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In The Know: Just look across the street

Tim Urness

As my college days were coming to an end, I thought I wanted to join the Peace Corps and travel overseas to help people. I had no destination; no plan. I just knew I wanted to help people. My parents weren't too keen on this idea. I remember my mom telling me, "Timothy don't need to travel across the world to help people. There will be people right across the street from you that need help."

I am thankful there are people who make it their life's work in the Peace Corps or as Church missionaries, but, I am thankful that I listened to my mom's advice. There are people we come into contact with every day, "right across the street from us" — at work and school, and in our neighborhoods, that could use a hand up. Living in Alexandria since 2001, I have witnessed many examples of people reaching out to help others right across the street. They don't do it for pay, publicity or acknowledgement. Many people give back in a variety of different ways. Here are a few I have noticed...

A husband/wife team makes warm, fuzzy, pink cancer tie-blankets to give to women who have been recently diagnosed with cancer, or as a reminder for women to get themselves screened for breast cancer. They have purchased, made, and delivered roughly 70 blankets so far.

A local woman volunteers over 40 hours each week at Someplace Safe because she feels a calling to help people who are in abusive situations.

Two recent garage sales in Alexandria donated all the money raised to charitable causes. There was a free-will donation for all items; not a price tag anywhere! One sale, given by a family of five, contributed all donations to Relay for Life. The second sale, done by some employees of School District 206, helped fund student scholarships. Each sale raised close to $1,500. How cool that the people donated time and money to setting these sales up, and even cooler that the shoppers gave a "fair," and often generous, price knowing the reason for these sales!

On Tuesday mornings at Woodland School, there were four people volunteering anywhere needed. One of these people is a retired chief of police. The third graders who work with him think he's the nicest teddy bear ever.

Two guys started an organization for dads in our community with the goal of being "the best version of dad that they can be." They organize monthly morning gatherings at the LAR gym for dads and their kids. They eat, learn, and play together, all in the presence of other dads, encouraging all to be the best they can be for their kids via the All Pro Dad Program.

A local woman has taken photos of all cemetery gravestones in Douglas County and uploaded these photos to a website called Her goal is to help family members connect to their loved ones and trace their lineage. Over 20,000 photos have been uploaded, followed by countless hours of research gathering information, and linking it to other information for family and friends.

I could go on with many more examples. My point is, there are so many people who help, give, and serve, in a wide variety of ways. I'm guessing each of you reading this piece now could add some stories of your own. This is also a challenge: Ask yourself, "What can I do to help out someone across the street?" It doesn't always require money, but, it will require some time and effort. It also requires you to be aware of small ways to make a difference with people you come in contact with every day.

Not sure where to start? There are many organizations in town that will be glad to give some guidance and get you started. United Way, Love INC, Habitat, All Pro Dads, Someplace Safe, School District 206 are just a few options. I promise you though, you don't have to call an organization to get started, just take a look out your window across the street.

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Tim Urness is actively involved in service groups in the Alexandria area. "In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.