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Column: Stories have positive impact on people’s lives


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The ability to make a difference.

That’s what separates the wheat from the chaff in many professions.

For journalists, certainly. For people in hundreds of other professions, being able to impact people’s lives drives them, too.

It put a spring in my step as a wide-eyed novice. Many years later, the opportunity still gets me going in the morning even before the “proof” is in the newspaper tube at the curb.

When you work for a media company that carries on a conversation with readers seven days a week — and offers “bonus material” online nearly any time of day or night — the opportunities to make a difference are endless.

But often, we’re guessing — or at least hoping — that we really do make an impact.

On recent back-to-back days, I was reminded that we certainly do.

The first example came from Rebecca Barnett, a busy professional who by day works at Cummins. On nights and weekends, her focus is on the town of Elizabethtown, which she and husband Fred call home.

Rebecca has been a tireless volunteer, looking out for the best interests of this community of 500 since joining it a few years ago.

Weeks back, she sent a note asking me if The Republic could help publicize a fundraising auction they have planned for March 29. The purpose: Raise $4,500 to be used with a matching grant to make a small neighborhood park a reality.

It seemed like a worthy cause.

We put a reporter, Aubrey Woods, and a photographer, Andrew Laker, on the story. They talked to people in Elizabethtown who had climbed onto the community-park bandwagon. The story and photos took up the largest share of the March 12 front page.

Republic readers noticed.

Before that day was too far along, Rebecca sent me a short note:

“We’ve already had two companies call to pledge — one for $250 and another for $500,” Rebecca wrote. “We feel very blessed to have a hometown newspaper who is so supportive. You have been a great help and encouragement. Thanks for all that you do.”

But as you hear in some of those television mail-order pitches, “But wait, there’s more.”

After logging onto my computer the next morning, I found a note from Gene Wint.

Gene’s base of operations is another small, rural Bartholomew County community, Azalia.

He’s also a tireless advocate for improving the life of others, especially those who are down on their luck.

His main focus for the past 12 years has been an organization called the Orphan Grain Train, which collects needed household items from those who no longer need them and pairs them up with others who desperately do.

Beds, refrigerators, furniture. Smaller items, too.

Gene’s organization serves a need far beyond Azalia that wouldn’t be met without his philanthropic efforts.

We published more photos by Andrew Laker and a dominating front-page story by Brian Blair listing much-needed contributions and told readers how to utilize Orphan Grain Train to transfer their assets to others.

“This is a little late, but still rich in value,” Gene wrote. “Thank you for your deep involvement ... in publicizing the plight of Orphan Grain Train.

“Soon after the initial article, even that very day, we began to get calls and people started to bring us donations of those much-needed household items.”

On the day of his note, Gene provided an inventory update that substantiated the impact The Republic had made:

20 beds donated, 17 already delivered to people needing one.

15 appliances donated, all but two already in a new home.

“You opened the gate and presented the opportunity for people to extend their help to their fellow man,” he wrote.

After receiving these unsolicited testimonials, I shared them with Republic Publisher Chuck Wells, who in turn forwarded them to all of the Home News newspaper employees in our group, with the following note:

“No matter your job description, know that you play a role in making this a better community. What we do matters, and this serves as a reminder to us all.”

And, readers, thanks for your generosity in utilizing the information we publish to make the lives of others richer.

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