Westerville resident Diane Ewald wants children to have equal opportunities.
Through Harlem Township Helping Hands, chartered under the Harlem Township Civic Association, she helps coordinate a back-to-school event at the end of July so students in the Big Walnut Local School District start the new year with everything they need.
“It’s a summer program where we do the one-stop, back-to-school,” she said. “We have a station and give away new shoes. The child has to be there. We fit them. We also have a station where we do the basics—underwear, socks, hoodies.”
The event is held at Church of the Saviour United Methodist in Westerville.
“We’ll give out toiletries to put in a backpack for gym,” Ewald said. “United Way of Delaware County comes in. They (students) get basic supplies.”
Ewald, 64, said she just wants to make sure children have a measure of dignity when they go back to classes.
“You can start out on the same foot as everyone,” she said. “There’s a measure of respect in there that I think everyone deserves. That keeps me going.”
Ewald said she has been helping local children for quite a while through Harlem Township Helping Hands. She also helps supply coats, hats and gloves for children in need at Christmas. Ewald said 130 children were assisted in the school program last year and 80 received help at the holidays.
“There was a resident of our township who kind of collaborated with a first-grade teacher at (Hylen) Souders Elementary,” Ewald said. “I worked with her, and it blossomed from there. I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years.”
Ewald said she believes in the program and credits volunteer Teri Farina for support.
“We’ve worked in tandem throughout the years,” she said. “Every year she’s ready to go. She’s just as much a part of making sure the kids are taken care of as I am. Volunteers come and go, and she has stuck with me. We’ve been a dynamic duo.”
Ewald, who works in retail, often uses her employee discount at Kohl’s to purchase items for the children.
She said the summer program is also made possible thanks to contributors to Harlem Township Helping Hands.
“It’s a community thing that they take care of each other,” Ewald said. “It takes a village, it really does.
“You wouldn’t think kids get excited about underwear and socks, but one little girl showed me her princess underwear. A lot of times they want to walk out in their new shoes. They’re very cute,” she said.
Diane Kabler, president of the Harlem Township Civic Association, nominated Ewald as an Everyday Hero. She said the township tries to assist everyone, and they all know Ewald.
“She’s always been involved in helping people,” Kabler said. “She’s a kind soul.”
Kabler said Ewald’s efforts help support the civic association’s mission.
“During the year, she (Ewald) starts buying and looks for bargains. She’s a great shopper,” Kabler said.
During a community meeting, Kabler said, Ewald would show a long receipt of things she had purchased, and it came out to only $10.
“She’s a good buyer,” Kabler said. “She has sisters, and every year they go to Pennsylvania and shop at the outlet stores.
“We try to help people in the community who need it,” she said. “They all know Diane. Everyone recognizes her generosity.”