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Helping others now and throughout the year

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as helping other people.

I’ve learned this in a variety of ways over the years. From the grin that was always on my dad’s face when he dropped change — or maybe a dollar bill — into one of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettles at Christmastime to the joy I have seen on the faces of those granting wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses, evidence of that satisfaction has presented itself to me time and time again.

Earlier this month, I had the chance to do a bit of helping others myself. On Dec. 5, I climbed aboard a city of Wheeling Operations Department bucket truck and was hoisted high above the parking lot at the Ohio Valley Mall. I was there to help attract attention to Operation Toy Lift, a toy drive hosted by the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department, Wheeling Police Department and United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley.

The date was Dec. 5. The wind was blowing hard, and the temperature was brisk, to say the least. I didn’t really mind, though. Instead, I focused on waving to passersby and taking photos from above as trucks and cars pulled up to the drop-off site and drivers handed over hundreds of gifts for local children.

I want to thank Sheriff David Lucas for inviting me to participate. It was an experience unlike any other I’ve ever had.

I am always amazed at the energy and dedication of people like Lucas — and his counterpart Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger –as they go about organizing and executing plans for such charitable events. Not only do they give of their own time and talent, but they are able to persuade dozens of others to get on board with them. The results are always a plus for the community.

There is another group of people who recently amazed me with their generous spirit and kindness. Those are the people who stepped up to help one of my dear friends when he was in need. They mainly consisted of Union Local High School graduates who — like myself — got to know and love Stan Sobel when he was their science teacher.

Earlier this week, we published Stan’s obituary, after he died on Tuesday. One page B1 of today’s newspaper, there is an article about Stan and the impact he made on local people and our community.

Those of you who know me well probably expected this column to be all about Stan and my evolving friendship with him over the years. After writing that article, however, I decided that I needed to wait for another day to share those more personal memories of the man.

In the days leading up to Stan’s death, though, I had heard that his primary caregiver, Carol Saksa, was in need of help. Stan suffered from lung cancer and had reached the point in his battle that he needed around-the-clock care.

In an effort to help provide the help Carol and Stan needed, I reached out to many people I know who I thought would want to get involved. The response was completely overwhelming.

Many people I graduated with and those a few years older or younger than me responded immediately. Some who now work as nurses, home health aides, hospice providers or emergency medical technicians volunteered to spend time with Stan at his home, tending to his needs and helping to keep him comfortable. Others who now live outside the immediate area or have no expertise in the health care field wanted to contribute funds to help pay for any care he might need. At least one friend of mine sent a comforting gift to help lift Stan’s spirits during this difficult time.

There are no words that can express how impressed I was with the reaction to my call for help. I was impressed not only with the fact that Stan had made such a strong and positive impression on so many people, but also that so many people were willing to share whatever they had to give in order to lend him a hand.

To all of you who offered to help in any way, I want to simply say thank you. In talking with those close to Stan, I know that your kindness meant the world to him.

Fortunately, situations like Stan’s do not present themselves to us every day. But there are still plenty of opportunities to help others all around us. That is something to keep in mind this holiday season.

With the COVID-19 pandemic looming large, this might not be the year to volunteer to serve dinners at a soup kitchen on Christmas Day. There is still a need there, however, so perhaps you can help by donating a bag full of canned goods or a monetary gift if you can afford it.

During the holidays or at any time of year, you can help clothe the homeless by giving gently used clothing you no longer need to a local charity. If you prefer to assist children, you can donate to a scholarship fun or support a holiday toy drive.

The ways to help others are countless, and I suspect you will that the satisfaction of doing so is priceless. So, if you are looking for a way to break up the monotony of staying at home, look for ways you can help others.

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