Need produce, a visit or a ride? Just call 1-800-Stephanie

By Freida Marie Crump
The Coonridge Digest
Greetings from the Ridge.
Let me tell you about a remarkable woman. Her name is Stephanie and her age hovers between 50 and 70, depending upon the time of the day, the weather, and her mood. She married young, had a couple of kids, then divorced her husband. In her words, “He was okay . . . for awhile. But then all he wanted to do was sit around, said he wanted to be a stay at home father. I found out he was pretty good at first part.” So for the past 15 or 20 years Stephanie’s been pretty much her own woman.
“I gotta be up and doing something, Freida,” she told me. “I cannot for the life of me see any purpose for living if all you’re going to do is breathe and take up space. Life’s too short!” And in fact most days are too short for my buddy Steph.

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Twice a week you’ll find her peddling her home-grown produce at the local Farmers’ Market. Fact is, veteran buyers know that if you want some of her choice heirloom tomatoes you’d better be first in line and make a hot dash to Stephanie’s stall, because no matter how many she brings that week they’ll be gone within the first hour. Some of the other local vendors secretly sneak their own kids down early to buy their own stash. It’s a private project of hers. “Every nickel,” she told me, “goes into a scholarship fund for my two granddaughters. Some day I hope they’ll ride to college on a load of Grandma’s tomatoes. And of course every hour she spends selling her produce gets multiplied times ten back her her home patch.
Every day when she’s done at the market she’ll stop at each of our three local nursing homes. She says that legally these places can’t give out this information, but Stephanie has a “mole” in each of these homes who tell her which residents haven’t received many or any visitors lately. She heads down the hallway and spends some time chatting with folks, quizzing them about days gone by, giving them a weather report, then asking what they need done for them. She said, “Freida, if the job took brains I couldn’t do it, but it doesn’t, so I do.”
Our local Congressman has an office in a nearby town and my wild friend makes it a point to stop in at least once a month to chat with his secretary, asks what he’s been doing in the past week, and gives her opinion on any current matters. “The actual Congressman has never been there once when I stopped, but I think it does some good to know that someone’s checking in.”
Coonridge is fairly scenic as small towns go but we’re not big enough to have an actual parks commission. In fact, our entire town maintenance crew amounts to Hurley Brown, one truck and a few tools, so Stephanie has appointed herself beautification chief for the village. If there’s a little plot of ground around a stop sign or a vacant strip of park she’ll dig up the dirt and drop in a few flower seeds. If the rains are good then Coonridge starts seeing Stephanie sprouts at the end of spring and they remain a joy to us all summer. “Seeds are cheap,” she told me. “God does the hard part.”
Some folks in town actually look forward to aging if that means they’ll get to meet at the town hall on Monday’s where Steph is in charge of Meals of Love. Her noodles have been known to drive grown men a bit crazy. “It’s the butter,” she tells me. “They think it’s my technique, but it’s the real butter and lots of it.”
In most places “public transportation” means a city bus or a seniors’ van. In Coonridge it’s dial 1-800-STEPHANIE. You need a ride somewhere and she’ll be at your door. She said, “Sunday can get hectic. Lots of folks would go to church if they had a way, but I’ve got a system figured out. I’m usually taking the Catholics home by the time the Presbyterians are ready to go to church. It takes some tricky scheduling. I don’t have time to bother with cell phones, but so far I’ve never left anyone at home or at the church.” So where does she go to church? “Wherever I make my last stop!”
Various other days of the week find her volunteering to distribute mail at the hospital, faithfully attending the meetings of at least two service organizations, volunteering as a reader at our local elementary school, plus a host of things that I’m sure she’s failed to mention.  
Her only complaint? “There’s just not enough time in the world, Freida. So much to do and I’m always running out of time.”
So. . . how much good did you do the world by checking your electronic devices today?
You ever in Coonridge, stop by. We may not answer the door but you'll enjoy the trip.