa D, too) for all of your acts of kindness.
—Sean Creighton

Kindness full circle
As some folks here in town may know, John Fleming’s Uncle David came to the village 10 years ago after being left homeless by the breaking of the levees in New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. For most of these 10 years, David has been a volunteer at the Senior Center and also at Friends Care Center (he calls it Friends Who Care).

David was recently admitted to Friends Care after a fall. He has been visited by many people who know him from his various activities as well as a group of loyal friends who come and play cards with him in the evenings. Andrée Bognar has been the ringleader of much kindness towards David (as well as towards many others in the village). In addition to Andrée, Judy, Barbara, Nancy, Centis, Doris, Ellis, Ann and others have stopped in to bring him good cheer on a regular basis. Friends Care has been a welcoming and loving space for him these days. David’s kindness to others has come around and we are deeply grateful for this community of friends who care.
—Louise Smith

Blessed to be a neighbor
I have been blessed to have been Sue Clauser’s neighbor for several years. I have witnessed her kindness and dedication to the causes and organizations she appreciates, and the many ways that she has directly or indirectly touched the lives of so many and has contributed so much to the well-being of our community.
Patti Dallas

Quiet but powerful
We don’t have much, we Presbyterians, that doesn’t revolve around our building. It eats our budget; it dominates our attention; it determines our future.

But this congregation I am blessed to lead does powerful things. Surprising things. Important things. Each Advent, our beloved congregation collects monies to give to a local family. Quietly, without ostentation, they present a gift card without strings. Groceries, presents; whatever is needed. They would probably not want me to write this, but I’m proud and inspired. It takes a village.
—Rev. Aaron Maurice Saari

Loving kindness big and small
It’s not a single act, but many acts of loving kindness that bonds my heart to this village. Where else would I be blessed with friends who volunteer to drive me to and from the Cleveland Clinic every week for months or to the James Cancer Center every day for weeks on end? Where else would I have friends who lovingly feed and nurture my cat, put out the trash and collect the mail when I’m away, or routinely provide healthy, delicious meals or offer private film viewings at the Little Art Theatre? Where else would I receive complimentary massages and acupuncture or come home to a stocked refrigerator? Where else would I enjoy songs left on the answering machine or flowers, books, hats, hoodies, CDs and symbols of hope delivered to my door?

It’s not an exaggeration to say that I could not continue to fight cancer without the loving acts of kindness, both big and small, from the following villagers: Linda and Don Mates, Mary and Rick Donahoe, Anna Bellisari, Sue Neff, Jennifer Rosengarten and Chad Runyon, Desiree Nickell and Ellis Jacobs, Jenny Cowperthwaite, Kipra and Barry Heermann, Ken and Margo Bode, Jen and Barry Reich, Kristen Andreae, Danielle Tucker, Susan Conner, Maria Bakari, Marybeth Wolf, Patricia Schneider, Anne Randolph, Theresa Sapunar, Kelli Zaytoun, Ruth Jordon, Neenah Ellis, Jayne Monat, Carla Steiger, Hee Young Shin and Jung Yeon Suh, Sirisha Naidu and Taki Manolakos, Dinah Anderson, Linda Griffith, Amy Achor, Silvia Carter Denny, Joan Ackerman and other members of the Threshold Choir. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
—Paulette Olson

Beyond the village
And finally, one villager said she was buoyed by the news that Norway was considering giving a mountain to Finland to mark the centenary of that country’s independence from Russia.
I thought this act of kindness in today’s political world was good — it cheered my heart.
—Pat Brown


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