People helping people

Article provided by KPC Media

United Way volunteers tackle Day of Caring projects

Carol Craft enlisted in the Army with plans of being a paratrooper. In order to earn her wings, she had to complete five jumps.

During her fourth jump, only half of her parachute worked. When she hit the ground, she was knocked unconscious.

She was in the hospital for five weeks and eventually recovered enough to complete her fifth jump. Not long after, she had a herniated disc and was unable to continue in the Army.

Craft said since then she has suffered from anxiety, depression and a host of physical disabilities. She’s been unable to take care of the maintenance of her Avilla mobile home, including fixing a hole in her floor and insulating underneath the trailer.

Her counselor nominated her for the United Way of Noble County’s Day of Caring Thursday. Craft said she is extremely grateful for the organization and the volunteers who spent Thursday afternoon fixing the things she couldn’t.

“Sometimes you just need a helping hand,” Craft said.

“This is like a dream come true for me. Even though it’s just a little trailer, it’s my home. It will help with my heating bill, having it insulated and the hole in the floor fixed.”

Craft was among the Noble County residents who received assistance from about 50 United Way and American Red Cross volunteers Thursday as they visited communities, completing home-improvement projects and installing new smoke detectors.

The volunteers gathered first thing Thursday morning at the Noble County Public Library’s Central branch in Albion, where they received tips about properly installing a smoke detector before United Way of Noble County Executive Director Debi Pfaffenberger split them into teams.

From there, they fanned out to Ligonier, Cromwell, Kendallville, Rome City, the West Lakes area and, lastly, Craft’s home in the Fourth Street Mobile Home Park in Avilla.

Four volunteers helped clear an overgrown garden at Gayle Wisner’s home on West Fifth Street in Ligonier. The contingent included Debbie Derby, Kendallville, and Tonya Ogle, Ligonier, who work at Life & Family Services together. Ogle brought her two sons with her, Brooks Ruisard, 10, and Bailey Ruisard, 12.

Brooks Ruisard said helping others was his favorite part of the day: “A lot of people, they just think that helping others doesn’t really mean a lot. They just want to stay home and do whatever, but I like to go out and help because I like to be that kid, because when I grow up, I want to teach my kids to do good stuff and help others.”

Wisner, who needed the assistance because she’s recovering from a serious automobile accident that left her unable to do the work in the garden, said she’s used to being the one volunteering, not the one asking for help.

“To have them come through, it was just like, wow, like love,” she said. “Kindness is not out of style. It’s also respectful to the person who needs the help. There’s never the feeling of, ‘You can’t do it for yourself, so someone else has to come in.’ It’s uplifting. It’s a wonderful experience.”

At Jill Jollief’s home on Krueger Street in Kendallville, a group of volunteers tackled the yard work she hasn’t been able to do, mowing and raking up leaves, sticks and acorns that had fallen out of the trees surrounding the house.

They also were tasked with cleaning out the gutters, but realized upon arrival they didn’t have a ladder tall enough to get up on the roof.

A work crew at a next-door neighbor’s house did have some larger ladders, so the United Way volunteers from RE/MAX Results in Kendallville went over to ask for a little help.

Turns out, volunteering is contagious.

The three-man work crew came over to Jollief’s home to scoop muddy debris out of her gutters as well as cut down and haul away a tree that had grown along the north side of her house.

“I don’t like to ask for help, but this is the best request I’ve ever made,” Jollief said.

She lives on Social Security income and doesn’t have much money to tackle projects around the house. And besides, the two-level roof is steep enough that cleaning the gutters is a tough job, even for someone who is young and spry.

“Any help I can get is greatly appreciated,” Jollief said.

Pfaffenberger said the work crew stopping what it was doing and taking the time to help a neighbor in need is an example of why she loves Noble County and the people who call it home.

“I just love that — people helping people, just because,” she said.

Pfaffenberger added all of the home-improvement projects and smoke-detector installations that volunteers were assigned were completed Thursday. And she is grateful for the all the support she received from individuals, businesses and organizations who provided the labor, tools and other materials, as well as the facilities that hosted breakfast and lunch for the volunteers.

“A ton of people made today happen,” she said.

News Sun reporters Samantha Whiting, Kelly Lynch, Steve Garbacz and Barry Rochford contributed to this report.