Jeff Jardine: Seemingly little things from kind souls in Central Valley mean plenty to those in need

12/25/2013 1:48 PM

12/25/2013 11:30 PM

More often than we’d ever know, people need assistance and don’t know where to find it.

They might not fit the profile for one of the nonprofit agencies. They might live in an area that doesn’t have much in the way of services. So it’s good to know there are folks out there who have big hearts and want to help.

Just before the cold snap of a few weeks ago, I received the first of several calls from an elderly woman in the Patterson area. She lives in a mobile home, the furnace of which went “haywire,” as she called it. She’s on a fixed income and can’t afford to have it repaired.

“I’m freezing at night,” she told me, describing how she wore a stocking cap and extra socks beneath every blanket she owned. She said she’d called numerous agencies, but none could help her.

So I called Tom Klein, a dentist in Patterson whom I’ve come to know and respect over the years. A Vietnam veteran, we met three years ago when he began working to add the names of West Side war dead who inadvertently were omitted from monuments and plaques in the area. Was there a service club in Patterson that could help her? Klein made a phone call or two.

Within a day, she had small electric space heater.

Similarly, there’s Robert Zimmerman of Modesto, who began making toy train layouts after reading about a young boy with a skin condition that keeps in him primarily indoors. Zimmerman and his sons solicited donations of the materials and then built the layouts, donating them to specific families, Railtown 1987 State Historic Park in Jamestown, the Modesto Gospel Mission and other nonprofits.

Last week, I received a call from Jim Standart of Modesto. He had an old train set, still in good working order. He remembered the columns about the Zimmermans and wanted to donate the set to them to go with another layout for a deserving child.

Standart’s timing was perfect.

“I am building a train layout for a family for Christmas,” Zimmerman said. Despite some health concerns, he’s getting it done – with his sons’ help, of course. He received the train set from Standart on Friday.

Everyone involved can feel good about their roles. In fact, in 2013, as in years past, readers routinely responded to help people in need, whether they be sick kids, residents victimized by crimes or folks simply down on their luck.

Every community needs to be blessed with people like Oakdale native Kyle Cooper. He created Hands For Time, a nonprofit in which people can volunteer to work in place of parents needing time off to be with their sick children.

People like Ron Hamilton who, along with his kin and other families, thanked firefighters by feeding them several nights while the Rim fire raged in Tuolumne County.

People like Cindy DenBrave, who started a new Alzheimer’s caregiver support group, fulfilling a growing need in the community.

People like Dr. Gary Pickell and his dog Rosie, who ease the pain of the dying patients and their families at the Alexander Cohen Hospice House in Hughson.

Those are just a few, and the ones we knew of. There are countless others who step up to organize fundraisers, blood drives, awareness campaigns and volunteer for great causes without asking for so much as a “thank you” in return. They do it because they understand the value in helping others.

And in some cases, it’s as simple as the folks in Patterson giving an elderly woman on the West Side the gift of warmth.

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