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Reflecting on a generous community

November 16, 2020 | Angie Smith

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There is a lot that I value and enjoy about having grown up in, been shaped by and living in this community. One of my favorite things about our community and its people is the generosity and the kindness.

While on a weekend trip to Detroit in about 1987, our family bumped into the Hancock family at the Henry Ford Museum. The Hancocks had moved away from Norwalk several years earlier. Mr. Hancock said something like, “I have lived on the East Coast, the West Coast and a number of cities in between, and I have never seen anything like Norwalk, Ohio. You truly care about your neighbors. When someone gets sick or when someone is down on their luck, you come together, and you help them out. When something needs to get done, you pull together, give your time, work hard and make it happen.”

A contractor for Fisher-Titus shared a similar observation with me at the Fisher-Titus Foundation’s 2020 Golf Outing. “If I had to explain Fisher-Titus’ brand or culture, I would say it is kindness.” I knew exactly what she meant and was proud that this woman, who spends lots of time in lots of health systems in lots of communities across the Midwest, had this experience with my colleagues and neighbors.

I have been thinking about our generosity, resilience and unity a lot this year. Despite the pandemic, the economic challenges, the hardships, the isolation, and despite a divisive year for our country, when the chips were down we sacrificed, came together, worked hard and accomplished some really big things. We loved our neighbors.

Our contractors, our health system, our business community and two school systems came together, donated money, gave thousands of “man hours” and equipment hours, and built a new home for our football and track athletes, school communities and residents.

When the pandemic hit and PPE was in short supply, our businesses, schools and residents stepped up and PPE came pouring in for healthcare workers and first responders. There were teachers and students fabricating masks with 3D printers. Volunteers started sewing cloth masks. Contractors dropped off cases of N95s. People found a way to support their favorite local restaurants and support frontline healthcare workers with a meal.

Many of our neighbors went to work to take care of us — stocking our groceries, delivering our mail, fixing our cars, treating the sick, putting out fires, babysitting our children — at great risk to themselves. Other neighbors stayed home to keep us safe, at great financial cost and emotional burden.

And through all of this, our community continued to support its churches, food banks, schools, non-profits and hospital to meet the needs of our neighbors.

Philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, often expressed by generously donating money to good causes. Sunday, Nov. 15 is National Philanthropy Day, a day to acknowledge and thank the philanthropists who have given us our hospitals, libraries, parks, schools, churches, community centers, museums, health research and disease cures, and the arts. The lives we enjoy today and the opportunities we have had owe so much to the generosity and stewardship of the people who came before us.

We are all called to leave our little corner of the world better than we found it — in big and little ways, using our talents and our treasure. We have this beautiful community, full of amenities usually reserved for bigger and wealthier cities, because of the sacrifice and stewardship of John Ernsthausen, Warren C. Whitney, William and Lura (Titus) Fisher, and hundreds of philanthropists who often humbly and silently support needs in our community.

This year, I will observe the day with a quiet thank you for the comforts and opportunities gifted to me. I will be grateful for the outpouring of generosity, sacrifice and kindness that have carried me and my neighbors through some dark days this year. And I will write a couple checks to organizations that will leave our community better for my kids, my grandchild and those who will come after me.

To learn more about the work of the Fisher-Titus Foundation, visit www.fishertitus.org/foundation.