Article in The Albuquerque Tribune: Tales of doing good reveal the satisfaction of helping others

When Terree Campbell learned the daughter of one of her employees had cancer, she knew she had to do something.

She had to do something to help with the family’s monthly medical bills, which were running in the thousands of dollars.

She had to do something about the family’s house payments as her employee, who preferred to remain unnamed, shifted money to health care.

“They’re wonderful people in a situation that’s awful,” said Campbell, co-owner of Campbell & Campbell Real Estate Services in Albuquerque. “We’re just trying to do everything we could do.”

Campbell helped organize a fund-raising barbecue, raffle and donation drive that, with the generous assistance of her staff, had collected $4,500 as of mid-December.

Campbell isn’t the only one in the Albuquerque area making an extra effort to help those in need, especially around the holidays. Stories of generosity are too numerous to track down, but a few can serve for the rest.

Some people are sharing food and belongings to set an example of generosity for their children. Others want to repay the favor of being helped themselves.

Some, like Campbell, want to help create a world of goodness where they would be treated with the same sympathy and kindness.

“If something happened to one of my kids, I’d look at it like the same thing,” Campbell said. “I would hope people would step up and help.”

She expressed amazement with the number of people who have helped.

“There are a lot of big hearts out there,” she said. “Sometimes I think we just don’t hear of it all the time in the news; the majority of which you’re going to get is negative.”

Classmates who care

Jana Henton, a fifth-grade teacher at S.Y. Jackson Elementary School, also says a lot of good gets missed.

Take the students at her school who have raised about $37,000 so far to help pay the medical bills of their classmate, Lane Cuthbert. The 10-year-old fourth-grader has Wegener’s granulomatosis, a potentially fatal disease that inflames blood vessels and can damage organs, and his classmates wanted to lend a hand.

“We want to help him because he’s really nice, and it’s really nice to help someone who is nice,” said Megan Schoepke, a fifth-grader who serves on the Student Council. “I hope he feels better, and I hope they find a cure for him so he can get better.”

The students have held a pickle sale and benefit dinner. A growing collection of donated books will be sold Jan. 30. Funds from the school’s annual St. Patrick’s Day bake sale will also go to Lane.

Robert Foster, Lane’s father, said he wasn’t surprised by the community’s reaction, but by the extent of it.

“It is just amazing,” he said. “The people coming up to you and saying, `I live right here, this address. If you guys ever need anything, just come on over.’ That just helps us deal with it and get through it.”

Henton gives credit to Lane’s classmates.

“The ideas and energy behind it have been generated by the kids,” she said. “Kids have good hearts.”

A mother’s hopes

Good hearts are made, not automatic, warns Placitas resident and mother Kathy Goldsmith.

“If all the children grow up thinking you’re not supposed to help, what’s going to happen to the people who actually need it? If everybody stops helping, it’s just not going to work. Life won’t work,” she said.

Goldsmith has been giving away extra food, donated by friends trying to help out her and her two 3-year-old daughters, for about a year to anyone who asked. She expanded her effort by posting a notice on Craigslist.org, a Web site that offers free classified ads, that invited anyone who was hungry to give her a call.

“We just ended up with too much food, and we don’t want it getting wasted,” she said. “We’re trying to help people the best we can, and hopefully karma will shine back on us.”

Over the past year, she said, she has helped about 200 people. Goldsmith also put out an open invitation to anyone looking to share a Christmas dinner. So far one family and one other person have responded.

“I think America was set up to help out people, no matter their race, color, financial status,” she said. “That’s part of being human, too – just trying to help each other.”

Dinner for strangers

After encouragement from her children, Rio Rancho resident Yolanda Sosa advertised a free Thanksgiving dinner on Craigslist. She received 10 responses, far more than she had expected.

“Every one of them asked for it for themselves, except for one,” she said. “She was asking for it for her neighbor.”

The neighbor’s husband had just left her and her three kids, ages 15, 10 and 8, without any money, Sosa said she was told, the result being a canceled Thanksgiving dinner.

“My children and I have been in that situation before where we’ve needed help and somebody came in to help us,” Sosa said. “I was like, `She’s gong to have a Thanksgiving dinner.’ ”

With the clear chance to help someone who saw a neighbor in need; a freezer full of turkeys, purchased during a sale at Smith’s; and her children enthusiastic about sharing meals after participating in a food drive at school, the decision was easy.

The meal was delivered to the neighbor through the woman who originally contacted Sosa on Craigslist. The gift made the neighbor cry, Sosa learned through an e-mail.

“My son, I saw the tears forming in his eyes when he read that e-mail,” she said. “I think more it helped my kids than it did me. They knew they were making somebody else happy.”

The Sosa family plans on giving away a turkey for Christmas.

“I try to do everything I can to teach my kids that it’s not about you, it’s about helping other people,” Sosa said. “It gives you hope to know there’s good people in the world.”

The Albuquerque Tribune published this article Dec. 24, 2007.

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