Maumee-Area Residents Recognized For Their Kindness

BY KRISTI FISH and KAREN  GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTERS — All it takes is one act of kindness to brighten someone’s day.

It doesn’t take any heroic effort to volunteer, speak kind words or listen to someone in need.

When The Mirror asked readers to recognize others for their acts of kindness, the response was overwhelming. The Maumee community is full of giving, loving people who go out of their way to make a difference, even if it’s just with a simple act or attitude.

In today’s edition, we’re sharing the names of individuals and organizations that were submitted, yet there are many more who are too humble to share their stories. Perhaps it’s you!

Mariam Abdulhadi

Mariam Abdulhadi has been with Maumee City Schools since 1994, earning the respect, trust and admiration from staff and students alike.

In her career, she has served mainly as a custodian, keeping the school environment safe and clean for everyone who walks through the doors of her school.

It wasn’t a job she had originally sought out, though. She had been working in a carryout when a staff member from the board office let her know the school was hiring.

“I said, ‘I don’t know how to fill out an application or anything,’ and she said she would help,” Mariam said. “I didn’t know a lot of the English meaning at that time, and she helped me.”

Mariam was first called in for a substitute position, going to whatever school needed her for several months before she was hired as a cafeteria monitor at the junior high.

She later moved to the high school, where she developed even closer bonds with those in the district.

In that time, she started to learn from the students – English phrases, mannerisms and unspoken rules – not everything she heard from people was good, or kind, but that didn’t matter to her.

“I always want to be kind, to say the right thing,” she said.

If someone is unkind to her, she rarely reacts as she is kind always, said Jene Drage, a math teacher at the high school.

“She will always give more of herself than she should,” Jene said. “She is so kind and she cares so much.”

It’s why the people at Maumee City Schools have been so protective and so happy to work with her. It’s also why they are sad to see her go. She served her last day this December, retiring after 30 years of service to the district.

“She is a giant in this building and we’re going to miss her,” said Wasim Hawary, a music teacher and orchestra director with the schools.

She cannot walk down the halls or visit a room without people reaching out to her and wanting to chat, Wasim noted.

“They’re going to be missed,” Mariam said of the staff and students. “They’re going to remember me and I’m going to remember them, too. It’s beautiful to work with them and I’ll be back.”

Helen Alonzo

Helen Alonzo is the second of 12 children. She grew up watching her mother help the neighborhood and began helping her grandparents at their grocery store when she was a child.

Helping others and spreading kindness is in her blood, and she wouldn’t change it, she said.

“I just see somebody who needs help and I want to help them. That’s just me,” Helen said. “That’s how my mom was, and that’s how I wanted to be.”

It was also how she raised her six children: to be as selfless and kind as possible and to not expect payment in return.

She’s watched as her children have grown and had kids and later, grandchildren, of their own. Over the years, they have called attention to the selfless acts that she has performed her entire life.

“One of my grandchildren told me, ‘Grandma, when I grow up, I’m going to be just like you. You’re nice to everybody,’” Helen said.

She’s watched as the younger generations have continued to spread that kindness throughout their own community, recalling a time when one of her young grandkids asked to turn the car around and offer their own shoes to someone standing near the road barefoot.

In those instances, she knows the lessons she has taught are being followed. More people are learning to spread kindness and assist those in need because of her own actions.

She doesn’t need people to pay her back for her kindness or recognize it. She insists she just wants them to continue spreading it around.

“I know, one day, I will be rewarded for it. Not in money, but I know I will be rewarded,” Helen said.

In the meantime, at Genesis Village, Helen has turned her attention to helping those at the senior living residence where she lives now.

“She is so selfless when it comes to caring for others. She helped a resident whenever she needed something and was going through a difficult time. She called Helen her angel,” said Lynne Root, a front desk associate. “She has also helped other residents when she noticed they needed something and really loves helping others.”

According to Helen, she just wants to make sure new residents feel welcomed and that they know what to expect from their new home.

It’s not hard for Helen to include others, as she learned from her mother to always have an open door and open arms for the neighborhood.

“A human being is a human being. Everybody needs somebody to help them at some point in their life,” Helen advised to those who want to start spreading kindness.

It’s also helpful if those who are trying to spread kindness and help others have big hearts and expect nothing in return.

Heather Barnhiser

At Maumee Pointe Senior Living Community, the needs of residents and staff are a priority for executive director Heather Barnhiser.

She has been with Maumee Pointe since its beginning and has worked in the industry since she graduated from college.

“I started as a caregiver in a group home for adults with disabilities right out of college,” Heather said. “I have always liked caring for others for as long as I can remember.”

Having the opportunity to interact with residents, family members and staff is her favorite part of the job, she added.

She has the chance to hear their stories and form relationships with people from all different areas and become a part of their lives.

When Heather forms these connections, she wants the people around her to know that she cares about them and is there to support them.

“The love and care she shows her employees and the elderly in our community is something truly amazing. She is a huge asset to this community,” said Amanda Thorpe, a nurse at Maumee Pointe.

Showing love and care for everyone at Maumee Pointe is one small part of Heather’s job.

Also a part of her job is balancing the needs of many people. As the executive director, Heather manages the day-to-day operations and ensures the health and safety needs of the residents are not just met, but exceeded, she said. Her goal is to make the senior living facility feel like home for the residents.

That is an especially important task, as many of the residents are experiencing big changes when moving from their previous homes to a new environment.

“I believe that everyone deserves love, kindness and compassion. It is easy for me to empathize with what the residents are going through with moving into a senior living community. I am constantly reminding my staff of what it took for someone to move into their new home and to show them compassion,” Heather said. “I lead by example, that is the best way I know how to.”

In the end, any stress from the job and its associated responsibilities are worth it, Heather noted, as she loves being there for the residents and their families and supporting them through this chapter of their lives.

Tami Blue

Tami Blue’s first priority in her classroom is for everyone to feel safe.

In order to do that, she models kindness, while listening and getting to know her kids.

“She constantly provides a positive and uplifting environment to everyone she meets. She consistently goes above and beyond to make the world a better place, whether it’s in her classroom or volunteering for her kids,” Alyson Reck said.

In order to maintain that positive and uplifting atmosphere in her classroom at Northview High School, Tami uses empathy and inclusion.

She does her best to make sure that her students know they can turn to her when they need help, on big or small things.

“Whether it’s a bandage, a snack, school supplies, help with work or even advice on friend or job issues, kids need to know that someone is there for them, and they will talk to you,” Tami said.

She knows that today’s students are the future and they have to be ready to make decisions and be responsible for whatever happens in their lives.

In order to prepare them and make sure the future is one worthy of those kids, she does her best to help them learn that kindness can be used in everything they do.

“Life is hard enough. Acts of kindness and complimenting others can make the world a happier place,” Tami explained. “It can boost confidence and make people smile! In the classroom or in any activities I am involved in, I try to create a community and foster friendships.”

Tami and her family, who live in Maumee, are involved in several activities throughout Northwest Ohio.

She is the Scoutmaster of Scouts for BSA Troop 9615, an all-girl troop for ages 11-17. She also volunteers as a co-den leader for her youngest daughter’s Wolf Den in Pack 154.

“I find myself volunteering for anything my kids are interested in. I’ve been the dugout mom for T-ball, a Girl Scout leader for five years, volunteered at Girl Scout day camp and I ran Cub Scout camp at Camp Miakonda for five years,” Tami said.

After every interaction with her own children, her students and the youths she sees at various events, Tami hopes they learn that they can always be kind, positive, empathetic and inclusive.

Even if it doesn’t seem like it, each positive interaction someone has will make a difference, she said.

“Her kindhearted kids are a true testament to the kind of person she is,” Alyson said.

Samantha Boyle

When it comes to spreading kindness, there are few in the community who have taken it as seriously as Samantha Boyle.

The Luken T. Boyle Campaign for Kindness, where Boyle serves as executive director, was founded in memory of her son, Luken, who took his own life at the age of 14.

“Luken was genuinely one of the kindest human beings I have ever known. He could not stand to see anyone sad or down. He always would check in on his friends and family members, making sure they were OK,” Samantha said. “Luken was generous with his compliments. He often told people how he loved their outfits or if they had a new hairdo, he would be the first to notice and compliment them.”

The recent eighth-grade graduate had been a part of a vicious prank and had been cyberbullied, Samantha said.

Following his death, Samantha’s world went dark. It was because of her other two children and the community that rallied around her that she kept going.

Her oldest son’s infectious kindness had also inspired her. When she needed to find other images to occupy her mind, she thought of speaking to young children throughout the community about the importance of kindness.

“When I started the campaign, I said if I can help one family, then Luken’s death would not be in vain, and fortunately, we have helped many more than that,” Samantha said. “I feel very blessed to continue to honor Luken’s legacy. There are great things being done in his name.”

Through the Campaign for Kindness, 15 Kindness Rooms have been installed in schools throughout Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan, and the impact is continuing to grow.

Seven more Kindness Rooms are currently in the works, Samantha said.

“Our Kindness Rooms are an inspiring space for young people to create intentional acts of kindness. In our rooms, kids are learning to work together, and it’s a reminder of how we can change the world one little act at a time,” Samantha said.

The Kindness Rooms, Samantha added, can help the children in those schools learn to be more mindful of their actions and words.

She has noticed that many students are aware of national anti-bullying campaigns and websites with information about it, but they hardly use those resources.

It is her goal to help students not just in this area but across the country learn how to spread kindness and save lives.

“We also remind kids to tell an adult if they see someone being hurt or bullied, whether it’s online or in person,” Samantha said. “I often share with them that a couple of Luken’s friends told the young man who was catfishing him that he was taking it too far, but that was it. They never got an adult involved. I can’t help but think if they would have told an adult that I might not have to stand up and share Luken’s tragic story. Instead, he would still be with me. 

“This is a stark reminder to the kids that it is OK to tell an adult because you could be preventing someone from hurting themselves or others,” she added.

Samantha’s efforts for the Luken T. Boyle Campaign for Kindness and for children everywhere are appreciated and do not go unnoticed, noted Debra Barrow.

“Luken was the epitome of kindness, and Sam decided to turn this tragedy into a positive learning experience for young people by sharing his story in area schools,” Debra said.

More of Luken’s story and information on how to support the Campaign for Kindness can be found at luken4kindness.org.

Josh Brown

When Josh Brown and his family moved to Maumee, he didn’t know a lot of people, so he was eager to get involved.

After just a short time, he quickly found himself offering his time to youth soccer, Boy Scouts, F3 workouts and more, dedicating much of his free time to various causes throughout the community.

“All of this is volunteer and on his own time while working full time. He is passionate about keeping kids active and providing a safe and accepting space for them to play,” said his wife, Ashley.

It’s important to show the kids they are strong, and they can make an impact on their community, Josh said. In order to do so, though, someone has to be willing to step up and help them develop a solid work ethic and a sense of respect for their coaches, the game and the community.

Not everyone is willing or able to put in the extra time with kids in the community to develop a depth of character, but doing so is vital for Josh.

“Volunteering and staying active go hand in hand with mental health,” he noted. “In my experience, when I miss workouts or have tried to back off a bit from volunteering, I get out of sorts. Being able to provide a fun, safe outlet for kids to have that activity and for adults to volunteer and get involved just feels right to me and to my wife.”

Staying active has long been a priority for Josh, who played sports throughout his childhood. As he got older, he began finding other ways to exercise and develop his athleticism.

He participated in several races and found out about F3, a network of free, peer-led workouts for men.

“The three F’s stand for fitness, fellowship and faith. That faith piece is not just limited to religious faith, but more about impact and giving of yourself and realizing there is something much larger than yourself, whether you are religious or not,” Josh explained.

After getting involved with F3, he began to look for places in Maumee that could host workouts for the group, and he helped develop a chapter in the area.

F3 and FiA, the counterpart for women, have allowed people around the area the chance to help get involved in their community and improve their own mental health, Josh said.

He also found other ways to get involved in his community, one of those being coaching. 

“Once our kids were old enough to start playing sports, they gravitated to soccer, so I volunteered to help coach a team to try and pass some of those teachings – hard work, mental strength, teamwork and sportsmanship – on to the kids. It felt great to see the growth both in the sport and as people,” he said. “I kept coaching when we moved to Maumee and then volunteered as a MYSA (Maumee Youth Soccer Association) commissioner.” 

He and Jay Thomas then created a summer program to help kids continue to develop their skills in and out of the sport during the offseason.

They have worked to make sure the program is free for all Maumee kids, regardless of whether they are part of MYSA or Maumee Express Soccer.

“My wife and I may organize it, but I would be remiss not mentioning the countless volunteers that help out. High school players and coaches, Express coaches, MYSA volunteers and the community as a whole all come together to make this work,” Josh noted.

His wife has also committed to providing as much of her time as possible to helping their kids and those in the soccer community, making sure he can be available to bring his energy and teachings to the community, Josh said.

“Community involvement – through volunteering, charity, committees or other activities – is important to me because this is our home, and I believe you should always do what you can to help make your home better,” he said.

Karen Cameron

Each school year, Maumee High School teacher Karen Cameron will bake approximately 70 cakes.

It can be a lot of work, but the English teacher has become known for making a birthday cake for each of her students.

“I have been doing birthday cakes for 13 years now,” Karen said. “It’s my way of making the students know that they are individually valued.”

At the beginning of the year, she fills out her calendar with all of her students’ birthdays. Some weeks, she won’t be required to make a single cake. Other weeks, there are several birthdays on the calendar.

If her class is bigger, it also means she might have to make more than one cake for each birthday, so all of the students can participate in the birthday celebration.

“She takes the time to bake cakes for students’ birthdays, prepares fabulous dishes for student potlucks and funds a treat trove for student engagement,” noted MHS teacher Dawn Mericle. “She is a true gem.”

These treats are just small ways for Karen to show the students they are cared for and to keep them engaged and excited for class.

On Monday mornings, she likes to bring in coffee and a new cookie recipe for her students, which makes the start of the week a bit easier for the students.

“I want the students to want to come to class and I want them to want to be here,” she said. “You can get amazing things out of them if they feel excited and appreciated.”

Karen uses games and small trinkets to keep the kids on their toes during lessons, too. Each choice is a conscious effort to bring a little positivity to the classroom.

“I am working intentionally to make a family atmosphere in class,” Karen explained.

In a classroom where students feel valued and respect one another, they are also more willing to be kind to one another, she added.

Karen wants her students to spread kindness throughout the school and community, and the best way to do that, she said, is to start in her classroom.

“Kindness breeds kindness,” she said. “I see it all the time – kids being kind to one another and continuing it. It can be both very powerful and subtle.”

It also helps that the rest of the staff at the school are kind to each other and the students and are intentional about recognizing positive behavior, Karen noted.

“We have really good kids here at Maumee. It’s a good atmosphere and a kind place,” she said. “I know we can keep it that way.”

Annette Carulli

Annette Carulli is an Energizer bunny when it comes to volunteering, said friend Diana Martin.

“She has a very kind, giving heart along with being a super wife, mother and grandmother,” Diana said.

When two of her daughters – Stephanie and Mary Beth – worked for American Lebanese Syrian Association Charities (ALSAC) St. Jude offices, Carulli first got involved in raising funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. ALSAC, founded by Danny Thomas, raises 89 percent of the funds needed to sustain and grow the hospital system that treats children with cancer, at no cost to the families.

“I would volunteer at their fundraising events whenever I visited,” Annette said of her daughters. “Often, former St. Jude patients and their families would attend these events and talk of their St. Jude experience. I was impressed by how they spoke about the excellent care they received. Everyone, from the doctors to the nurses, goes the extra mile. Even the cook in the cafeteria used a patient’s grandmother’s macaroni and cheese recipe to get the young boy to start eating.

“Cancer is such a horrible disease, and the hospital staff does everything they can to ease the fears of their patients and parents,” Annette added.

In 2004, Toledo started a St. Jude Dream Home campaign. Stephanie referred her mom to a counterpart in Detroit to get the program started in Toledo, and Annette has been involved ever since.

“I recruit and schedule volunteers for the Dream Home’s open houses as well as answering donor questions,” Annette said. “While I enjoy meeting and talking with everyone who visits the home, the main reason I volunteer is because of the children and families helped by the money raised. Last year, the Toledo Dream Home campaign raised $2 million.”

In addition to St. Jude, Annette previously volunteered with Backpacks for Humans, collecting items for homeless families. At Bethlehem Lutheran Church, she and a team hold a monthly “life essentials” giveaway – providing clothing, bedding, sheets, towels, toys and home decor to over 100 families. She also volunteers with Aurora Project and the Sunshine Community Food Pantry.

When her three daughters and son were in school, she volunteered with the PTA and served as a reading buddy for her grandchildren’s classrooms. 

“I have volunteered since I was young. I remember going door to door, collecting money for a hospital telethon when I was in sixth grade,” she said. “I never thought about why I volunteer or that what I do is special. If there is a need in our community, I do what I can to help.”

Taylor Case

To illustrate Taylor Case’s commitment to serving the community, Les Case Jr. shared a photo of his daughter sleeping upright on a sofa.

“The picture says it all. At the end of a long night of stressful work, she didn’t even make it to bed,” he said of his daughter, who first became an ER nurse at St. Luke’s during the COVID-19 pandemic. She now works as an ER nurse in the ProMedica freestanding ER in Maumee.

“She constantly gets compliments from staff and patients on how she has touched their lives and how she goes out of her way to help those in need, putting them before herself,” Les said.

Taylor credits her dad for getting her interested in becoming an ER nurse. He is a captain and paramedic at Monclova Township Fire and Rescue, and she was able to grow up in the department and see how the team practices medicine and cares for patients.

“I always wanted to be a nurse because I knew I would be able to connect with patients and care for them in a way they deserved,” she said. “Seeing my dad serve in the community as a paramedic for 24 years really inspired me to carry on his legacy in a bit of a different light. While working in the ER, I have been able to take over patient care for people he transported to the hospital. That has been a great experience for both of us.”

Taylor, a 2019 Anthony Wayne High School graduate, was able to complete her first year of college while still in high school, due to the College Credit Plus program. She then finished her four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2-1/2 years at The University of Toledo, graduating in December 2021 with magna cum laude honors.

“I love a lot about my job, but my favorite thing is getting to help patients and families in an emergency and help them through what could be looked at as one of their worst days,” she said. “Being able to put a smile on someone’s face and help calm their nerves is something I really enjoy. And I love the variety of patients I get to see in the ER, such as infants, pediatrics, adults and geriatrics.”

In addition to her work as an ER nurse, Taylor is a substitute nurse for Anthony Wayne Local Schools.

“I love being able to go back and see my former teachers and see how the schools and community have changed and grown,” she said. “And I love being able to help pediatrics in a different way than in the emergency department.”

Lee Conger

Lee Conger has always been a very busy man. He’s dedicated much of his life to his community, having served as a police officer for many years, and he’s volunteered for several organizations, many times at the request of his wife, Marge.

According to Genesis Village executive director Julie St. John, Lee is always willing to volunteer in the garden, removing the weeds, just to make the job easier for staff at the senior living community.

“Lee also volunteers at the VA, he also volunteers at the police museum … he’s a very busy man,” said fellow resident Courtney Earhart.

Lee has also spent time as a poll worker during elections and has volunteered for The University of Toledo Alumni Association and Flag City Honor Flights.

“I’m retired,” Lee said about how he finds the time to manage all of his volunteering efforts. “I do 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there. I make it work.”

At 92 years old, he’s only recently started to cut back on some of his extracurriculars, but these activities that keep him busy are always worth his time, he noted.

Volunteering is a way for Lee to help his wife, who he drives to various events, and to continue with his many passions.

The various organizations also allow Lee to stay connected with his community and provide help for those in need, like he always has. 

“If you see somebody who needs help, you should give them a hand,” Lee advised. 

Ed Conn

As creative director for Toledo Streets Newspaper, Ed Conn espouses passion, creativity and kindness into everything he provides to the organization and the vendors, said TSN executive director Valerie Vetter.

“Ed lives our mission to inspire hope, foster community and cultivate change,” Valerie said.

Founded to raise people out of poverty and to provide a no-barrier approach to employment and economic stability, Toledo Streets has published 141 issues since its founding. Ed has been a part of the organization for the past 90 issues.

“I love the energy of the staff and our amazing vendors who sell the paper and benefit from a little extra money in their pockets,” Ed said of his role at TSN.

A California native, Ed grew up in San Francisco and spent a large portion of his media-focused career in Los Angeles, working for the Los Angeles Times and National Geographic. In addition to his work as creative director, he is also an illustrator and photographer.

Since moving to Maumee 12 years ago with his wife, Saga, Ed has gotten involved in the community. He is a volunteer diver at the Toledo Zoo & Aquarium, where he also serves on the foundation board. He is a member of the Maumee Chamber of Commerce, and he cycles with Toledo Area Bicyclists.

“I love the beauty of our surroundings, especially along the Maumee River – I kayak regularly on the Maumee,” he said. “I also enjoy the hospitable people and our cool uptown Maumee.”

Bill Cox

Bill Cox is a well-known staple in the Maumee community, said Abigail Schroeder.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who gives back and volunteers more than Bill,” said Abigail, who is executive director of Spring Green Educational Foundation’s Youth Diversion program – where Bill works with teens.

As a mentor to young adults, he organizes community service and volunteer opportunities for Diversion, the schools and with Maumee United Methodist Church, where he is part of a team that makes repairs to the building. Bill also serves St. Andrew’s Food Ministry, picking up gleanings from area farmers’ harvests to deliver to several food banks. He also picks up 6,000 pounds of seed potatoes from southern Ohio to deliver to farmers who plant, harvest and donate them to area food ministries. In addition, Bill works with students from UT and BGSU as they do service projects through Toledo Campus Ministry.

“There’s really nothing Bill can’t do,” Abigail said. “He’s one of the best educators out there, and if you’ve got time to learn, Bill has got time to teach.”

Bobbie-Jo Newman, another Diversion volunteer, sees Bill as a true role model for not just teens but other adults. 

“Bill is a man of many skills in his hometown, but he doesn’t stop there. Bill’s work ethic amazes me. The man never stops. He works a few part-time jobs, serves local food banks, takes kids on mission trips and volunteers. In his spare time, he loves to ride his motorcycle and rebuilds old cars,” Bobbie-Jo said.

The 75-year-old has been married for 52 years and lives in the same Maumee home he grew up in. When he was a child, he had polio and was paralyzed for a year. The late Dr. Harrison advised him not to quit moving or he’d regret it. Bill took that advice to heart.

Following his high school graduation, Bill joined the Navy and served as an electrical technician on a bomber during the Vietnam War. He then joined the Navy Reserves, traveling around the world to work on construction projects. His full-time career – as a millwright for Johns Manville – lasted 49 years. 

“Bill is a true role model, working with the youth, feeding the hungry and serving his country,” Bobbie-Jo said.

Courtney Earhart

There are few people more welcoming and outgoing at Genesis Village than resident Courtney Earhart.

The one-man welcome committee is quick to engage new residents and help them settle in to their new home.

“He helps with setting up events and is extremely outgoing and kind to residents,” said Genesis Village executive director Julie St. John.

That’s just what he likes to do now, Courtney explained. The move to a senior living facility can be full of uncertainty, and many are moving in alone without knowing another person in the building.

“I want everyone to know you don’t have to be alone,” Courtney said. “I want people to come here and feel like they can be friendly.”

Courtney was not always this way, he said. For many years, he described himself as bashful and quiet.

After joining the Toledo Sky Club in 1974, he realized that people wanted to hear what he had to say. He started to come out of his shell and embraced a more outgoing personality.

By talking with others, reaching out to them when they need it and just being friendly, Courtney said he is paid back when others begin to trust him and seek out his opinion.

“I enjoy doing stuff for people if they need it,” Courtney said.

If someone clearly doesn’t want his help or is not ready to engage in conversation, then he won’t force it. He’s learned people need to do things when they’re ready, but once they are, he is there.

If he’s not helping a fellow resident, though, he can usually be found assisting with events, setting up chairs or offering his expertise in other areas.

“This is a great place to live, and I just want to help the workers wherever I can,” Courtney said.

If his actions spread a little positivity or inspire future acts of kindness, that’s good, too.

All he wants is for people to learn from him or someone else that they all possess the ability to be kind.

“If you have the ability to help someone, help them. If you see something that needs doing, just do it,” Courtney advised. “If you’re able, capable, then help. Don’t wait.”

Bobbie-Jo Newman

Bobbie-Jo Newman has left a lasting impression on the Anthony Wayne and Maumee areas, said Abigail Schroeder, director the Spring Green Educational Foundation Diversion program.

“She is always humble, and her kindness radiates through. She has been such a support to our organization and through every child she has worked with,” Abigail said. “If I could find words to describe Bobbie-Jo, it would be the following: kind, loyal, dependable, honest, hardworking, resilient, respectable and a leader. She’s one of those people that would never ask you to do something she wouldn’t do herself.”

A law enforcement ranger for Metroparks Toledo for the past year, Bobbie-Jo previously served 10 years as a Waterville police officer. At the same time, she has worked as a support officer for the Spring Green Educational Foundation, working with first-time youth offenders.

“Our program gives kids a second chance to learn from their mishaps and not have a record,” she said.

For Spring Green, she goes with the youths on community service projects, including Habitat for Humanity, Let’s Build Beds and Metroparks. 

“It’s one of the requirements for the kids to complete the program – serving their community,” she said. “We never ask a student to do something that we are not willing to do ourselves. That’s what makes good students, teachers and learners.”

In her spare time, she also volunteers for Sunshine Communities. And in the summer, she volunteers to speak at various Safety City and Safety Town programs.

“The Metroparks are big on volunteering and a great place to work,” said Bobbie-Jo, noting that all 19 parks in the county are beautiful and unique.

Being both a police officer and support officer fits right in with her passion to serve and help others, Bobbie-Jo said.

“In this line of work, I wear many hats. Sometimes, people need a simple question answered or directions. Other times, people just need someone to talk to. And then there are also those people who make poor choices and are dealt with as the law sees fit, to protect society,” she said.

Bobbie-Jo is the mom of two grown children. Her daughter is an early childhood development teacher. 

Her son served in the U.S. Navy for six years, including three deployments. Her daughter-in-law is in her eighth year in the Navy and has completed two deployments. They are expecting their first baby in March. 

“I’m pretty excited and proud of them both,” she said of her children.

Jen Pyle

The loss of family members and friends has not only shown Jen Pyle what she needs from her community in hard times, but what her community needs from her during dark times.

When faced with difficult-to-imagine scenarios, Jen has continued to be a pillar of kindness and support for her community.

According to friends, she never forgets a birthday or other important date. She always follows up with people when she knows they’ve had a bad day. She’s helped organize fundraisers and is always searching for ways to support those who need it most.

“She does all of this without expecting any recognition,” said fellow Maumee City Schools teacher and friend Annie O’Neill. “These are just a few examples of how Jen goes out of her way to show kindness to so many in this community.”

These gestures are standard practice for Jen. She likes to send flowers or candy when someone needs cheering up. She likes to send a card to her friends and family when she knows a significant day is approaching.

“I’ve got a lot of dates marked in my calendar,” Jen noted. “It’s not hard to be kind. It’s a conscious choice, but it’s not hard.”

Marking her calendar is an easy enough way to make sure she is there for people through the good and bad days.

Working behind the scenes to make a difference is also an easy choice for Jen.

She currently helps with much of the administrative aspects of the Elise Noel Ketelaar Memorial Scholarship for high school girls soccer players.

Elise and Jen were friends in high school. At the age of 19, Elise was killed in a car accident. Her parents created the scholarship to honor their daughter and support the young athletes at Maumee High School.

“There would be no soccer program without the work of Elise and her dad,” Pyle said. “I want to make sure our girls know that, and I want to help any way I can to keep this scholarship going.”

It’s behind-the-scenes work like this that makes Jen’s kindness stand out to Annie. “Jen is the epitome of kindness,” she said.

At the end of the day, though, Jen doesn’t expect anything in return for her work and the way she chooses to spread kindness. She just wants to show her kids and the students she works with how they can make life just a little bit nicer for everyone around them.

Dave Schetzsle

When Dave Schetzsle became a teacher, he did so to inspire, make a difference and share his passion for U.S. history.

Now that he’s retired, Dave is still finding ways to do just that.

“Mr. Schetzsle worked for Maumee Middle School for many years but retired several years ago. His retirement, however, did not end his service to students,” said MMS teacher Mandie Bentz. 

“Dave comes in to help supervise games club a couple times a month, helps to inspire and supervise random acts of kindness with our leadership club, and is always a willing cheerleader for our runners,” Mandie added.

When he worked at the middle school, Dave said he started to show “On the Road” segments with Steve Hartman for the CBS Evening News to his eighth-grade students.

In the segments, Steve Hartman brings viewers along his encounters with the unique people he meets during his travels, spotlighting kindness.

“I try to live my life and sow acts of charity and kindness as if they were worthy of being pieces on Hartman’s news segments,” Dave said.

“Dave Schetzsle is the king of random acts of kindness,” noted MMS teacher Mike Dick.

Now that Dave is no longer working at the middle school, he said Keith Slembarski has continued the idea with the sixth-graders.

The students watch Hartman’s clips, discuss the themes and impacts of each action and learn more about spreading kindness.

Dave’s decision to show clips to his students several years ago has created a ripple effect, continuing to spread kindness through the school and community.

“Dave is a remarkable man who is always putting others first! He mows several lawns for elderly neighbors, makes frequent trips to Indiana to help run errands for family members and friends in need, volunteers at Maumee Middle School to help students using his own resources, and is always finding unique ways to bless others and spread his positive outlook,” added Keith.

Through these actions, Dave has continued to inspire his students and his former coworkers; however, he has never asked for credit for his volunteering or gift-giving, said MMS teacher Trinity Gawron.

All he does is encourage others to simply be kind, too, added Laura Martin.

“I want my current and former students to realize that kindness and making a difference is every bit as important and impactful as history, math, science, music, etc., and it’s absolutely a life skill they can use to change the world the rest of their lives,” Dave said. “My advice regarding committing acts of kindness is to be creative, to look everywhere for opportunities, to make it a sincere hobby/passion, and to have fun with it. It fills up our souls and often seems to come back to us sooner or later.”

Having been a teacher at Maumee Middle School as well as Central Catholic High School for many years, Dave said one of his favorite parts of the job was participating in community service projects with his students and fellow staff members and recognizing the students for their accomplishments.

It was also, he said, always a pleasure working with his colleagues, not just the students.

“Everyone needs support, appreciation and love, particularly employees in education post-pandemic. The middle school faculty and staff are superstars. I am still so proud of my colleagues. They are so worthy of respect, honor and gratitude,” Dave remarked. “Frankly, kindness and giving always fills up my own bucket. It’s truly a life purpose.”

Kristen Taylor-Hendges

When schools reopened following the shutdown during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maumee High School teacher Kristen Taylor-Hendges was stopped by a student requesting a hug.

It was a simple enough gesture that quickly grew.

“Now, every morning after I put my stuff down upstairs, I go to the cafeteria and I make my way around and people come up to me for a hug,” Kristen said.

Hugs, pep talks and snacks are just a few of the ways the science teacher shows her love for her students.

Another way she helps out some of the students is with a ride to school.

“There were a couple of boys who I saw walking to school in the morning and I spoke with their mom and offered to pick them up and she said that would be great,” Kristen said. “If I can do something for these kids, I will.”

It can be a lot to balance sometimes, but the role of a teacher is often more than delivering lessons on a particular subject.

The teachers throughout Maumee City Schools have been using PBIS, or Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, to enhance academic, social and behavioral outcomes for students and promote positive interventions and solutions. In doing so, the teachers must model these positive interactions and behaviors for the students, Kristen said.

“You have to juggle the needs of the kids and the lesson,” she added. “Some of the kids have referred to me as their on-campus mom, which makes me feel like I’m doing something right in all of this.”

She likes to show up each day and make sure the students know the teachers are humans who have emotions but are resilient and can pick themselves back up on rough days.

By being vulnerable, like Kristen was after she lost her mom, she hopes her students learned that it is OK to not be OK, but you can continue to move forward and draw on the help of others.

She also does her best to constantly be the person others can turn to for help when they need it.

“Her positivity and caring attitude make MHS a special place to be,” said assistant principal Cori Wagner.

These actions are not difficult, Kristen insisted.

“It doesn’t hurt you to go out of your way to be kind,” she advised. “I just want my students to know they can always share a little kindness.”

Gino and Stace Torio

For Gino and Stace Torio, the wrestling community has always been a part of their lives and they have spent many years helping and supporting that same community.

The husband-and-wife duo have been a big part of Maumee Youth Wrestling since they returned to Northwest Ohio several years ago.

“When Gino and Stace moved back to the area, one item top of mind was to pick up where they left off, providing a stellar experience to youth wrestlers in the area,” said Kim Barboza.

While working hard to provide lessons and motivation for the youths can be difficult on its own, the Maumee wrestling community is still reeling from the loss of coach Pablo Barboza, which brought new challenges to the Torios this season.

The two, however, have been able to pull from lessons they learned from Pablo over many years.

“Pablo was coaching when our boys joined Maumee. It was very fun to move back to Maumee and spend the last two years coaching with him. He loved the sport and the kids and gave everything he had to it. He set the example for so many kids and adults in how he dedicated time and energy for the sake of others. He did not expect anything in return. He just wanted to do some good for the kids and the sport,” Stace said.

That’s exactly what the Torios want to do, too.

Gino and Stace are hoping to help young Maumee residents fall in love with the sport and build character. Through this, they are building strong, resilient kids, Stace noted.

“Watching their faces when they achieve a goal or get better is what drives us,” Stace said.

The athletes’ accomplishments make the long days and extra time worth it, she added.

Their love of the sport also provides them with extra motivation. 

According to the Torios, the wrestling community is small and everybody is connected, which means they are all able to support one another.

“Wrestling is as much of a lifestyle as it is a sport. You can’t wrestle without some level of discipline every day. Watching weight; missing holiday events (and sweets); sitting in loud, hot gyms for hours; controlling emotions; personal accountability and hard work is difficult, and it carries over into everyday life. It makes lifelong friends through the ‘solidarity of struggle,’” Stace described.

Those connections are important throughout the wrestling community, and the work of the Torios to grow those relationships and build that community is similarly important.

“Their impact and the ripples they create are felt by every child who steps on that wrestling mat. We are truly lucky to have them in our community,” Kim said.

Friends of Side Cut

The Friends of Side Cut organization was formed 27 years ago to beautify Side Cut Metropark and to host educational meetings open to the public. The club hosts various projects that work toward its mission throughout the year with the help of around 20 to 30 regular volunteers.

The work of those volunteers is often unrecognized, said director Alaina Meister, but it is always appreciated.

The volunteers provide books for the Little Free Library, provide seed for the birdfeeders at the Lamb Center, host monthly Ask a Birder and Ask a Master Gardener programs from May through October, do monthly gardening at the Lamb Center and have a Legacy Brick memorial program.

“They provide a lot of volunteer hours because they love this park,” Alaina said.

The list of volunteer projects is extensive and has continued to grow over the years, Alaina added.

Projects are funded almost exclusively by the annual club dues of $15.00 for a single person or $20.00 for a family, along with the Legacy Brick program.

“We also offer to the public Legacy Bricks in two sizes, allowing anyone to purchase one to be engraved with the wording of their choice,” Alaina said. “We have 187 6-by-8-inch pavers installed along with 91 12-by-12-inch pavers installed.”

The funds provided by the brick sales have helped the group purchase three of the adult bench swings located along the river as well as furniture for the Lamb Center patio.

Additional items, like books for the Little Free Library and birdseed are provided by volunteers.

“Quality birdseed is expensive; the birds – and a few squirrels and chipmunks – eat around $175 worth of food per month. Although it may seem cheaper, people should not use seed with a lot of red or white millet; the birds don’t eat it, and you get a lot of waste,” said Barry McEwen, the chair of the bird feeding project.

The project is worth it, Barry said, as it brings people with common interests together and also educates the community on the types of birds they might see.

Notebooks with information specific to the birds found at Side Cut are made available to visitors and can also just serve as entertainment for the guests who like to know more about the topic.

As for Katherine Thompson, who serves as the chair of the Little Free Library, the work done by the group benefits the residents of the area, which makes the effort she puts in worth it.

“Volunteering has brought me out into nature and introduced me to a wonderful group of like-minded people: hardworking, open-hearted and generous people, nature lovers like me,” Katherine said.

It’s the hope of the group that their efforts will continue to inspire more people to explore the beauty available to them at Side Cut and find other ways to support nature.

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