Dr. Bill Atwood

A fisherman’s tale

During the next few weeks, you may have the opportunity to meet Mitchell Cooper. Mitchell is a senior at Yosemite High School and like all the members of the Class of 2016, he must complete a senior project. These projects involve community service and are an excellent teaching tool utilized by YHS and other high schools across this country to teach the students many things.

The students learn about giving back to the community. They discover the work involved in developing an idea for the project, learn to present the project for school approval, develop action plans and learn how to get others to either volunteer or to help by donating time, talent, or treasure.

The senior projects also allow students to look around and see that many others are in need of help and that they may hold the key to helping that person or cause. The Pet Food Bank dinner at DiCicco’s last month was such a project, and now I am able to share with you about Mitchell’s plan to help our wounded and ailing veterans.

Mitchell has decided to gather items for the Fisher House Program. The closest Fisher House to our area is in Sacramento but young Mr. Cooper hasn’t allowed miles to stand in his way. He has already garnered the donations necessary to rent a truck and take the items north to the state capital. He tells me that the truck to be filled is the size of a standard U-Haul moving truck so he can take many items.

Over the next couple of weeks, you may find Mitchell outside of Vons or Raley’s soliciting donations. We can either toss him some dollars, or ask what he needs and step inside to buy the item and hand it to him on the way out to our cars. Rotary and Kiwanis, along with Soroptomists, as well as the other great service organizations could contact Mitchell through the school office and he could make a presentation about Fisher House, and then each group can make a donation to that cause.

Mitchell is doing this for Fisher House in memory of his grandfather, John Johnson, who served in the Army during Vietnam. Mitchell is contemplating an enlistment in the military and his family ties to each branch of the services runs deep.

Fisher House Foundation has been around since 1990 and the purpose of the program is to provide housing for the families of Veterans receiving treatment at a military or VA hospital while the veteran is in that nearby hospital. The program serves about 19,000 families each and the estimate is around $200 million dollars that the Fisher House Foundation has saved families from out of pocket expenses while they stay in one of the houses.

Each Fisher House has private suites and private baths for the visiting families yet they share a common kitchen and dining area. There is never a fee for any of the families who stay at a Fisher House.

It sounds like common household items are needed. Toilet paper and paper towels. Soap and shampoo and hair conditioners. Pots and pans and a new toaster or microwave might help and there is always a need for linen or towels.

Bring your dollars out of your wallet when you happen to see Mitchell standing at the door of the store. Ask for a list of what is needed and help fill that need. Imagine the truckload of stuff if every member of every service organization brought in just one item each. That’s a load of paper products to be sure.

I’ve never met Mitchell. I couldn’t pick him out of a group of two. I’ve only talked to him on the phone three times but he impresses me. He has a plan and it is a good one and it allows each of us in a small way to send a message of love and support to those who love and support the ones who protect our liberty.

I will be making my donation in honor of John Johnson’s grandson. As a grandfather myself, I can say with certainty that Mitchell’s grandfather would be proud of his grandson’s efforts.

When speaking with Mitchell over the phone a few weeks ago, I asked him to tell me about himself and he stated he wasn’t anything very special, just an ordinary kid.

There’s something special about a kid who takes the responsibility of his senior project to heart and decides to help the families of the men and women of the Armed Forces with the knowledge that there will be a great deal of work along with zero glory for himself.

Mitchell is now our “fisherman,” so as he casts his nets upon the waters, let us fill them up. We can help our “fisherman” have a great catch.