Welcome home, Staff Sgt. Richard Lussier, and what a welcome it was.
On Tuesday, Lussier was the surprise special guest at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Air Force Junior ROTC class at Lewiston High School. It was special because Lussier’s son, Caleb — a sophomore and ROTC cadet — didn’t know his father was back stateside.
The elder Lussier, a member of the Air National Guard 157th Refueling Wing based in Pease, N.H., returned Jan. 30 and stayed with his sister in Portland so his son wouldn’t know he was home yet. His wife, Caren, was in on the surprise.
So, too, were school officials, co-workers and family.
The reunion arranged through the generosity of so many people was heartwarming, as Caleb rushed across the room to hug his father as soon as he saw him. It was the kind of welcome any parent would cherish, and one cheered by Caleb’s friends and fellow ROTC members. (To witness the moment, go to www.sunjournal.com.)
According to school officials, Caleb was among a number of ROTC cadets who volunteered his time last fall to collect donations and assemble care packages for troops overseas. The work to help others, according to Vice Principal Donald Ferrara, helped Caleb get through the holidays while he was missing his father.
Caleb’s generosity of spirit and effort was certainly rewarded at school Tuesday.
Acts of charity and service have a way of winding back around like that.
Last week, Deputy Chief Jim Minkowski and Detective Bill Brochu of the Lewiston Police Department delivered more than $700 worth of clothes to the Edward Little Clothes Closet, a two-year-old project founded by librarian and media specialist Pat Gautier at the school to make free clothes available for students and their families in need.
The clothes, purchased by the Lewiston Police Athletic League, will help teens who can’t afford them, reducing their struggle to stay warm and helping them fit in with their peers.
It takes a tremendous effort by teachers at the school to keep the closet going, along with the generosity of donors such as PAL, but the fact is there’s a real need for this kind of thing in Maine communities, particularly for families struggling to find work and teens who are living on their own.
Others help out, too, including students in Rosaria Chantrill’s fashion and design class at EL who repair donated clothes, keep track of the closet inventory and organize clothing drives to restock the shelves.
“We had a local businessman who heard about us and brought in a bunch of stuff, just like Lewiston Police Athletic League,” Chantrill said, all to ease the lives of students, bettering their opportunities to become productive adults.
And, as often happens when people are helped along their path to success, they turn around and help others. We trust that will hold true with students who benefit from EL’s closet project.
(To help the Edward Little Clothes Closet, contact Gautier at the school at 783-8528.)
And, then, there’s the extraordinary generosity of a single individual.
Last week, in the course of his regular patrol, an Oxford County deputy sheriff encountered a woman and her young children who had run out of heating oil and were struggling to stay warm in their home. The deputy, who wants to remain anonymous, went to a local oil dealer and purchased 100 gallons of oil to be delivered to that family.
He spent $360 of his own money to help someone whom he recognized needed the help, and was so humble about it that his supervisors at the Sheriff’s Office weren’t even aware he had made such a generous gift until contacted by the Sun Journal.
It was a gift, not just of actual dollars but of kindness in immediately reaching out to help a family in great need. It was an exceptional gesture by a hardworking man, and the people of Oxford County are well-served having him patrolling the avenues and neighborhoods.
Hundreds of acts of kindness and generosity take place in our communities every day, most done without a whole lot of fanfare. Every act, though, is appreciated by those who benefit and each helps keep us connected to one another in the best possible way.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.