Tonawanda News

November 22, 2012

The best things in life ... aren't things

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — It’s a saying that you see on bumper stickers, on coffee mugs, on those cheesy Facebook memes, ubiquitous this time of year in particular. The meaning, of course, is that the best things in life can’t be bought at Walmart. Pleasure at a job well done. The sight of a sunset. Good health. And family and friends and the people who muddle through life with us.

For all its cheesiness, of course, it’s true. (Usually, anyway. Sometimes I’m pretty darned grateful for things.)

I can tell you that what I’m most grateful for, this Thanksgiving, is people. My sons. My husband. My parents and brother and other family and all the friends I’ve somehow managed to accumulate throughout the years. As long as I have them ... I’m good.

It’s easy, working at a newspaper, to focus on the negative. A lot of the people who appear in these pages are in trouble, in the police blotter or in some sort of personal crisis. Or they’re national sports figures or politicians or people who have very little to do with the everyday lives of the average Western New Yorker.

But in my years at the Tonawanda News, especially the past 11 months or so of being back to reporting, I’ve met some amazing people. From the Men of Honor and Women of Distinction we profile every year to the teachers at local schools, to veterans taking the time to share their experiences with local children to business owners giving back to the community that supports them. 

A few of them, just from the past week:

• People just keep saying that they don’t know how John White does it. White, of Tonawanda, has been running the annual Rockin’ with Santa for more than a decade, making sure that hundreds of Western New York children get something for Christmas, even when times are tough.

When you talk to him, White continually lauds all the people who make Rockin’ With Santa a reality. But it wouldn’t happen if someone wasn’t there to organize it and keep it going.

• Then there’s Carole Barnard and the folks at the Tonawanda Historical Society, who donate their time and effort to making sure the history of the Tonawandas is kept alive. (And Donna Zellner Neal and the folks at the North Tonawanda History Museum, as well.)

I talked to Barnard recently about the Long Homestead (which opens 1 to 4 p.m. this Sunday for its holiday hours) and you can just hear the passion for the home and its story in her voice. We should all be so passionate about something.

• Nancy Swiston isn’t in it for recognition, either. Everything she does, she does in honor of her mom, Grace, who fought Alzheimer’s disease for a decade.

Swiston lobbies for Alzheimer’s awareness, runs a support group and organizes a local fundraiser to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association of Western New York. Most recently, she’s started a campaign to have local bakeries ice some of their products purple as a a way to highlight November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. 

She doesn’t get anything for this ... just the knowledge that, somehow, somewhere, someone else’s battle might be a little easier because of it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, be thankful for your neighbors, for the men and woman all around us who are trying to do what they can to make this life just a little bit better for everyone. 

They’re not doing it for thanks. But they deserve it nonetheless.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Speaking of which ... Nancy Swiston reports that more bakeries have joined her purple-icing for Alzheimer’s disease campaign, joining Budwey’s stores and Carriage Trade Pastries in putting purple goodies on their shelves to raise awareness of the disease. 

Bakeries at Dash’s Markets in the Town of Tonawanda, Clarence, Buffalo and East Amherst will be participating in the campaign the last week of November, as will Paula’s Donuts locations in Buffalo and Clarence. Dash’s will have pastry hearts iced in purple, as well as some other items, and Paula’s Donuts will have ... you guessed it!

So, if you’re looking for a Thanksgiving weekend treat for family or friends in town for the holiday — or just a energy-booster while Christmas shopping — you know where to look.

And for more information on the Alzheimer’s Association, Western New York chapter, call (800) 272-3900 or visit

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at