Local seniors, others take stock of blessings

Area residents, already a giving lot, are even more charitable during the holidays, officials say.

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As the tumultuous year of 2009 wraps up, here we are at Thanksgiving. What do you appreciate in your life?
Probably, you are thankful for your job, family, friends, having a warm place to live and clean water to drink, just for starters. As this year falls away into history, take some time to appreciate and be thankful for all the good in your world. Look for what’s right instead of what’s imperfect, then look some more.
"Our job is to help people find hope and express our gratitude," said Anne-Marie Schwerin, executive director YWCA. "The challenge and the joy in this sector: people look to the nonprofits for hope. We have to keep our eyes and hearts open to the good. If we only focus on what’s bad, we won’t be able to inspire ourselves or others."
According to Schwerin, the community does kind things all year, but the outpouring of concern is enormous during the holiday season. She said that, each year, employees from Providence St. Mary Medical Center cook and serve a Thanksgiving dinner for residents of the YWCA’s women’s shelter. Last year it happened that many of the volunteers were men. Schwerin said it was such a positive experience for those in the shelter to see nonabusive men.
"There are many stories of so many people that have helped. Our community cares, that is gratitude. They do acts of kindness every day, that inspires hope and gratitude. It’s the things we take for granted that make such a difference. Especially for someone who’s never had anyone be nice to them, never had anyone speak quietly to them. Every single one of us has the power to make a difference. We can’t ever be thankful enough. Food, shelter, all of those boring things we take for granted."
Mike Johnson, executive director of the Center at the Park, said, "I’m grateful for my wife and family, my children and grandchildren. I’m grateful I have a roof over my head and a house that I can heat. I’m thankful I have a job in these difficult economic times."
Those sentiments are echoed by Terry Hackney, executive director of the Blue Mountain Chapter of the American Red Cross. He’s thankful for his wife and family. "With all the struggles you have in raising children, family is part of what makes America go around. Also I have great neighbors." A neighbor was able to help get Hackney get his house painted and roofed and he appreciates it.
"From a Red Cross standpoint we as a community have been pretty safe, that’s a good thing but we still need to be prepared. The Valley has had a lot of good fortune. People could really be thankful for their health," Hackney said.
Jo Lowe, Milton-Freewater artist and owner of Suncatcher Studio and Fine Crafts added, "I’m glad to have maybe come to an age where I can understand some of the lessons, how they came about and be grateful for them rather than angry. I’m grateful I found this magical building and that I’m surrounded by the people that are with me and the energy they create. They saved my life. I love it here. I’m thankful I’m finally learning to listen to the gut and avoid all that turmoil from not listening to it. If you have a bad feeling about something pay attention to it." She’s also thankful that she’s more open to the "magic" and the times of inner peace and joy.
Karlene Ponti can be reached by calling 509-526-8324 or by e-mail at karleneponti@wwub.com.

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