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In our first "Sense of Community" feature of the week, Tony and Marion Garcia do everything they can to be good neighbors to those around them--they feel it's a calling.
RANDY: What makes a “good neighbor?”DONNA JONES: Well, I think it’s someone you can trust, someone that will step in and help you--and someone you want to help. So it’s kind of a real mutuality of being a support.RANDY: That’s Donna Jones. She and her husband Dennis Rutledge responded to KSMU’s request for nominations for our “Good Neighbor” series. They nominated Tony and Marion Garcia, who we’ll hear from in a moment. Donna and Dennis are both associated with an organization that in itself defines “good neighbor”: the American Red Cross. Donna is employed at the local Red Cross offices as Regional Development Director, while Dennis is a disaster volunteer and teaches first-aid courses. Dennis’s work on the Red Cross’s disaster team keeps him away from home a lot, especially during tornado and hurricane season.DENNIS RUDLEDGE: I always have the option to say “no thanks” when there’s a request for volunteers, but I really go as often as I can. It’s good to help if I can.RANDY: Which makes Dennis himself a “good neighbor!” But this is where Tony and Marion Garcia step in, as far as Donna is concerned.DONNA: These are people that live next to us… that are there. My husband volunteers and he’s out of town a number of times, and this neighbor steps in and watches over me when he’s gone.RANDY: But that isn’t the main reason Tony and Marion Garcia immediately came to mind when Donna Jones heard KSMU’s call for nominations.DONNA: I think the incident that prompted it… we’ve been there in the neighborhood for twelve years, and they’ve been really good support folks to us, and we borrow--he actually returns items that he borrows, doesn’t he, Dennis? And he fills the tank with gasoline! I mean, he’s just a sweetheart of a guy. And Marion’s been rely good and helping to support us if we’re gone and I forget to bring the newspapers in. They’ve been real good to collect those. But it was the event on one of the ice storms, when I got up one Saturday morning and I saw all kinds of pickup trucks out front. And I didn’t know what was happening--maybe it was a yard sale! But I looked out, and there was this little circle of men with their chainsaws, and they were praying. And as soon as they broke up they headed to our neighbor, and they helped him totally cut down to the ground a tree that had been horribly damaged in the storm. And I thought, “How wonderful of them!” And that was Tony and his church buddies. And then they came over and knocked on our door and said they knew that Dennis was responding to the ice storm and wasn’t there--could they help by trimming up some of our trees if we would allow that? And I thought that was really nice, and it was just one of those things.RANDY: For their part Tony and Marion Garcia were very pleasantly surprised when they received my call requesting an interview. Tony does marketing work for Service Master Restoration--he calls on insurance agents to try to get their insurance-claims business; Marion works for Mercy Health Plans selling Medicare products. To them, being good neighbors doesn’t just come naturally--it’s a calling.TONY GARCIA: We’ve lived in that same house since 1988. We moved out from southern California; we wanted to raise our son in an area that has the conservative values that we believe in. We didn’t do anything special that no one else would not do in our church. We go to Ridgecrest Baptist Church, and we did what we’re dictated to do as Christians: to help our fellow man. I got together a group of men from our Sunday School class during the ice storm, and there was a tree that had fallen down on (the property of) Donna’s neighbor Paul Epps. And we just took care of it and cleaned it up, and that was that. It was something we were supposed to do. Someday it’ll be done for us, hopefully.RANDY: This is Tony and Marion’s definition of “being a good neighbor”:TONY: I feel that that’s what we’re supposed to do, is help other people… and expect NOTHING in return.MARION: Right.TONY: As Christians we’re supposed to be a light unto the world, and just be an example to others. It’s like the commercials that you see about, you do a good deed, and then the next person sees it, and --it’s contagious.MARION GARCIA: And I feel it’s encouraging to people I know. Like with Mr. Epps, it was encouraging to him for us to take care of that for him. You know, he’s been our neighbor a long time, and he’s up there in years, so it was nice that they could step in and do that.RANDY: Well, can you suggest ways that folks might work toward being better neighbors to those in their community?TONY: Just look for a need around their neighborhood. And without being prompted, just go see if you can fill that need. And hopefully you’ll be able to fill their need again. But again, the main thing is, never expect anything in return.RANDY: Donna Jones, who nominated the Garcias for this feature:DONNA: Tony is just someone who really wants to help those that he lives around. He’s just a real special--they are a special people, both Marion and Tony.RANDY: At 4:30 this afternoon we examine the OTHER side of “neighbors,” with a visit to Missouri State University’s Center for Dispute Resolution.