Volunteer, 97, among United Way breakfast honorees

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Marguerite Kosier will never forget how much the Salvation Army helped her family.

Her father died when she was 5 years old, leaving her mother to raise Kosier and her siblings. She worked very hard, but wasn’t always able to make ends meet.

One Christmas, Kosier remembers seeing a large basket dropped off at her home. When she asked her mother what it was, she told her it was food for the family’s Christmas dinner. The basket was from the Salvation Army.

It always stuck with her. So at age 92, Kosier decided to start volunteering in the food pantry at Newark’s Salvation Army. Since then, she has volunteered for eight hours per day, three days per week, for as long as she’s been able. Kosier will be 98 in July and said she has no plans to give up her volunteer work any time soon.

On Thursday, Kosier received the Ken Johnston Volunteer of the Year Award from the United Way of Licking County during its annual meeting and recognition breakfast.

“I was very much surprised,” Kosier said. “I’ve always been active. … I like to be busy and I like people.”

Having Kosier as a volunteer at the Salvation Army has been a blessing, said Maj. Diana DeMichael.

“She brings so much happiness when she comes, and she has that spirit of caring and giving that the Salvation Army stands for,” DeMichael said.

Kosier is one of many people making a difference in the Licking County community, and every one has their piece to contribute.

That was the theme of this year’s annual meeting and breakfast: Putting the pieces together. Deb Dingus, executive director for the United Way of Licking County, said the community was like a giant puzzle, one that needed help from everyone to put the pieces together.

And it’s United Way’s job to help facilitate that, Dingus said.

“We all have a shared vision, a shared goal to unite the community to improve people’s lives. And if every one of us adds our piece to the puzzle, we can change people’s lives,” she said.

This past year United Way funded 47 programs through 24 agencies throughout Licking County. The nonprofit also conducted a community needs assessment in hopes of learning what residents in Licking County need and how United Way can help to better serve them.

United Way also saw grassroots groups forming in Licking Valley, Pataskala and Granville in 2014, and is working with Johnstown residents to start a group there in 2015.

So far, the nonprofit has raised $1,914,491 for its 2014-25 campaign. All of those dollars will be used to help fund programs in Licking County, and there’s still time to contribute. The staff is hoping to reach its goal of $2 million before the campaign ends.

It’s a privilege to be a part of United Way, Dingus said, because she has seen year after year what a difference it can make in people’s lives.

One of those people is David Gallant. Gallant was working as a teacher in the Westerville School District when he underwent surgery on his knees. He was 27 years old, happily married and the holder of a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

After his operation he was prescribed Percocet, and that’s when everything changed.

“I come from a very large family and there was no history of addiction, so when I was prescribed Percocet, I didn’t think anything of it,” he said. “I was 27 years old and the addiction overtook me. I had no control over that in the moment, and before long I became a heroin addict.”

In 2014 Gallant found himself booked into the Licking County Justice System. When he was released he was referred to the Spencer House, and after his stay there he lived at the Salvation Army. He was eventually able to get his own apartment with the help of the Licking County Coalition for Housing.

Along the Gallant was connected to Behavioral Healthcare Partners of Central Ohio, Mental Health America of Licking County and The Main Place.

Today he’s more than 460 days sober and works as a site supervisor for The Main Place, supervising a staff of 27 and working with hundreds of clients.

“All of these agencies have benefited from United Way and were able to help put a little bit of my pieces back together,” Gallant said. “I love Newark today. You helped save my life, and now I’m looking forward to working with you to help others.”

emaddern@newarkadvocate.com

Found in The Newark Advocate April 16, 2015

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