DOVER (Tusco TV) - A local man is looking for even more ways to spread neighborly love throughout the community after wrapping up a countywide initiative to promote kindness on elementary playgrounds.
The Good Neighbor Project founder Andrew Wilsterman presented the 27th and final “buddy bench” Thursday to Tuscarawas Central Catholic's St. Joseph Elementary. Wilsterman told the students they can use the bench as a tool to let their classmates know they’re feeling down.
“If you’re lonely, if you’re having a bad day, if you need a friend, this buddy bench is for you. This is a place for you to sit on the playground, and everyone else, we’re trying to drive the point home [that] you know how good it feels when someone does something nice for you. If you see someone that’s sitting on the bench that needs a friend, go and ask them if they need some help."
Wilsterman says the St. Joe’s ceremony was particularly meaningful because it means every elementary school in Tuscarawas County now has a buddy bench on its playground. He says it’s thanks to everyone who donated their time and talents and rallied behind the project.
"I just get to be the face of this but through the love of the community, we’ve been able to partner to get this message of being a good neighbor, having good manners and caring for one another to 7,000 elementary school kids in Tuscarawas County," he says.
St. Joe’s Principal Matt Ritzert says the buddy bench embodies the values they try to instill in their students.
"We work with our kids during the school year doing service projects and Andrew’s message to our students just reinforces what we try to teach them every day to love one another and to support one another," he says.
Wilsterman says even though the Buddy Bench Project has reached its conclusion, the Good Neighbor Project will continue to practice simple but sincere acts of kindness year-round throughout the community.
"What we do is we mow grass, we rake leaves and we move snow for people that can’t, but we want everyone to know that they have the power within themselves to reach out with what they can and what they know, and we will partner with you," he says.
Wilsterman says people can get involved or share their project ideas by getting in touch with The Good Neighbor Project through Facebook or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
STACEY CARMANY, TUSCO TV