Tag Archives: community service

A different kind of March Madness

By Bruce Stambaugh

For the first time in our 45 years of marriage, our anniversary falls on Easter. I couldn’t be happier.

bride and groom

Wedding day.

To be honest, I have no idea why we set our wedding date for the end of March. We had to be crazy to marry at the height of high school and college basketball tournaments. I guess it was a different kind of March Madness.

Both our fathers were big sports fans. They watched baseball, football and basketball games on TV and listened to them on the radio, too, sometimes simultaneously. We wouldn’t have been surprised if Neva’s dad had walked her down the aisle with a transistor radio held to his ear. He didn’t of course.

There was another thing about our wedding date. Neva and I were both teachers. What kind of a honeymoon could we take in the middle of a school year? The answer was a very short one.

The years have flown by. Like all couples, we’ve had our ups and downs. Through thick or thin, one little gesture has helped keep us together. We hold hands a lot.

Our handholding started on our real honeymoon the summer after we were married. We ran a church camp located at 10,200 ft. on the eastern slope of Pikes Peak in Colorado.

Barr Camp, Pikes Peak

When we were young.

We cooked on a wood stove or over an open fire, drank water from an ice-cold mountain stream, and greeted mountain hikers who needed a rest stop. We met a lot of nice people that summer, plus a hungry black bear that came calling early one evening.

A lot of water has run down life’s stream since then. We are fortunate to have family, friends, neighbors and church members who lifted us up when we needed it the most. We have tried to return the favors whenever possible.

Serving and being served in and by the community has strengthened if not defined our marriage and our shared purpose. But it’s the everyday interactions with one another, with strangers and friends that have helped see us through.

No matter the situation, Neva and I automatically reach for each other’s hand. That purposefully keeps us together.

I have read Neva’s heart and mind simply by touch. Cold and firm or warm and gentle, good times or bad, we still cling to one another. It’s a constant reminder that neither of us is ever alone in any situation. I thrive in that reassurance.

I remember the joy of playing horse as our two youngsters rode on my back around the house until I collapsed. They long ago became responsible, productive adults with careers and lives of their own. Our three growing grandchildren are wonderful blessings to us now, too.

happy couple

The happy couple today.

We recently visited the pastor who married us. We thanked him for all that he did to prepare us for our wedding day and life beyond. Hand in hand, he set this young, naïve couple on a long, meandering, incredible journey together.

I’m hoping the Easter weather will be beautiful, as lovely as my bride. It’s been a while since I’ve called her that. It will be great to share this holy day with folks who have lifted us up all these years.

I’m overjoyed that Easter and our anniversary coincide this year. It’s the perfect day of hope and joy for us to celebrate our reckless, uncalculated love together.

In the evening, we’ll sit and watch basketball games on TV. I’m pretty confident we’ll be holding hands.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Carl Maxwell leads a life worth living


By Bruce Stambaugh

Given his many maladies and his age, Carl Maxwell, 77, of Berlin, Ohio, would have every right to simply give up on life. Instead, he has done just the opposite, and many people are the beneficiaries.

The list of all the good Maxwell has done in his life far exceeds his list of illnesses. Kidney dialysis three times a week, congestive heart failure, diabetes, quadruple bypass surgery on his heart, suffering four heart attacks, staph infections and skin cancer head the list.

Maxwell hasn’t let any of that stop him. If anything, they serve as incentives to live life to the fullest everyday. He does so personally and through several community organizations for which he volunteers.

“I love life,” Maxwell said. “I want to do everything I possibly can while I can.”

Carl Maxwell by Bruce Stambaugh

Carl Maxwell

Maxwell has and is doing a lot by any measure. His accomplishments would be impressive for someone in excellent health.

Maxwell was a charter member of the East Holmes Lions Club and is a charter member of the newly established Berlin Lions Club. He served as president of the East Holmes club, and was recently presented the prestigious Melvin Jones Fellow award by Lions Club International.

“I’m especially interested in the sight aspect of Lions Club,” Maxwell said. Lions Clubs collect used eyeglasses and distribute them to needy people around the world.

Maxwell has served as either president or vice president of the East Holmes Fire and EMS District board since its inception in 2000. He is the at large member of the five-member board.

Maxwell, along with his wife of 53 years, Lorene, volunteer at Save and Serve Thrift Shop in Millersburg twice a week.

“On Tuesdays,” Maxwell said, “I cut rages with Paul Roth.” He and Lorene also help out as cashiers on Thursday evenings.

Maxwell has also taught Sunday school at several levels at Berlin Mennonite Church for many years.

“I like people,” Maxwell simply said.

If he did slow down, no one would question his decision. Maxwell goes for kidney dialysis three times a week in Wooster.

“Counting my time on the road,” he said, “each visit takes eight hours.” Maxwell is not complaining about that.

“I didn’t really want to do dialysis,” Maxwell said. “But I got out voted 5-1 on that.” His loving wife and four sons all wanted him to do the treatments. Maxwell drew the line there.

“I had an opportunity for a kidney transplant,” Maxwell said, “but I turned it down.” He said he felt someone younger than him should have a chance at the available kidney. “I couldn’t live with myself if I had taken a kidney that some 20-year old needed,” Maxwell said frankly.

Carl and car by Bruce Stambaugh

Carl Maxwell showed off his salmon and grey 1958 Buick.


Maxwell doesn’t spend all of his time volunteering. He also has some heart-felt hobbies in which he has invested much time and money. Maxwell, who once had 14 antique cars, now has three old cars and a 2002 Corvette, which he calls his “toy.” He occasionally drives it to his dialysis sessions.

At the peak of his car collecting days, Maxwell served for 16 years on the regional board of directors of the Antique Car Collectors of Canton. Maxwell also has the world’s largest collection of Sinclair Oil products and memorabilia, which was featured earlier this year in an international collection magazine. From old gas and oilcans to large advertising signs to refurbished gasoline pumps, Maxwell’s collection is clearly one-of-a-kind. He has gathered items from many states and even other countries.

That extensive collection stems from his life’s work.

Sinclair signs by Bruce Stambaugh

Carl Maxwell has two triple-check Sinclair Oil signs displayed at his barn. He said only a handful remain.


Maxwell worked 36 years for Holmes Oil, which originally distributed Sinclair products. He started as a truck driver, but after six years, he and Maynard Hummel became co-owners of the business. Maxwell sold his half interest in the business after 30 years.

“I have had an unbelievable life,” Maxwell readily shared. He credits two women for those experiences, his wife and his late mother, Edna Weaver Maxwell.

“I owe a lot to others, especially my wife,” he said. “She’s just been amazing.” He said Lorene has been an incredible help to him in his many times of need. Maxwell said he recognizes his physical limits and takes the time to rest so he can continue to keep his busy pace.

“I want to do everything I possibly can,” Maxwell said. “Life is still worth living, and it’s too short to be negative.”

Carl and pumps by Bruce Stambaugh

Carl Maxwell has collected Sinclair Oil signs, cans and even gas pumps.

This article appeared in the July 2, 2012 edition of the Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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The ins and outs of a sustained marriage

Puffy clouds by Bruce Stambaugh

The beauty around us helps create a lasting, loving relationship.


By Bruce Stambaugh

Soon my wife and I will have been married for 41 years. How have we made it this far? Well, this may sound funny, but the answer to that question in part is because we manage to avoid each other.

I think I better explain. My wife and I both believe in being community activists. That is a fancy way of saying we get involved in local activities, many of them on a volunteer basis.

Over those 41 years of marriage, Neva and I have recognized a familiar pattern. She goes out the drive just as I am coming in or vice versa. When we first noticed this routine, we laughed about the happenstance. The phenomenon has continued with amazing regularity.

When Neva comes in the drive as I am leaving, we just roll our eyes in common acceptance and acknowledgment of the many paths our busy lives have taken us. We recognize the importance of accepting and encouraging our individual interests and areas of service as important ingredients of any successful marriage.

Our house by Bruce Stambaugh

Where our driveway moments occur.


With us, this is pretty much how it goes. Neva has a 10 a.m. meeting scheduled in Millersburg with the thrift store where she volunteers. I have the morning free to tinker around the house or write. After lunch, Neva arrives home, and I need to leave for a rendezvous with a local resident regarding a township issue. I’m a township trustee.

We haven’t necessarily planned these driveway moments. It’s just the way it has panned out time and again over our 41-year marriage. I come in the drive, Neva goes out. It’s like clockwork.

If anything, it’s more about trusting each other and commitment to community than intentional evasion. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons our marriage has not only grown in years, it’s thrived.

We respect each other and each other’s interests. We also give each other the freedom and space to exercise those interests. The fact that those activities often coincide with a community event is possibly the glue that has helped hold our loving relationship together.

Bruce and Neva by Bruce StambaughNeither of us would begin to pretend to be perfect or that ours is a model marriage. That innate trust, however, allows us to do our own thing while actually reinforcing our husband and wife relationship.

I’m not bragging when I say that we feel blessed to have lasted this long as a couple. Marital bliss for our generation has turned out to be a 50/50 proposition. I feel for those who have tried to hold their marriage together, giving their all to no avail. I am ever so thankful that we have hung in there, even during difficult times.

With the varying schedules and comings and goings, having a supporting community around us has certainly enhanced our chances for success. We fully and humbly recognize that we have not been on this long journey alone. We have many people to thank for being there for us through thick and thin.

Friends, neighbors, church members, and especially family have all played important roles in the success and longevity of our marriage. Our son once asked me what the secret to our longevity of marriage was. I didn’t hesitate in answering, “There are no secrets between us.”

That includes where Neva is going again when I pull into the driveway.

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An uncomplicated man gets involved

By Bruce Stambaugh

Jim Croskey, of rural Holmesville, Ohio is an uncomplicated man. But don’t let his down home folksiness fool you.

For most of his adult life, Croskey has put his inner spirit into action for the good of others. His productive community interactions reflect the spectrum of his interests and priorities.

Jim Croskey by Bruce Stambaugh

Jim Croskey has been involved in a variety of community activities in and around Holmes County, Ohio.

His philosophy for civic duty is as straightforward as the man himself.

“If you’re not involved,” Croskey said plainly, “you can’t complain.”

He should know. Croskey has been involved in a web of activities that crisscross his most treasured values. Family, farming, church and the environment are all dear to his heart.

After graduating from West Holmes High School in 1980, Croskey said he continued his education in the school of hard knocks. In other words, he worked in the oilfields for four years.

That experience got him both thinking and looking into what he really wanted to do. He married Shirley Schlegel in 1984, and with a common interest in antiques, Croskey began an antique refinishing business.

A year later, he started working for his father-in-law, Roy Schlegel, on DalRoy Farms. He must have found his niche, because Croskey is in his 25th year of farming with the Schlegel’s. Croskey is the farm manager of the 900-acre agricultural business.

“I worked on farms in the summer during high school,” Croskey said. “I saw this as a good opportunity to allow me to get into farming.”

His job is to make sure the day-to-day farm operations happen. Croskey said they focus on raising corn, soybeans and hay, and that is his job to look for the best prices on fertilizers and sprays. He said they no-till farm, meaning they do not plow the cropland.

With conservation ever on his mind, Croskey said they have used rye as a cover crop for harvested cornfields. In the spring, the rye is cut for fodder for their livestock.

Croskey said is it critical for him to stay abreast of the latest innovations by attending workshops and seminars.

Croskey incorporates his agricultural interest into community service by sitting on the Holmes Soil and Water board. He has done so for 10 years.

“I see that service as helping farmers and helping the environment,” Croskey said.

Long prior to his service on Soil and Water, Croskey and his wife served as 4-H advisors for two different clubs for a total of 19 years.

“When we started,” Croskey said, “4-H involved five to six families in the clubs. Now it has grown far beyond that status.” Croskey also served on the county 4-H committee for several years.

Before his 4-H service, Croskey was on the Holmes County Farm Bureau for eight years, including three as president.

“That’s what really got me started on the community service,” he said. “At the time, I was the youngest Farm Bureau president ever.”

Croskey said that changed this year when his son, Jimmy, became the organization’s president at age 25. “So the tradition continues,” he said with a wink.

“I haven’t had very much recliner time,” he chuckled. Indeed he hasn’t. Croskey has also been elected Prairie Township Trustee for three terms.

Croskey has also been very active in the church he attends, Fredericksburg Presbyterian. He served eight years as an elder, a trustee, and is currently chairperson of the outreach committee.

That position lead to another, the Fredericksburg Outreach Committee, which established the Chain Reaction Bicycle Shop.

With the Holmes County Trail ending in Fredericksburg, the three local churches thought it a good idea to offer something practical for local children to safely enjoy the benefits of the trail, according to Croskey. The group sponsors bike trips.

“People come to ride that may not come to church,” Croskey said. “We might as well help them, too.” The shop is now closed for the season.

“Church prepares you for how you go out into the world,” Croskey said. “I simply try to be an example.”

Just in case he is not involved enough, Croskey also serves on the board of the Loudonville Farmer’s Equity, which has 250 members.

After all these years, the Croskey’s still enjoy antiques. The difference is they have furnished their farm home with them, rather than refinish them for others.

With all that he does for the community, Croskey probably wouldn’t have the time anyhow.

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Gale Hershberger is the people’s people person

Gale Hershberger by Bruce Stambaugh

Gale Hershberger has been president of the Winesburg Vol. Fire Dept auxiliary for 25 years.

By Bruce Stambaugh

When the fire pagers sound, Gale Hershberger listens up.

She’s not a firefighter, but over the years, many volunteer first responders have been glad to see her show up at a working fire.

Hershberger, 50, has been president of the Winesburg Volunteer Fire Department auxiliary for longer than she cares to remember. It’s actually been 25 years. She and a dozen other women make sure tired, thirsty, hungry and sweaty firefighters have the necessary nutritional supplies to keep them going.

Hershberger’s husband, Tim, is not a firefighter either. So what got her involved in the auxiliary? It’s her penchant to serve, and her people-person personality that causes her to head for the fire station at 3 a.m. on a cold winter’s night or on the most humid afternoon of the summer.

“I see a need,” Hershberger said, “and I like to help fix it.”

Hershberger said she learned early on the importance of helping others. The Dover native would accompany her mother volunteering at their church.

“I like to think that I am observant of what goes on around me,” she said. “I like to be here to help people.”

Indeed, that is exactly what Hershberger has done throughout her life.

For 18 years, she has worked as a teacher’s aide in the East Holmes Local School District. In addition to the fire department Serve them she has. Aside from the fire department auxiliary and the 4-H involvement, Hershberger is also a board member for the Holmes County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Hershberger sees that as natural fit for her and her fire department involvement.

“We were called to the Glenwood apartment fire in Millersburg with the auxiliary,” she explained. “Our first concern was providing for the needs of the firefighters, handing out water, Gatorade and snacks.”

Once the fire died down and the mop-up began, Hershberger automatically switched into the Red Cross mode and began assisting the fire victims. That’s just how she is.

“I feel I don’t do that much,” Hershberger said modestly. “There are people who work at much bigger, better things than me.”

But her efforts don’t go unnoticed. The volunteer firefighters have come to know that if Winesburg is on scene, the auxiliary and the needs they fill will be there, too.

“If the guys go, we go,” Hershberger said simply.

Hershberger received the 2009 4-H Alumni of the Year award. And recently she received a cute card of appreciation from a 4-H’er that meant a lot to her.

Hershberger also co-coordinates the Red Cross blood drive at Winesburg six times a year. The campaign is held in the Zion Reformed Church annex across the street from the fire station.

Like most volunteer fire departments, Winesburg (Paint Township) has its share of fundraisers. Of course, Hershberger can be found in the middle of all the efforts, whether it’s a chicken barbeque, auction, soup and salad supper, or pancake and sausage breakfast.

Hershberger said that over the years the auxiliary has been able to purchase the Jaws of Life, a heart monitor and new tables with money raised from fundraisers. Just ticking off that list brought a smile of satisfaction to Hershberger’s face.

Given what she has done with working for others, that smile may have been a peek inside her heart.

This story appeared in the Holmes Bargain Hunter.

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Gloria Yoder embodies the spirit of community

By Bruce Stambaugh

Gloria Yoder, 61, never ventured far from where her ancestors settled in Holmes County in the early 19th century. That’s just fine by her.

Based on what she has done and continues to do, the community is the better for it, too. In this case, the residents in and around the little town of Mt. Hope are the beneficiaries.

Yoder grew up on the family homestead on McClure Hill just west of Mt. Hope. McClure was her maiden name. Eli, her husband, was raised on a neighboring farm. They have been married 42 years.

The Yoder’s operate two popular area businesses. Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen in Mt. Hope is noted for its hardy breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. Yoder’s Amish Home near Trail, where they live, is a noted destination for tourists. She also operates the restaurant at the Mt. Hope Auction March through October.

Gloria Yoder by Bruce Stambaugh

As she normally does, Gloria Yoder bought several animals at the Holmes County Junior Livestock Auction.

Gloria has a keen sense of combining business with community service. She sees a commitment to community at the Holmes County Fair. She annually purchases prized and award winning animals at the fair’s Junior Livestock Auction.

“I like to help out the kids who work so hard with their animals,” she said while waiting to bid at this year’s fair sale. Of course, Gloria has a personal stake in the event. She was a 4-H’er herself and served 20 years as the advisor for two different 4-H clubs.

This year Gloria purchased the grand champion pen of three hens, the grand champion market turkey, a lamb, three hogs and several rabbits. That alone helped a number of 4-H participants. But Yoder doesn’t stop there.

Each year, Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen offers a special fair buffet featuring the animals she has purchased. The buffet will be this Wednesday, September 29 from 3 to 8 p.m.

“We have people who come from as far as Cincinnati for our buffets,” Yoder said. She also calls a list of people who live out of town, and some out of state, to tell them when the buffet will be offered.

This year’s fair buffet will feature barbecued rabbit, roasted leg of lamb, smoked turkey, pan-fried chicken and beef tenderloin. Yoder said she expects about 500 customers for the buffet.

But Gloria’s life ranges far beyond the confines of her restaurant. She spends much of her time assisting with and organizing for community activities.

Besides supporting the 4-H program, she faithfully serves in the small United Methodist congregation in Mt. Hope. That includes organizing and recruiting help for the annual pancake and sausage meal held each April.

Gloria helps with the egg hunt each spring, and orchestrates the parade and live nativity scene each Christmas season. Local school children enjoy playing the different parts of the sacred story. Over the years, she said group singing was added, and last year the community held a special fundraiser for a local family in need.

“Our young people are our future,” she said plainly but sincerely. “Whatever little bit I can do to help, I will.”

As a leader in the Mt. Hope Merchants Association, she also helps make the annual July Sundown Sale successful and purposeful. This year, for example, a dollar from every meal sold along with money from the volleyball teams were donated to needy families in the Mt. Hope area.

Gloria has some very personal reasons for being so involved in the community. Only months after her only child, Trent, was born in 1972, Gloria spent three months in the hospital in Columbus.

In 1983, she had a serious car accident in Berlin, and just two years ago Gloria was diagnosed with blood clots in both lungs. She hasn’t forgotten how the community responded to her needs and those of her family.

“I feel very fortunate to be alive,” she said. “God has been watching over me, and evidently still has some purpose for me in life.”

“Once you face death,” Gloria continued, “everything takes on a new meaning. I have felt the community of caring.”

In spite of her busyness, Gloria does find time for herself. She enjoys gardening, and trying new recipes. It’s no wonder, given the fact that she has a collection of 250 cookbooks.

“I enjoy reading them,” she said. “You can tell a lot about a church or community by what they include in their cookbook.” Gloria said that if a recipe includes “a pinch” of a certain ingredient, “You know it’s from an old cook.”

Gloria said she remembers when Mt. Hope resembled a ghost town. But in recent years, thanks to the success of area businesses, the little town is booming. And that is just the way Gloria likes it.

This story first appeared in the Holmes Bargain Hunter.

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A private woman has a very public life

Lucille Hastings by Bruce Stambaugh

Books have always played an integral part of Lucille Hastings' life.

By Bruce Stambaugh

For someone who relishes her privacy, Lucille Hastings of Big Prairie, Ohio has led a very public life.

Perhaps that seemingly contradictory situation is because of her love for life long learning. Hastings has had this instinctive drive to share what she learns. In short, contributing personally and professionally to the community at large has been a way of life.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise for someone who has her major life concepts down pat. Her life has revolved around her personal faith and church fellowship, service to others, which includes family, friends and the larger community.

Having lived on a farm for most of her life, she heartily reveres the land as a true gift from God. To accomplish and enjoy all that, she also believes in healthy personal lifestyles.

“I do water aerobics three times a week,” she said. “I need to watch my weight.”

Once she began her own well-researched and devised low carbohydrate diet a dozen years ago, Hastings lost 100 pounds. She has continued to be very careful about what she eats.

“Physical and emotional health are very important,” she related. Hastings said that as much for herself as for the benefit of others.

Hastings is fastidious about everything she does. But some things in life have been out of her control.

Hastings retired in 1992 from West Holmes Local Schools after serving 34 years as the library/media director in charge of the district’s libraries. Since then, she has continued as a part-time educational library/media consultant to the district.

“I retired because Jim retired,” she said, referring to her late husband. He died in 2000. “I miss Jim,” she said wistfully, “but I worked through it.” They had been married for 43 years.

She still lives on the Hastings family farm, which is rented out to an area farmer. The farm’s old barn was burned several years ago when a string of arson fires hit Holmes and surrounding counties.

Lover of the land that she is, Hastings said she marvels at how the agriculture around her has changed over the years. She has a great appreciation for her neighbors.

“The Amish have gradually moved into our area because the land was cheaper,” she said. “They are simply wonderful neighbors.”

With her background in library, it should come as no surprise that she considers herself a very organized person. She attributes that trait to enabling her to be of service to the larger community.

“Services like libraries, schools and churches happen because people make them happen,” Hastings said. “They just don’t happen by themselves.” Given her life long service to the surrounding community, Hastings clearly has done her best to improve those services for the community at large.

Here is a sampling of the many positions in which Hastings has served. She was president of the State Library Board of Ohio. She served on the Holmes County Library board for 16 years, 10 of which she was president. She was chairperson of the Ohio Reading Circle board for 16 years. That volunteer position allowed her to donate $350,000 worth of Reading Circle books to the county and local school libraries.

Hastings is a member of the Ohio Director of Agriculture’s 12-person advisory committee for administration of Ohio’s $25 million Clean Air/Clean Water Fund for Farmland Preservation.

She was the first woman president of the Holmes County Farm Bureau, and she is the only woman Sunday school teacher at her church. She has taught Sunday school for 60 years, and she is chairperson of the Mission Ministry at Ripley Church of Christ. She was a member of the Holmes County board of elections for eight years.

Hastings good works haven’t gone unnoticed. She has been dooly recognized for her many efforts. She received the Martha Holden Jennings Outstanding Teacher Award in 1974. She was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007. That same year Hastings received the Outstanding Alumni Award from Kent State University, where she received her Master of Arts Degree.

Hastings has two sons. Joel lives in Dallas, Texas, and Sidney resides in St. Louis, Missouri.

“I feel like I have been blessed,” she said. “I have had some unique opportunities.” And because she made the most of those chances, the community has reaped the benefits.

That’s what happens when life long learning is generously and graciously shared.

This article appeared in the Holmes Bargain Hunter, August 30, 2010.

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