When we asked readers to share ideas of community blessings this Thanksgiving, Fort Wayne resident Chuck Holm didn't have to look far. The Brandon Foundation, a tutoring and mentoring program started eight years ago by his daughter, Caty Smith, sprung to mind.
Smith, a former elementary school teacher, wanted to focus on students in southeast Fort Wayne, setting up a program for them to meet with a volunteer three days a week after school.
“With a little love and encouragement, these kids – thought to be at risk – turn out to be great students and have a vision for their future,” Holm wrote. “Small steps, big results.”
About 30 middle and senior high students and their mentors meet at St. Henry's Community Center on Paulding Road. Each student also attends a summer camp and completes a community service project. The faith-based group also provides a college scholarship to participants.
New Haven residents Bud and Shirley Hockemeyer are grateful this Thanksgiving for the staff at Miller's Merry Manor and the “tender, loving care” they received there.
“They worked so hard to get us back home,” they wrote, noting special appreciation for the therapists who worked with them.
Mary Short of Fort Wayne is grateful for “cheerful, friendly faces in spite of the pandemic and the political disputes.” She's particularly grateful for people like the greeter at Meijer, who often sings, and the “young people who have been taught to hold doors for and respect senior citizens.” She also appreciates “the person at the library who is extremely helpful when I ask to place a book on hold and doesn't say 'you can do this online.' ”
“Small gestures of kindness, respect and cheerfulness make me smile and be grateful,” Short wrote.
Fort Wayne's Jerry Vandeveer has long reminded us to be appreciative of our local law enforcement officers. This year is no exception.
“I believe that we sometimes look at law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs and dispatchers as servants that are at our beck and call,” he writes. “What we tend to forget is that they are all human beings just like us.”
Vandeveer encourages everyone to take a moment this holiday season to thank the law enforcement community and their families “for opening their hearts each day and sharing you with us, not knowing if you will return.”
Lori Casiano, grandmother to a Carroll High School senior marching band student, is grateful for “all the positive influence high school marching bands have on our local youth,” although she would like to read more marching band stories in The Journal Gazette.
A stranger's act of kindness this month has Juliana Bolenbaugh feeling grateful. She was with her father, who is recovering from serious injuries he suffered in an auto accident, when a woman in the checkout lane at Kroger on St. Joe Center Road insisted on paying for their groceries.
“Strangers though we are, people still care and we'll be thankful to this wonderful lady for her act of kindness,” Bolenbaugh wrote. “She filled our refrigerator, cabinets and hearts.”
Fort Wayne's Harriet Stennfeld has a list of blessings familiar to many: food on the table, a loving family, health and fitness, friends she can count on, and “my faith in the God, who still reigns above, and who walks with me every day.”
Janet Grotrian of Monroeville is grateful to “Gov. Eric Holcomb and the COVID-19 vaccinations made available to all Indiana residents.”
I am so very grateful for the Forward Indiana food pantries!” writes Jennifer Prichard of Fort Wayne. “These are such an amazing new addition to our city. It's a 'win-win.' These pantries help people in our community get involved and donate nonperishable food items and, at the same time, help a family put food on their tables. It may take the weight off someone's shoulders about how they're going to feed their children that night. And it may make someone feel like they did their good deed. No one should have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from. I am so grateful to the people who brought their vision to fruition and to all of the people who have so generously donated food, feminine items, diapers, etc. These pantries are all beautifully painted and placed sporadically through out the city. I am so grateful for an amazing community that has helped keep these stocked and thriving.”
Christopher Snider of Fort Wayne is thankful of the efforts of his brother-in-law, Ernest Gaff (above), who plants a large garden at his Whitley County home.
“He starts most plants in the house in little containers in February, then staggers planting about every three weeks. It gives him a much longer production time,” Snider writes. “I reap the benefits of his garden vegetables all summer. The tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons and wide variety of peppers and green beans. Everyone is so appreciated.”
Snider's sister Renay cans and shares the produce.
“The joy they have giving away fresh produce is something that brings such happiness to all they encounter. The satisfaction they get by sharing makes us all grateful,” he wrote.
Grabill resident Joanne Sauder writes: “I'm so grateful to be part of a group of retired women who are making comforters to be sent to the Afghanistan refugees who are being relocated in our area. We have sent 45 completed warm comforters thus far and will continue to make more each week as we meet. It is a blessing to feel useful and helpful as we work to bring comfort and warmth to those in need.”
I'm grateful for The Journal Gazette,” writes Cynthia Powers of Roanoke. “Reading the paper with my coffee is my favorite time of day. I think everyone should subscribe and support our hometown paper.”
Dave Kintzel of Warsaw is also grateful for the newspaper.
“You have been a steadying factor in otherwise crazy times the past several years,” he writes. “You have presented all sides in issues with reasonably different views but have upheld truth and reason when so many crazy, false and practically criminal ideas have been presented to the public as fact.
“A free press is necessary at all times, but even more so in the turbulent past half-decade or so. Television can skim the surface of the news, but a newspaper is the only medium that gives the time and space to the necessary facts.
“The Journal Gazette has upheld that task of a vibrant free press for our corner of Indiana and adjoining areas of Ohio and Michigan. I appreciate your news stories, your editorials, and letters from guest columnists. Keep up the good work.”
At The Journal Gazette, we're grateful for our readers and a community rich in stories of giving and sharing. Happy Thanksgiving.