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Sharing hope for the new year Readers ready to make things happen in 2013

  • Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, at 11:26 p.m.

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This story was reported with the help of the Public Insight Network, a partnership between journalists and readers. To join, go to Kansas.com/publicinsight and click on the “get started” link. It’s free. We won’t spam you or sell your information to marketers. About once a month we may send you an e-mail asking for your ideas and experiences on other local issues.

On a January night 14 years ago, the telephone rang as Judy Jones was pulling a turkey out of the oven to serve at a dinner for friends.

It was her doctor, calling to tell her she had a rare and incurable form of bone marrow cancer.

Her dinner guests passed up the turkey and left in tears, except for a recently divorced male friend who told her he couldn’t pass up a homemade meal.

2012 was her best year ever. Jones, 72, learned she had beaten the disease, winning a battle she had waged through more than a decade of chemotherapy and stem-cell transplants.

Her advice for 2013?

“Fight,” she said. “Fight as if your life depends on it. It does.”

“Don’t give up,” she said. “Just don’t give up.”

Most respondents to an Eagle query conducted through the Public Insight Network said they hope the new year will bring positive developments for them and for the nation.

A few despaired that our politicians seem incapable of working with each other to solve the country’s problems and don’t seem to care about the people anymore.

“Mankind has failed us. God, please take over,” wrote one query respondent.

But, in interviews as well as in written responses, most said they know it is up to them to make their lives better.

Lori Lawrence, a sign-language interpreter, made good things happen in her life in 2012.

She rented scaffolding and stripped and painted the side of her house. She organized a neighborhood picnic. She planned and carried out a community event celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on interracial marriage, and she worked with the Murdock Theater to bring a movie about the subject to Wichita.

She also wrote and printed a neighborhood newsletter and took on another newsletter that has had its first printing.

She reported suspicious people in her neighborhood, served on boards and picked up trash wherever she went.

“I know I can solve any problem by taking action and working with neighbors or the city to resolve it,” Lawrence said. “The only thing I wish would change is the attitude of others in Wichita. Don’t blame others, take action and make the change yourself!”

Lawrence expects to make 2013 another good year.

“No one can make it a bad year for me. I am in control of what happens,” she said.

2012 was a horrible year for Debora Ewertz. She was still dealing with the loss of her mother the previous year when she lost the job she’d held for 28 years, then lost her niece in an auto accident in Arizona.

She believes that 2013 will be the start of better things for her. A registered nurse, she’s been exploring her job options and discovered there are plenty out there. She has started to get certified as a legal nurse consultant.

Her goal in 2013 is “making sure that I’m strong in my beliefs and values, so that when I find a new job and the days go into the New Year that I can stay strong and be true to myself,” she said.

Kay Thacker, 55, a former child care teacher and stay-at-home grandmother, had to move in with a son in 2012 because she couldn’t afford to live on her own.

”I was just having a hard time trying to make it on my own, and he was having a hard time making it on his own,” she said. “It’s working alright, I guess.”

Thacker is happy that she was able to use some money returned to her by the IRS to buy Christmas gifts for her grandkids as well as kids in two out-of-state families she found on the Internet. She had dropped some money into the Salvation Army kettles in the past, but had never bought gifts for strangers before.

She has helped with school lunches for kids who don’t get school lunches, and may continue doing that.

“I kind of feel that 2013 is going to be the year that maybe we’re going to come around. I feel things will start picking up a little bit.”

Thomas Gallegos, 34, spent 2012 making the transition from military to civilian life

He had been in the Army for 16 years, including two tours in Iraq. He was part of the 2003 invasion, during which he fired rockets and missiles.

Gallegos, a staff sergeant, was diagnosed with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury, and received a medical retirement in 2012.

His wife, Heather, is his backbone, Gallegos said. They have two boys, ages 11 and eight, in the Maize school system.

With his experience in leadership and his skills working with people, Gallegos thought it would be easy to find a job when he returned to Wichita

Instead, he couldn’t even get an interview.

But he has a plan. This month, Gallegos will start classes in database administration at Butler Community College. From there, he will move on to Wichita State University or another four-year school in computer science.

Gallegos is certain there will be a job out there for him.

“You just got to have a positive outlook,” he said. “It’s going to do no good for me or my family to say, ‘Why me?’ You gotta go after it. If you want something, you gotta go get it.”

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