You readers are so good to me! The response I received from the Easter column was so rewarding! I noticed there were so many write-ups about Jesus. Each one was different and yet the same. Great!
My write-ups on Sixto you thought were very impressive. It blows my mind when I think he has taken so many boys off the streets and is changing lives. What could be more worthwhile?
Then Thursday a strange thing happened to me. I got a call saying I had won $2.5 million and a Mercedes. I've received over 30 calls similar to this, but this one was different. He didn't ask me to go to Walmart and wire them X number of dollars, nor did he ask me informational questions so that he could exploit me. He said he would see me tomorrow at 11:30. That was Good Friday. Boy, what a good Friday that would be! Then I immediately called the police station. I told them the whole story and asked them if they came, could I call the police station and ask for two policemen in regular clothes to come over? They said yes, and we were set.
I thought, "Wouldn't it be great! I could pay for the new gym Sixto needs!" You guessed it - nobody came, but I did get something out of it. I didn't want them to find any papers around that would give them any information they could use to steal from me, so I cleaned out the whole apartment and hid the papers. Anyway, we still need philanthropists for the gym.
Today I have chosen Josie Costa Christopher as my heroine of the day. I know you have seen her picture in the paper often showing some of the good things she is doing for people and with people. Remember, a leader is as good as her followers. If the followers are good, the leader will be a good leader. Josie gives a big "thank you" to all the volunteers who have helped her so much!
Now I'm going to get personal and tell you a bit of Josie's family history. It's fascinating. For example, her mother Cali was born in Jamestown. When she was 5 years old, her father and family had to go back to Sicily to help take care of the grandmother and allow the grandfather to go to work. He was an itinerant farmer who needed a horse to get to work. Josie's job was to clean out the barn. Their house was about as big as my living room. They had no toilet, no running water, no electricity, only kerosene lamps. They were so poor! I forgot to mention that while her mother was growing up, World War I took place, and they were stuck there, so Cali married a man by the name of Costa. Josie was born into this family.
When Josie was 12 years old, they received a letter from Aunt Grace and Uncle Anthony Mistretti telling them that they would pay all expenses to Jamestown and vouch for them. In those days, an immigrant had to have somebody vouch for them, meaning if the immigrants couldn't find work, the voucher would take care of them. No welfare for them! (What happened? I wonder).
As they left Sicily, Josie vowed she would never be poor again. She would make something of herself! By the time she was 16, Josie had mastered the English language and was in eighth grade. Josie was always trying for self-improvement. While still in high school, Josie became a nurse after school hours. Josie graduated from Jamestown High School in 1955. Then she graduated from Jamestown School of Practical Nursing and began working in Brooks Hospital in Dunkirk. While there she attended hospital in-hours lectures. In 1956, she became a licensed practicing nurse.
Dr. Damania noticed her way with the patients, and he asked her to work with him. He was an oncologist. Cancer patients have very specific needs. They needed breast prostheses and mastectomy bras, and they sometimes could use turbans, wigs and pillows.
The list of patients grew, and Josie had to start her own business. It was called "Women's Perfection." She worked out of Dr. Damania's office and at home.
A group of volunteers started to sew turbans and pillows. The group used to talk about being a wonderful circle and how much love there was among them. Listening to them, Josie decided the club's name would be "Circle of Love."
Theresa Millazzo, who was a cancer patient and a member of the circle, one day recommended that they make prayer shawls. The group loved the idea, and so the shawls became a part of their package.
After Theresa passed away, the family decided the memorials should go to the Circle of Love. They needed material stuffing, threads, et cetera.
You have no idea how many people contribute to this work! School children stuff pillows. Some are public schools, and even the Christian Academy helps. These projects give so many youngsters opportunities to feel good about themselves. It provides a start to form habits to help others. They will be better mothers, too!
During the past 15 years, Josie has received many awards. Last year, she received the "Rising Star" award for all the improvements and art work she has done in her home and yard. She has received awards for her work as a nurse, for being the citizen of the year, for community services from the Chamber of Commerce, and for outstanding contributions to the community (Grace Stearns Award). I'm sure there are many more. I mention these to show you how a 12-year-old immigrant girl can make a difference in many lives!
She vowed she would never be poor, but she is rich because of her big heart. She cares less about money. She knows what real riches are!
I think this is a beautiful story. It should encourage everyone! If Josie Christopher can make a difference, why can't you?
I have a little personal story to add. My sister Josephine is "Jo Christopher" of Fredonia. They are mistaken for each other often, but they are two fine people, so they don't mind.
Another thing Josie asked me not to forget her boss Mike Cave of the Care Center. He often comes to her rescue. The circle meets there on Mondays, and he's always doing extra things for her. So you see, God has blessed her and him in many ways!
Happy birthday, Josie! I won't say how many! Thank you for the ricotta cheese cookies I found behind my door!
Margaret Valone is a Fredonia resident. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org