“Thank you”

Fire Chief presents heartfelt thank you

Published in Herald & Tribune Feb. 18, 2015 issue

Jonesborough Fire Chief Phil Fritts believes two simple, yet powerful words — “thank you” — are all that is left to be shared after the community rallied behind one of Jonesborough’s sergeants who lost his battle to cancer last month.

“I knew that this community was special and the people were good, kind people,” Fritts said. “They are good honest, decent hardworking people. I really didn’t realize the extent of their compassion and kindness, I guess you can say.”

Fritts was referring to the outpouring of community support that flooded in after word went out that Sgt. Nathan Luke Story had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“I remember when we first learned that Luke was suffering from pancreatic cancer and the word started spreading through the community,” Fritts said. “It was almost immediate. We started getting phone calls and we started having people pop up and come in.”

Assistance and money, as well as food the day of the funeral, was offered from countless community residents.

Although the support was endless, there are two instances that left a strong impact on Fritts.

The first occurred while he was at a restaurant. He said a couple that lives in the community called him over to their table and asked him to tell them about the young man who has pancreatic cancer.

“I sat down and told them,” Fritts said.

The gentleman looked at Fritts and his wife and said, “Will Luke need treatment?”

“It was at the time when we were looking at maybe going outside of the area for treatment,” Fritts said.

The gesture that came next astounded him.

“He looks at me and says ‘Would $5,000 help?” Fritts said. “I said $5,000 would be marvelous. He wrote me a check for $5,000 right there.”

Another act of kindness happened at the station. Fritts said he arrived at work one warm day when a lady walked into the open bay doors. After the woman shared who she was and that she heard about Story, she handed him a few dollar bills.

Fritts said the woman told him that was all she had and all she could afford, but felt she needed to offer some money.

“That is very touching,” he said.

The outpouring of support continued with T-shirt sales, benefits and donations from other fire departments around the area.

“It just amazed me at the kindness that people have,” Fritts said. “They really didn’t have any other reason to do that other than it was the right thing to do.”

The saying “we are a family” that administrative staff, employees and town board share at every Christmas dinner is a feeling that Fritts understands fully.

“They proved that we are a family. That means a lot. You can hear the words, but actions will speak a lot better than words,” he said, adding that Town Administrator Bob Browning and Operations Manager Craig Ford were just fantastic. “They were generally concerned and they wanted to help.”

Story attended the December Christmas party where he sat and ate with everyone else. Fritts said that night Story received the Employee of the Year.

“Right up to a couple weeks before he passed away he was up walking around and then all at once . . .,” Fritts said. “It was easy to get into (the idea) that he’s got time.”

On Jan. 24, at 3:45 p.m. Story passed away at Johnson City Medical Center.

The support from area fire departments and the Jonesborough Police Department instantly began after the news was heard.

And when funeral plans were announced, Fritts said he began receiving phone calls from area fire departments asking what they needed.

The Limestone Volunteer Fire Department, EMS and Johnson City Fire Department all provided honor guards. Fritts said the fire chief from Greeneville offered to man their station during the procession and funeral.

“I don’t have anything really to say, but thank you. We felt like we did need to say something to people and let them know we saw you and we thank you,” Fritts said. “I want the community to know that we always do strive to do the best and we go the extra mile to help you and this department will continue to help them.”

 

“Our Christmas comes from our heart”

“Our Christmas comes from our heart”

Organization makes holiday a little brighter for Cape family

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze Dec. 18, 2014 issue

A Cape Coral family received a little holiday cheer Wednesday night from the Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund to help them through some financial hardships.

“With all of our warriors that are members, board members, volunteers and everybody that donates and makes Wounded Warrior Anglers possible, I want them to know that they are part of helping somebody come through the month of December financially,” Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders said. “I want them to know they are a part of that. All of us coming together over the last three years have made this possible. Everybody coming together and doing a little here and a little bit there has all added up.”

The Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund became a part of the organization on Oct. 14. The fund was created to provide appropriate relief to eligible veterans or disabled veterans who experience a qualifying event or emergency.

Melissa and Eddie Breese were the first to benefit from the newly established fund on Wednesday, Oct. 22, because of hardship they were experiencing. After the donation was made, a community member reached out to Wounded Warrior Anglers and donated gas gift cards and food gift cards to further assist the family with their needs.

Since that donation, Eddie’s condition has become worse. Now with only one income, a part-time income, trying to make ends meet to pay the bills and put food on the table, has become extremely difficult.

To help alleviate some of that financial burden the family is experiencing, the Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund donated $1,200 to the Breese family again on Wednesday.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Kevin Purdy, Melissa Breese, Eddie Breese, Gracie, the Breese’s granddaughter, and Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Kevin Purdy, Melissa Breese, Eddie Breese, Gracie, the Breese’s granddaughter, and Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders.

“It shocked me,” Melissa said of the donation amount. “We have good people around us like Judy and all the Anglers.”

The donation will help the Breese family pay for their December monthly bills, as well as put food on the table.

“Without a question, there is an absolute blessing to be in a situation to help people like that,” Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Kevin Purdy said. “It touches you so deeply. You can’t put it into words.”

Eddie, a Fort Myers High School graduate, enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in Desert Storm from 1988 to 1992. After returning from the service he started working on roofs, while owning his own business at one time.

Unfortunately on Sept. 11, Eddie took a bad fall, falling 25 feet through a skylight to the concrete. That fall broke his back, mangled his right arm, broke his ribs and gave him severe head trauma.

After Lee Memorial Health System released him after the accident, Melissa took her husband to the VA clinic in Cape Coral. He then was taken to Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.

While he was at Bay Pines he spent time going to a speech pathologist, physical therapist and occupational therapist.

Eddie returned home on Friday, Oct. 17, after spending two months in the hospital.

Melissa said since October he has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and began having focal seizures because of the head trauma.

“Some days he may have one or two,” she said Wednesday night. “The day before yesterday he had six.”

Melissa said when he has a seizure it is as if Eddie is staring right through her with no response.

“He looks dead,” she said.

Limited funds have made it hard for Melissa to drive Eddie to Tampa to see the doctor.

With working part-time and being a full-time caregiver, Melissa said they had to send their 1-year-old son, Keygan, to West Virginia to stay with family.

Although the family is struggling, Melissa remains positive.

“At least I have him at the end of the day and God saved him,” she said. “We have him and that’s what is important.”

Melissa said Eddie has always been her best friend.

“It’s always been Eddie and I,” she said, adding that they used to play co-ed softball and volleyball together. “That is what saved his life. If his body was not in the shape he was in, he would have never survived that. He is fighting every day.”

Souders said being able to help the Breese family is what Christmas is all about.

“That is a big part of our Christmas because our Christmas comes from our heart,” she said.

Community members, who would like to continue the spirit of Christmas and help the Breese family, can contact Souders at (423) 620-9104. Any gift donated to the Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund is tax deductible.

“We could have a substantial impact”

When people come together anything is possible. This article shares a glimpse of that.

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On June 12, 2014 I received an incredibly sweet email from Bryan Newman, a gentleman I interviewed for the article:

Thank you so very much for writing a great article of the Risen Savior Spring Food Drive. I don’t know how it could have been better.

You were a joy to work with and I hope we will have the opportunity to do so again. I will be sure to contact you the next time we provide a

noteworthy service within the Chandler community. On behalf of all of us at Risen Savior Church & School, thanks again.

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Risen Savior collects, donates 3.6 tons of food

Published in SanTan Sun News June 7, 2014 issue

Risen Savior Lutheran Church and School’s four-week food drive yielded 3.6 tons of food for the Chandler Christian Community Center’s Chandler Food Bank and the congregation is deeming the community outreach program a success.

“Knowing that there are some in the Chandler area that struggle to even put food on the table while our cupboards are full was just unacceptable,” says the Rev. Ron Burcham, Risen Savior Lutheran Church and School senior pastor. “We also knew that as individuals, we could make a difference, but if we pooled our resources and asked for God’s blessing we could have a substantial impact.”

The program began the first week after Easter and concluded Sunday, May 18. In conjunction with the drive, Burcham prepared a four-week sermon series about feeding people in need, whether spiritually or through food assistance.

“It was marvelous,” says food drive cochairman Bryan Newman.

The sermon focused on the Miracle of Five Loaves and Two Fish, with a message that not just one person can feed 5,000 people, but together, as a congregation, a huge difference can be made. To make his point and to encourage the congregation to donate, Burcham displayed the collected food on the altar.

“We had people dropping food by the church every day of the week,” he says. “What a privilege to witness the generosity of God’s people and their desire to make a difference in someone else’s life.”

Six members of the congregation gathered after church the last day of the drive to begin counting what was collected.

“It took the six of us five hours to box and move the food outside of the sanctuary to be picked up from the food bank,” says Newman, who added that the food filled one and a half trucks and a van.

He says they collected 8,241 food items that had an estimated value of more than $16,000. The donations weighed 7,244 pounds, which is equivalent to 3.6 tons of food.

“That is enough to provide about 5,660 meals,” Newman says.

More than $1,000 in donations from the congregation was also collected during that four-week food drive.

Risen Savior Lutheran Church and School plans on continuing its services for the community.

“This is the first move in doing that,” Newman says.

The congregation, located at 23914 S. Alma School Rd., has been generating ideas on how to further help the community, including providing turkeys to the food bank.

“I am extremely proud of our congregation,” Burcham says. “They gave freely and generously from their hearts. As a result, they are a blessing to others and in the end it was a blessing for each member as well.”

For more information about the congregation, call (480) 895-6782 or visit http://www.rslcs.org.