Residents find ways to help others during pandemic
by Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (November 25, 2020) – There’s an amazing thing about the human race: the worst of times brings out the best in people. As we wade through this trying year of a devastating global pandemic, social unrest, natural disasters, wildfires, financial uncertainty, and business closures, so many around us are doing their part to make the world better. Groups and individuals have fed first responders. Neighbors have helped take care of elderly neighbors. Emergency food assistance is being organized. People have made and donated masks. Here are a few examples of the acts of kindness that have been seen in our own community during 2020.
Acts of kindness assigned by an anonymous do-gooder
Jen Arnold got a mysterious envelope in the mail in April. She still doesn’t know the origin of it. The envelope contained four gift cards for ALDI and a letter with some instructions to attach a little saying to each card, go to ALDI, and hand them out to some shoppers.
“That was a huge task, and a lot of pressure, but I was ready and excited for the mission. It was around April 24. It was raining and cold, but I was so excited to go and help someone,” said Arnold. “So I went and stood in line at our Lansing ALDI, waiting to get in. Once in, I was able to start making people happy in a time where everyone was anything but happy. I spent about 45 minutes handing out the cards, and it was so much fun.”
The instructions also asked Arnold to post her experience on social media. “So I reported back, but then was thinking I could have done more or I was second guessing my choices,” said Arnold. “But then in August I received another letter and two more missions [and a check]. One-third was for husband and I to go out to dinner and celebrate. We are both essential workers and were literally passing each other as we would come and go from work, so that was a great night out. Another one-third was to buy more gift cards from a store of my choice and hand them out. So the kids and I went on this mission together, and we went to Meijer.”
Arnold enjoyed having her kids get involved and thinks it was a great lesson for them. “I picked Meijer because you can buy more than groceries. Each kid got a card and picked a person to give it to. My son, Mason, gave it to an elderly lady, and she was so shocked,” Arnold explained. “Jasmine gave it to a younger looking mom, and she cried. Then we all cried. I gave mine to another lady who had medicine in her cart. It was such a great feeling.”
The directions were to take the other third and buy what she thought would be best. “This one took time. So I thought about what was needed most. We took the rest of the money and donated school supplies to Coolidge School and we donated food to the Lansing Food Pantry,” she said. “The kids were able to take part in all of this with me. It really taught them that not everyone has the basics and to be thankful for what we have.”
Acts of kindness by a retired teacher
Barb Dust, a retired first grade teacher from Nathan Hale School in Lansing got an email back in the spring from the Illinois Retired Teachers Association. They were requesting volunteers to tutor kids because school was being shut down. Dust answered the call and was matched up with a student—a six-year-old girl in Chicago. For weeks Dust did online tutoring with her in reading and math. “Her mom and I emailed back and forth, and her mom told me what she needed help with,” said Dust. “There was good communication. It was enjoyable. I sympathize with the teachers. It is hard to keep the kids’ attention.”
Dust planned to keep going all summer even after school ended. “We even did Zoom long distance when she went on a family trip,” said Dust.
It was a challenge for Dust, who has been retired for the past decade, to get back into the teaching routine. “It was a fun experience for me. I’m glad I could help and at least try and help her from backsliding over the summer, too,” she said. “The program did end at the end of the school year, but we kind of bonded and decided to keep on going.”
From her generous spirit of helping a student and a parent at a time of need, Dust experienced the benefit of a new friendship. “The mom and I became friends,” she said. “It was just the girl and her mom in Hyde Park in a high rise. The girl didn’t get outside much. It was very new to her. She really needed the social call.”
Acts of kindness from a local seamstress
Lansing resident Auriga Cohran is a dressmaker. But during a pandemic people aren’t dressing up much. With proms and weddings canceled this past spring, Cohran used her talents to make masks to donate to those in need. With lots of fabric to use, she started sewing and giving away face masks wherever she was. “I’ve them away everywhere—on the streets, in the Walmart line, to different organizations,” she said. The masks are high quality and made of three layers for extra protection.
Cohran’s seamstress skills run in the family. Her mother was a custom apparel designer, and her grandmother made costumes for the Ice Capades back in the 1940s and 1950s. Cohran has now spent four decades working with a needle and thread. She has done some fundraising in order to continue making her masks.
Cohran is using proceeds to help provide more masks in the Roseland area of Chicago where people are in need of Personal Protective Equipment. She aims to get her homemade masks onto the faces of those who need to them to help keep them safe as the pandemic continues.