Feeling blessed

Area residents still thankful despite difficult year

Nehemiah Project kitchen manager Edward Summers carves one of the 24 turkeys that were served Wednesday with 400 drive-thru and 200 delivered Thanksgiving dinners at The Wright Place for Kids at 1809 11th St. in Altoona. Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

When asked what she feels grateful about this Thanksgiving, in spite of COVID-19 and 2020’s other disruptions, Pat Griffith of Tyrone spoke of her volunteer work, which satisfies a compulsion that surfaced when she was a child in Bald Eagle.

Her family had a cocker spaniel, Randy, and she would steal Randy’s food.

Why are you doing that? her mother asked.

To take to the hunting dogs, Pat replied.

Those dogs lived nearby, but their owner lived elsewhere, and they were starving.

OK then, her mother said.

“I’m just one of those people that God made a true animal lover,” Griffith said this week. The feeling is especially strong for neglected creatures, she said.

She’s thankful she can exercise that fervor now for the benefit of stray cats in Tyrone, through a group she helped found last year, Purrfect Paws and Pals.

The group has spayed and neutered 305 strays, 99 of which have been adopted, she said.

They have 20 cats in foster care, including one at her house — “a sweet thing,” she said.

She was planning to take in six cats on Wednesday.

“I feel the need to do my part for animals that can’t speak for themselves,” Griffith said. “I’ve often said to people that if I ever end up in jail, it would be because I saw someone abusing kids or animals.”

She lives on Jefferson Avenue, where people dump cats under the impression that it’s OK, because of the woods on the ridge behind.

But there are hawks, coyotes and foxes there, and it’s not OK, she said.

Sometimes it can feel like a burden, given the time and emotional energy required, she said.

“(But) God has put that on my heart,” she said. “I just love animals, period.”

Protecting people

John Frederick, interim manager of Antis Township, is grateful for what he believes is a political detente on the coronavirus.

“I’m encouraged by the fact that people have been able to put aside this silly partisan divide” about mask-wearing, Frederick said.

Everyone’s weary of COVID-19 and what it has inflicted, he said.

Everybody has coronavirus fatigue, he said.

But people understand “it’s still worth the effort to protect the people you love and even the people you don’t know,” he said.

Grateful for science

Steve Elfelt of Altoona is grateful for “all the epidemiologists and virologists who keep slaving away, taking all kinds of s—, who keep telling it the best they can” to keep everyone safe from COVID-19, he said.

He’s thankful that science is “self-correcting,” so its advice improves, as practitioners learn from experimentation and experience, he said.

He’s grateful that we don’t live in the dark ages — although he’s concerned that anti-science is looking to turn back “the Enlightenment,” in favor of “hand-waving and dabbling in magic,” he said.

It’s painful “watching so many people saying science is bull—-,” Elfelt said. “I’m profoundly troubled that people won’t get with the program.”

Appreciating people

Woody Pyeatt is grateful for “the results of the election,” he said.

Donald Trump was “the worst president of my lifetime, and I’ll be 71 in January,” Pyeatt said. “I know President (Joe) Biden is going to move us back toward a more responsible government” — provided the Senate will allow it, he said.

But Pyeatt’s focus is mostly here, he said.

He’s grateful for his sons, his grandchild, his daughter-in-law and his wife; for St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Altoona, where he’s a junior warden; for the church’s food pantry; and for the work of a faith-based environmental organization called Interfaith Power & Light, he said.

Obviously, there are “bad things” about the pandemic, but there are also “good things,” about which he’s grateful, he said.

“People taking care of each other,” Pyeatt said. “Protecting themselves and each other. Appreciating each other.” There’s always some good, if we look for it, he said.

Social media

Jeff Blake of Logan Township is thankful his family hasn’t been “directly affected” by COVID-19, for the life-saving instruction of science, for technology like Facetime, Snapchat and other social media that enables people to keep connections safely, for family income “that hasn’t been interrupted,” for “dedicated health care workers” and for other “frontline workers,” and for his family’s being able to “help people when they need it.”

Thankful for Constitution

State Rep. Lou Schmitt of Altoona is thankful for his family and that “we have a Constitution that still works.”

“It creeps along, an old ship, with some timbers rotted, and it leaks,” Schmitt said. “But as long as we have that written Constitution, America will be OK: that beautiful Constitution that somehow gets us through times like this.”

Thanksgiving Mass

Peach Maschue of Altoona is thankful she and her husband, Joe, can go to Mass today at their parish church, St. Rose of Lima.

They had to reserve a spot because of COVID-19, to ensure too many people wouldn’t be present.

“We’re signed up and ready to go,” Peach said.

She plans to thank God “in person.”

“I know that all the blessings we have come from God,” she said.

Staying healthy

Angela Lynch, who works at COPY-Rite on Union Avenue, is grateful that no one in her extended family has been infected.

She and her sisters and nieces are all cautious, and often talk about “no-maskers” and why they seem to frequent certain stores — which she avoids, Lynch said.

Don Bowers is “bummed out” about missing ball games this year and about the cancellation of in-person Groundhog Day attendance in Punxsutawney, but he’s grateful for his health, his job at the Altoona Parking Authority, his other job selling firewood on his own and the opportunity to do more fishing than usual in 2020.

Comfort of sports

Tammy Wills, track and cross-country coach in the Tyrone Area School District, is grateful her teams were able to get in a full cross-country season.

“The kids needed it,” she said. “That was cross-country, COVID-style.”

Spring was hard on the kids, not being with their friends, in virtual classes, she said.

“A lot of kids struggled with that,” she said.

In the fall, during the season, there were masks and temperature checks every day, and everyone was aware that “the other shoe could drop, and they could shut everything down,” she said.

“(But) we got all our meets in,” she said.

Sports was a comfort, and kids were happy to be out, she said.

“Psychologically and physically, it was some normalcy,” she said.

“This has just been a very different year,” she said. “It made all of us realize what blessings we have.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.


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