HOMETOWN HEROES | Shining light where they can

  • Wed Mar 1st, 2017 8:00am
  • Life

Each of us has a light within to shine, each has a gift to share. Without our lights, darkness prevails. Darkness can take form in many ways such as: hunger, anger, hopelessness, loneliness. Our light doesn’t have to be a bonfire — it can be one single flicker.

Betty and Dan Freeman believe the best way to replenish their own light is by sharing it each day with someone.

“Every single person has light to give.” Betty says, “Even Anne Frank despite all she had been through wrote, ‘I still believe that people are really good at heart.’”

Doug Hofius, an ardent volunteer himself, describes the Freemans. “Some people talk a good game about helping the needy, but Betty and Dan are hard at it everyday. If something needs to be done, they are there as volunteers, making good things happen. Each morning they start their day filling WIN (Whidbey Island Nourishes) free vending machines that care for our neediest neighbors. In other community needs, they are there to wash dishes, direct traffic, help a neighbor, whatever is needed.”

Dan was raised in a family of five boys, where food and shelter were not always a given. They moved so many times he can’t recall all the schools he went to. He says, “I remember living in the San Francisco projects and too many other places to name.”

Betty was raised in a loving home where she and her older sister were cherished and valued. “My parents were really good people. My mother was the best Christian I knew. Her gift of light was kindness.”

“People just wanted to behave well around her. She was never judgmental, always giving people the benefit of the doubt. My dad suffered from depression. Yet he still shared his light to others by treating all with value and respect.”

When Dan and Betty were putting themselves through college, they wanted to live together, however they thought of Betty’s parents, and how it would hurt them. Dan went and asked Betty’s dad, for her hand in marriage.

Betty recalls, “It was good that we had that extra layer of a marriage certificate, maybe it would have been too easy to not stay together; every marriage has its ups and downs.” They look at one another and smile.

The Freeman’s begin every morning, as Betty says, “As a daily affirmation of our values.” Following them around on their daily routine begins at 8 a.m. First stop is Whidbey Island Bagel Factory to pick up donated bagels for WIN.

Then off to the WIN kitchen to pack and organize healthy foods prepared for the free vending machines on South Whidbey. From there to Island Church, Good Cheer and to Clinton’s free vending machine to replenish with WIN’s healthy foods. Vending machine user’s have posted sticky notes on the bulletin board. One reads; ‘Please tell everyone thank you, we don’t know what we would do without the generosity of caring people.’

Betty is a WIN employee, Dan tags along as a volunteer. They’ve been teaming up like this for four years.

Back at the Freeman’s home seated in their kitchen enjoying coffee, and Betty’s homemade scones, Dan says, “My family could have used free food vending machines when I was growing up. I will do this volunteering as long as I can. The people we meet, the volunteers, and those that come to get the free food all inspire me.”

A couple of weeks ago, Dan noticed a man came for food who didn’t have shoes. The man needed a rare, extra-large size. Dan made it his mission to take him socks and buy this man shoes.

Dan says, “I know some say not all who use such services, truly need it, But do we really know another human’s full story? All we can do is live the life we feel is right for us, and help others without judgment.”

Betty says, “We all need help for something at one time or another.”

“I deal with clinical depression. I define this as anger turned inward. I have had to seek help for this. I watch for triggers now that could set me off. Writing helps me. For my dad, it was fishing. Everyone who suffers from depression has to find an outlet to guard against it. Most importantly if you need help, seek it. Depression untreated can be debilitating.”

Gloria Koll, a South Whidbey volunteer writes, “I can’t think of a couple more worthy to be honored as Hometown Heroes. “They are committed that people do not go hungry on South Whidbey. It’s a learning experience to talk with Dan, who is well-informed about national and world politics and events. He’s also an enthusiastic and funny storyteller. And Betty is insightful and well read. I stand with Dan and others every Saturday for peace.”

Betty says, “I admire Dan for many reasons. I met him 46 years ago, at a peace rally, where he was a speaker. Dan still stands every Saturday for peace” on the corner of Bayview Road and Highway 525.

Dan says, “We stand for peace and feel we are supporting our troops at the same time. We know troops are putting their lives on the line everyday for peace. We get various responses while we are standing there. One person last week slowed to tell us where to go and gave us the finger and then sped off. We all wished he had stopped to talk to us, so we could understand where he was coming from.”

Betty stated she respects how Dan always researches what he stands for.

Dan remarks, “I don’t want something I believe in to just be my opinion or someone else’s opinion. I listen and read all views, and confirm sources. I want to remain open to be proven wrong. I never want to be willfully ignorant.”

Betty is a voracious reader and has always loved writing. When she was 10, she read about a young girl who began a neighborhood newspaper. “I told my friend about the idea, and we developed The D Street Weekly. after the street we lived on. My dad built us a play house, that we used for our office. I would gather news from neighbors and my mothers calendar, and added a column called, ‘Words to the wise.’ We peddled papers door to door and had subscribers too. We kept it up for two years. The papers were copied on a hectograph.”

Betty was able to show some of the original newspapers. This started Betty’s writing career. She was the editor of Northwest Baby and Child newspaper for 25 years, a position that allowed her to work from home and be with her children.

Son Jude and daughter-in-law Elizabeth, (visiting for the week) join the conversation. Jude recalls how their home while he was growing up was open to everyone.

“I loved how all the kids wanted to be at our house.”

His wife Elizabeth says, “I love that Jude carries on that open tradition to our home.”

Betty smiles saying, “We sure did have a lot of fun and laughter with you kids.”

They remember when Jessica and Jude were in high school, they were both involved in the musical “Guys and Dolls.” “Jessica asked if we could have the cast party at our house and I said yes, thinking maybe 30-40 kids would be there. On the night of the party, 125 kids showed up! And it was an all-nighter, something that hadn’t been explained to me beforehand. In the morning, we had to step over several sleeping kids to get out of our bedroom, but amazingly the house was tidied and no irate parents called to complain about their kids not coming home. Apparently they were better informed than we were,” said Betty.

Shawn Nowlin, Good Cheer operations manager remarks, “Betty and Dan get to the heart of what it means to serve others. They care for the people they serve as if they are a part of their family. When they go out of their way to set aside the foods a particular homeless person likes the most, it is because Betty and Dan want to show that person that they are important enough to be truly seen and loved. They have gotten to know several of the homeless who frequent the fridges for daily meals. They began bringing extra bags with the items they know these folks like so.”

The Freeman’s let their light shine daily, and to some that perhaps don’t’ find a lot of light in their daily lives.

MORE ABOUT DAN AND BETTER

Danny Freeman

Born: 7-23-1949, Tacoma Wash.

Siblings: Middle of five boys, (three deceased)

Education: Green River Community College and Western Washington University

Married: Sept 11, 1971

Children: Three: Jessica, 42; Jude, 38; and James, 33

Grandchildren: Two: Rhiannon, 13; Rhys, 11.

Years on Whidbey: 11

Hobbies: Sculpture, reading news

Betty Anne Freeman

Born: 8-31-1951, Auburn Wash.

Siblings: One older sister

Education: Auburn High School, Western Washington University

Hobbies: Writing, reading, gardening, sewing and canning

A sample of South Whidbey people you admire? “Craig and Joy Johnson, Faith Wilder, Mary Fisher, Lynne Willeford, Peggy Taylor, The Rural Characters, WIN and Heart and Hammers volunteers, Clinton Library friends, and all who let their light shine on South Whidbey.”

PERSONAL SIDES

What motivates you? Dan: “Injustice.” Betty: “Seeing a need, and the ability to help.”

A sweet memory? “After we dropped our last child off at college, when we came home an empty bird nest was on our lawn. We still have it.”

Dan’s favorite book? “Dandelion Wine, It’s about a wonderful childhood.”

Difficulties dealing with in life, Betty, “Clinical depression.” Dan, “Childhood.”

Something you wish you never found out? Dan and Betty: “The cruelty in the world.”

Motto to live by. Betty: “All work has merit.” Dan: “Do unto others.”

What would you like to relive? Dan and Betty: “Thee joy of raising our children.”

Difficult time in your life? Betty: “Watching my mother die of cancer.” Dan: “Dealing with my youngest brother’s suicide.”

Best way to conduct themselves? “Betty: “With Grace.” Dan: “Awareness and consideration.”

Best thing that ever happened to them? “Betty: “Marrying Dan.” Dan: “When Betty said, ‘I do.’”

What would you have done differently? Betty: “Exercise more, be less fearful, take more chances.” Dan: “Taken my education more seriously.”

What is your mission statement, purpose in life? Betty: “I only have this one life, I want to help make it better for others.” Dan: “There is only now, have some fun.”

What other people say about Dan and Betty

“Dan is a talented and prolific sculptor who takes part in many charitable acts. His help for the needy are surely felt by the unfortunate. Dan’s good-neighbor gestures are far too many to list here, but typical is the kindness he has shown us; he has helped me install large art works, seen to it that our lawns were cared for when our riding mower dissolved into a pile of nuts and bolts and malfunctioning solenoids. Betty’s delicious meals, jams and preserves, and fresh treats from her garden have been wonderful, and her baked goods rival the very best. We could not wish for better friends and neighbors.”

Richard and Jo Evans, the Freeman’s neighbors

“They are truly members of the community who contribute immensely in everything they do. Dan on the WIN board and Betty in her Langley Chamber activities are both great colleagues with whom to work in any venue. Their devotion to keeping WIN free food vending machines stocked for those in need of free food is especially heartwarming to witness. “

Fred and Sharon Lundahl, volunteers and business owners

“We have known the Freemans since the 1970’s. Betty can’t keep herself from volunteering for every project that comes along. I believe I could ask her for anything, and if it is in her power to provide it, she will come through. She takes cookies to friends who are ill or troubled. Dan, meanwhile, is a person who “walks his talk.” Many are familiar with his passionate letters to the editor in the South Whidbey Record. Although a person may not always agree with him, he speaks from his heart.”

Sara and Marty Benum, community volunteers

“For me Betty and Dan can best be described by a quote I like by Wendell Berry: ‘We simply must do the work that we are aware needs doing.’ Whether it’s family and friends, people that are hungry, or peace and justice, together they just keep showing up and doing the work .”

Scott Connor, WIN volunteer

“Dan Freeman is an exceptionally creative person and making sculptors. He is a community minded person that works with WIN, stands for peace and is always available to help someone in need. He has helped me out many times by fixing things when I was unable. Betty Freeman is also a talented person, being a good gardener and cook. Rarely have I left their home with out a few cookies or a scone. We are fortunate to have both Dan and Betty as members of our neighborhood as well as the South Whidbey Community and they are unsung heroes.”

Henry Tunes, the Freeman’s neighbors

“There are many wonderful things about Dan and Betty Freeman. One of the most endearing is how much they love their family and their community, local and global. And they put their actions where their hearts are. Both donate endless amounts of time to local nonprofits, are quick to help friends and neighbors, and don’t hesitate to speak out when the cause is just.They are generous, loyal and kind.”

Rob & Victory Schouten, gallery owners

Dan and Betty are awesome to work with. I volunteer with them at the WIN kitchen to put together lunches for those in need. Betty is the leader and navigates between getting all the various tasks done, without stepping on anyone’s toes. She and Dan have a very respectful relationship that allows them a sense of humor and rapport that includes rather than excludes. It is a morning I look forward to participating in because they are there.”

Faith Bushby, WIN volutneer

“Betty and Dan are perfect examples of individuals who don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk. They take their values and concerns and put them into action for the betterment of the community. Their actions actually mirror their convictions in pretty much every aspect of their lives. It’s more than just individual things that they do, it’s their whole outlook on life and the fact that their thoughts turn into action each and every day. “

Michaleen McGarry, Langley Chamber of Commerce executive director

“In a community filled with people who make a positive difference, Betty and Dan Freeman still stand out. I see them everywhere, making our community a better and more beautiful place and helping those less fortunate. When you think of the stereotypical “pillars of a community” you often think of the visible people, the ones out front. Well, Betty and Dan aren’t usually those people that get a lot of attention, instead they are the strong and stable structures that hold the roof up for our community.”

Sue Taves, publisher and sculptor