Thumbs up: Kyle Easley
It’s a good thing that 10-year-old Kyle Easley has a good sense of hearing — and a caring heart. Kyle was on his way home from the school bus stop one recent afternoon when he heard someone crying out for assistance. He didn’t hesitate to lend a helping hand. Kyle discovered that the cries were coming from Mary J. Hurd, 83, who lives across the street from the Easley home in the Priest Point Park neighborhood. Hurd had been putting seed in the bird feeders in her front yard when she missed a step and fell. She could not regain her footing. When Hurd asked him to come help her up, Kyle said he wasn’t supposed to go onto strangers’ property, so he sprinted for help — first from his mother, then together they flagged down a passing motorist. Kyle and his mother, Florence, stayed with Hurd for almost an hour, making sure she was OK. Kyle went out and found Hurd’s glasses, which had gone flying when she fell. Florence Easley helped Hurd clean cuts on her hands and replaced the lens that fell out of her glasses. Kyle’s mom and dad, Michael, are “beyond proud” of their son. Said Florence, “It’s just the kind of kid he is. He has always been a really helpful and really sensitive, caring kid.” Kyle’s actions drew praise from Hurd as well when she said, “Bless his heart, he was so nice.”
Thumbs down: Unemployment
While the national unemployment rate last year was 9.3 percent, the highest since 1983, the unemployment rate for young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans returning to the United States hit 21.1 percent, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The number was well above the 16.6 percent jobless rate for non-veterans of the same ages, 18 to 24. As of last year, 1.9 million veterans had deployed for the wars since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Some have struggled with mental health problems, addictions, and homelessness as they return home. Difficulty finding work can make the adjustment that much harder. The just-released rate for young veterans was significantly higher than the unemployment rate of 14.1 percent for young veterans in that age group in 2008. Many of the unemployed are members of the Guard and Reserves who have deployed multiple times, said Joseph Sharpe, director of the economic division at the American Legion. Sharpe said some come home to find their jobs have been eliminated because the company has downsized. Other companies may not want to hire someone who could deploy again or will have medical appointments because of war-related health problems, he said. Veterans have enough problems reintegrating into society without the additional burden of trying to find a job.
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Thumbs up: Kiwanis Club
The Olympia Kiwanis Club plans to double the garden space it nurtured last year, growing fresh produce for the Thurston County Food Bank in 10 garden locations. Club spokesman Don Leaf said the 15 to 20 club volunteers raised 24,000 pounds of beans, squash, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, salad greens and other vegetables last year and will have 1.5 acres under cultivation this year. One of the likely additions to the Kiwanis garden sites is nearly 13,000 square feet of unused planter boxes on the state Capitol Campus just south of the Employment Security Building. The harvest of fresh produce is greatly appreciated by food bank clients during the summer and fall. Kiwanis Club members also have a $35,000 capital improvement project in the works this spring called “Raise the Barn.” For the past 20 years, Kiwanis Club members have worked and stored their farm equipment in a leaky, dilapidated, A-frame building. With the help of community donations and building support from the Olympia Master Builders, the club will erect a two-story, 1,200-square-foot barn that will serve as a place to store equipment, process crops, and gather students and other volunteers for garden orientations, according to project coordinator Derek Valley explained. What a great partnership for a terrific local cause.
Thumbs up: Employers
Four South Sound businesses were recently recognized for employing people with disabilities. Nationally, 70 percent of individuals with disabilities are unemployed. A big thumbs up to businesses that make the extra effort to find appropriate jobs for people with disabilities. Honored during a recent Thurston County Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Lacey were the McDonald’s off Yelm Highway, Red Robin restaurant in Olympia, an entertainment center for children called Charlie’s Safari in Lacey, and The Coffee News, a weekly publication based in Olympia. Officials from Morningside, a longtime Olympia nonprofit that helps find employment for people with disabilities, made the presentation. John Evans, a statewide vocational rehabilitation program administrator, told employers, “You hold the door to opportunity. You open it or you don’t. We don’t succeed without you.” Evans also noted that nationally people with disabilities represent $1 trillion in aggregate spending power and $200 billion in discretionary spending. “Remember the purchasing and spending power by embracing people in our communities with disabilities.” Evans’ reminders are a great message to business owners and to other community residents, too.