Teraji: 10th anniversary strikes a chord

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Volunteers dancing to brighten the day with seniors at Live Oak

In this weekly column, I write of a community rich in unsung heroes, generous givers, and underground do-gooders.
In this weekly column, I write of a community rich in unsung heroes, generous givers, and underground do-gooders. This weekend as we remember those who were the first responders on 9/11, this is also my tenth anniversary of writing this column that began with my first article about those who touched my heart with their positive actions on 9/11, such as the little boy from Canada who collected hundreds of pairs of gloves to send to New York rescue workers because he noticed on the news that their hands were cut and bleeding.
On this tenth anniversary, I celebrate those in our community who are first responders in ways that make our community a better place to live every day.
Eric Von Forstmeyer is a first responder when it comes to the garbage on our streets. He carries equipment in the back of his car for picking up trash, and whenever he has the chance, he collects litter around Gilroy – 500 pounds per year.
Vicky Martin, who manages the food pantry at St. Joseph’s Family Center is a first responder who daily feeds many families and individuals who would otherwise go hungry. She doesn’t do it like it’s a job or a duty either; she does it with thoughtfulness, wisdom, caring and commitment.
Fran Lopez, Associate Dean of Gavilan College is a first responder who helps those with special challenges: “I hope your article will be encouraging to people with disabilities in the community who perhaps did not know about our services at Gavilan College’s Disability Resource Center and will now seek them. Thanks again.”
Louise Shields is a first responder who reaches out to help some of the poorest families in our community. She recently helped a migrant worker’s family keep from becoming homeless by giving them a helping hand at just the right moment when it made all the difference. Now they are back on their feet and doing well.
Over the past 10 years, Gilroy’s first responders have never failed to convey profound insights and heartfelt commitment to making our community a better place. Kellie, a Gilroy mom, wrote: “Dear Kat, I wanted to thank you for sharing the story about your mom in the Dispatch today. My prayers go out to you both.
“The reason I’m writing you is to let you know how much your words meant to me. I started wondering what my husband and two young sons would do if I ever had a serious medical problem. So, right after I read your story, I pulled out the phone book and called my doctor to schedule my annual mammogram (1 year late) and a complete physical and pap smear (4 years late).
You can use my words to hopefully encourage other women to go get their checkups. We spend so much time taking care of our families and homes and then put off taking care of ourselves. It runs in my family, so I know the risks, but somehow manage to put off my own check-ups … So thank you, thank you, thank you … you never realize how much your words can affect someone!”
This column is called, “Making Connections,” and that is not meant in the sense of trying to get a leg up by knowing the right people, but rather it is meant in the sense of the importance of appreciating how we are connected in ways of which we are not even aware, and how communicating that with each other brings us all together. Technology and the Internet have made this a small world, and we become more connected each day. The column receives mail from readers in Chandler, Ariz.; Chicago, Ill; Cambridge, England, and Cairo, Egypt, just to name a few of the places.
In the course of the column, I have shared everything from my mother’s illness and death to my own recovery from an abusive childhood background. Readers have responded with a compassion that touches my heart.
As we reach out to help each other, there are folks far and wide touched by stories from our little corner of the world. My in-box is filled with positive mail, 99.9 percent of the time. This column makes me realize what a positive place we live in and what a beautiful world we inhabit.
The letter that meant the most to me this year came from reader Loretta Ventura, who included a prayer in her card and wrote, “Just want you to know you’ve been on my mind and in my heart. I read your story of the heartache and pain you went through. I know God is with you and He will guide you. I will pray for you and that our Lord continues to heal you.”
I’d like to close with this letter from Judy Hamed, a first responder who promotes peace and understanding between Muslims, Jews and Christians at every opportunity through interfaith activities in Gilroy. She wrote: “Hi Kat, My name is Judy and I am Salah Hamed’s (the one whose name means ‘righteous, thankful, and bossy’) wife. I want to thank you for your positive article on the Abrahamic Alliance. Thank you and may God bless you for your kindness.”
Keep those letters and stories coming!

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