Saturday Stories

I’ve always been a sucker for a good story. I think maybe it was because my dad had so many – the kind of stories that make you belly-laugh and spend the after-dinner portion of a holiday begging for a re-telling, if only to stave off that sink full of dishes for a half hour longer.

From ages sixteen to twenty-two I had the perfect job for collecting stories. I was a waitress at a tiny hotel, on a tiny college campus, in a tiny village, in the middle of nowhere, central Ohio. It wasn’t always my favorite job, but it’s a place where I heard some of my favorite stories – and created some of my own. It holds a special place in my heart, this ten-table restaurant, for many reasons – but mostly because I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

When you work in the service industry, especially in food service, you hear a lot of stories, regardless of whether you want to or not. The option of declining to listen isn’t really an option anymore once that pressed white shirt and dull gold name tag are on for the night. It’s your job to be courteous and nice, to be a good listener. Truthfully, I didn’t mind much, and I heard a lot of stories over those six years – some I remember and some I don’t, but I loved them all anyway.

Usually, I was pretty open to striking up conversations with my tables, but not every shift is alike, and not every story is one I wanted to hear – especially if they were told during a Saturday morning shift.

I hated Saturday morning shifts. They started early and ended late, and I was the only server on staff. Meaning, of course, that I was either always bored, or always overwhelmed. Pawning those shifts off to other coworkers was a talent I strived to possess, but the summer after my freshman year of college I found myself in a situation that many young adults find themselves in during their college years – I needed money. For tuition, for a social life, for the fast food I insisted on eating every week. Saturday morning shifts just became something I needed to do.

Still, I approached these shifts with the same lack of enthusiasm that I always had. I came in tired, cranky, and unwilling to be a good sport. It was almost a goal for me to limit the words I exchanged with my guests. Just the perfunctory “good morning”, “cream or sugar?” and “have a nice day”. Tables were handled in four steps: take order, bring order, clear table, present check. It was a Saturday morning ritual. I was tired, they were tired, most people were on the same page as me: Minimal Interaction, Please. I liked it that way.

I’ve struggled with a lack of optimism in my life. I cut experiences and conversations and opportunities short because I’m fearful of the outcome, always expecting the worst. Saturday morning shifts were treated the same way, with skepticism and the idea that everything that could go wrong would go wrong.

It’s funny, though, the stories you’ll make when you have a good attitude. I learned that life-lesson on one of those summer Saturday’s.

I came into work happy. Maybe even joyful. I’d woken up with ease, the weather was lovely, and I was just excited to be alive, I guess. Sounds cheesy now that I write it down, but it’s truthful, and that’s all that matters.

We were slow that morning. No reservations on the books, a small number of hotel guests. I remember I’d brought a book with me to read during my downtime. I had one table that entire morning. Three hotel guests, seated at table 12, sitting smack-dab in the middle of our tiny restaurant.

I approached that table with a bounce in my step. I was happy to do something. I wanted to talk to people. I’d woken up with the social interaction bug, the one I so rarely caught, and I was excited to share that with others.

The table consisted of a mom, a dad, and their son. They were visiting the college with possible hopes of their son falling in love and spending four years of undergrad at this tiny, midwestern village, surrounded by fields of corn and cows, cows, cows. I’d served tables like this before, and sometimes I would get a kick out of asking the potential freshman what they were hoping to study if they choose this college. Usually this question was asked on a dinner shift when my moods were much more friendly, but like I said, this was a different Saturday morning, and so I asked.

All four of us talked at length about college choices, about career dreams and aspirations. Their son wanted to study creative writing, as did I. We spoke about that for awhile. I gave advice as if I had advice to give, and I remember laughing and smiling the whole time. I mentioned, on a whim, my interest in nonprofit work. I didn’t know what career I wanted. I’ve only known, all my life, that I wanted to write, but if I couldn’t make a career out of that then I wanted to help people. That was it, the vague way I planned my life: write or help others. They were the only two paths I was interested in.

I could have spent my whole shift talking to this family, but they had a campus tour to get to, so I printed their check, thanked them for everything, and wished them a good day. I stood at the front desk as they left the restaurant and headed to their hotel room, and I remember turning to the front desk employee to say something about how nice that family was, when I glanced back down the hallway to see the mother walking toward me. She didn’t stay long, just handed me a business card and said: “I’m the executive director of a nonprofit in Indianapolis, if you ever want an internship let me know.” Then she left, and I called my mom.

I remember being so happy I was close to tears. How could something like this even happen? Did life work this way? I hadn’t known it to.

I told my mom everything, having to repeat myself a few times because I was either talking too fast or she didn’t believe me. I hadn’t even looked at the business card yet. I just knew that whatever this nonprofit did, whatever their mission was, I wanted to be a part of it, simply because of how wonderful this family had been to me.

When I did look down I read the name Vivian Maley and the Joseph Maley Foundation for the first time in my life. I didn’t know at the time what those names would come to mean to me, or what the entire Maley family would come to mean to me, but I did know that I wanted nothing more than to spend the next summer interning for this organization.

I spent two summers at the Joseph Maley Foundation. I spent two summers learning more about love and loss and empathy than I ever have before. I learned how to take risks and how to be a better person. I met wonderful people every single day, and worked alongside some of the best people I’ve ever met.

In May of 2018 I graduated from The Ohio State University with a bachelor’s in English literature, but I knew months before that day that JMF is where I wanted to start my post-grad career. I’ve been a full-time staff member of the Joseph Maley Foundation since June 2018. I started as a Program Associate and worked under our disABILITY Awareness and HOPE programs. And now, I begin 2019 as the new Communications Associate.

With this new role comes a lot to learn, but I know that as an member of this foundation I will never want for support. JMF is family-focused, it’s supportive, loving, and generous. It is a job that I feel honored to have.

As the Joseph Maley Foundation closes out ten years of serving children of all abilities, we want to start this new decade by telling our stories. And by our stories, we also mean your stories. This is my story, but it’s just one amidst all of the incredible stories of our staff, our board, our donors, our volunteers, and the individuals we serve every day at the Joseph Maley Foundation.

We want to hear your stories. Your “why JMF”. The reasons you support us, the reasons you engage in our programs, the reasons you keep coming back. Tell us.

Like I said, I’m a sucker for a good story, and I can’t wait to hear yours.


If you’d like to share your JMF story, you can contact Communications Associate, Aubrey Wiest at aubrey@josephmaley.org

Read more

Doing What’s Necessary: Melanie Evans, Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship Recipient 2018

It’s the beginning of a new year, which means we are preparing for the second semester of the school year with our program partners. As our program staff jumps back into the classroom, the Joseph Maley Foundation would like to extend a sincere thank you to all of the educators – the teachers, counselors, and administrators, who work so tirelessly to impact their students in a meaningful way.

At JMF, we know the power a great educator can have on a child’s life, and it is with this knowledge that we find ourselves honored once again to present the Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship to a deserving educator in the state of Indiana.

The Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship was created to honor the legacy of Kosmas Kayes, Ed.D., a lifelong educator, who was dedicated to improving the lives of others through learning. For more than forty years Dr. Kayes served the state of Indiana as a teacher, administrator, and mentor – shaping the lives of countless individuals who continue his legacy of integrity and service through education. Dr. Kayes based his decisions first and foremost on the wellbeing of children, which encompasses the mission of the Joseph Maley Foundation, “serving children of all abilities.” On account of his vision that every person deserves a good education, and his belief that education can change lives, JMF is proud to honor Dr. Kayes and award a deserving educator this scholarship.

Each year the winner of this award receives $500, which can be used to benefit the educator, (professionally or personally) or the students they serve. Educators must first be nominated by an administrator, colleague, parent, or student, after which the nominees are invited to submit a full application. Throughout the years, JMF has found that the applicants we receive are all exceptional in their own way. It can be difficult for our team of committee members to narrow down the pool of applicants to just ONE winner.

Our 2018 winner – Melanie Evans – agreed to answer a few questions about herself, the scholarship, and what she’s learned from her years of teaching. Melanie is an 8th grade math teacher at South Ripley Junior High in Versailles, Indiana.

The Dr. Kosmas Kayes Eduator’s Scholarship celebrates those who go above and beyond for their students every day.  As the 2018 winner of this scholarship, what do you feel drives you to be that exceptional educator in your student’s lives?

From a very early age, my parents instilled in me a strong work ethic.  From there, I always strive to do my best work. Teaching is just not a job; it is my passion.  What drives me to be an exceptional educator are my students. Every student who has entered my room over the last 24 years is important to me, and I treat them all as if they were my own children.  I tell them once you have sat in my classroom, you are one of my kids. Every student has a dream, and it is my job to help him or her travel the path to make that dream come true. There is no better profession in the world.

Was there an educator in your own life that inspired you to pursue the path of teaching? If so, what about them inspired you?

Several teachers in my life inspired me to be an educator, and it has now been an honor teaching alongside many of them as I am back at my alma mater.  My two music teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Holdsworth, have touched my life in a way that not only made me want to be an exceptional educator but also inspired me to be a better person.  Just this past week, I had the opportunity to sing the National Anthem with members of the Young Confederate Show Choir at a varsity basketball game. Over 75 singers came to honor Mrs. Holdsworth as she founded the group 50 years ago.  It was an experience I will never forget. Past students came from hours away in order to be there and sing for her one more time because they were inspired by the Holdsworths, just as I was. If I have the opportunity to impact just half of the people that the Holdsworths have touched over the years, I will feel very fortunate.

As the scholarship recipient you also proved yourself to be a mentor and an advocate to your students.  How do you do this?

As a mathematics teacher, I am challenged with the reality that many students don’t like math or have struggled with it at some point in their education.  My task is simple: make math fun!! Math is everywhere. I want to show the students that what they are learning is important. Now, will everyone need Algebra every day of their lives?  No, and I am honest with them about that. I want to make them a better person overall, and mathematics is just one part of that. I want my students to be successful in anything they choose.  If that means I have to stay after school for extra tutoring, I stay. If that means I need to meet with them on my prep period for additional practice, we meet. If that means I need to have a parent/teacher conference with the entire 8th grade team,  parents, student, and administration, we do so. I am there for them. I will fight for the rights of the student and do what is necessary to help them be successful. I am not successful until they are successful. I do what is necessary to fill the learning gaps and help them find the love for mathematics.

What is your favorite memory from your years of teaching?

In 2016, South Ripley Junior High School was named a “National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence” by the U.S. Department of Education.  Before this recognition, we had been named an “A” rated, 4-Star School by the Indiana Department of Education for several years, and although that was quite an honor, hearing that we had made national attention made me so proud to be a Raider.  We definitely pride ourselves on building relationships with students and knowing them and their data so well that every student can be successful. With our student population of more than 65% on free or reduced lunch, this honor was the highlight of my career.  

What do you hope your students will take with them when they leave your classroom – both at the end of each day and at the end of each year?

At the end of every day, I want my students to feel accomplished.  I encourage them to always be proud of everything they put their name on.  I want them to walk out of my room knowing that their teacher cares for them and if they need someone, I am in their corner.  By the end of the school year, I hope they have become better mathematicians and better people. I hope that when they look back on their education, my classroom was a place where they felt safe and inspired to be the best they can be.

How did you use the money received from the Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship?

With the money I received from the Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship, my advisory class purchased fleece material and hand tied sixteen blankets for Safe Passage.  Safe Passage is a domestic violence intervention and prevention center that serves Dearborn, Franklin, Jefferson, Ohio, Ripley, and Switzerland Counties in southern Indiana.  My students spent several hours preparing and tying the blankets, and then we presented them to Safe Passage on December 17th. It was a very worthwhile project, as one of my students stated, “This project impacted the community because it shows kindness and because of this; someone else might be kind and it repeats.”  Thank you for your kindness in offering this scholarship. It allowed me to build relationships with these students this year and pass some comfort and joy to some people who need a helping hand this holiday season.

Do you have any advice for a person who would like to pursue teaching as a career?

To anyone entering the educational field I would offer these thoughts.

  1. Every decision made should answer the following question: Is it in the best interest of the student?
  2. Life is not fair.  We are not all valedictorians.  Not everyone will learn in the same way and not everyone can earn an A, but everyone can grow.  Approach each day with a growth mindset. No matter how small, praise the student for their growth and they will continue working hard for you.  By the end of the year, you will both be proud of the accomplishment made.
  3. Find balance in your life.  Don’t take so much work home with you that you don’t spend time with your family.  Life is precious and never take a day for granted. The very day I found out I won this scholarship in May 2018, I rushed home to tell my husband of 23 years.  I was so excited, and he was so happy for me. That very night, he passed away of a heart attack. No warning, no goodbye. My two girls and I are trying to find our new normal, and I’m very grateful for each and every day we had with him. However, too many of my nights were spent grading, lesson planning, and preparing for the next school day.  It left me with missed opportunities of family time together on the farm, in the barn with the cattle, or sitting on the couch for family movie nights. Work hard at your job and enjoy your students, but don’t forget the most important part is at home waiting for you. Find your balance.


If you are interested in nominating an educator for the 2019 Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship please fill out the linked form below and follow mailing or emailing instructions. Nomination deadline is January 25, 2019.

2019 Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship Nomination Form

Read more

2018 Run, Walk, Roll Recap

The 2018 Run, Walk, Roll hit several milestones as the Joseph Maley Foundation celebrates ten years of impact. The first 10-mile course was introduced, and many people joined us for the first time.

Read more

Community Profile: Maura Day

Bishop Chatard coach Maura Day has a history with the Run, Walk, Roll. Read all about what inspires her and how she stays motivated as a runner.

Read more

Runner Profile: Anna Weber

Professional runner Anna Weber shares her love of running and why she participates in the Joseph Maley Foundation Run, Walk, Roll in this week’s blog post.  Anna also serves on JMF’s event committee this year, offering her unique perspective as a professional runner.

Read more

The Month Ahead: June 2018

Summer is here! We kick off the season with a month filled with fun camps, bowling, and delicious food.

Read more

The Month Ahead: May 2018

Summer is just around the corner and next month is full of great ways for you to join the Joseph Maley Foundation community in serving children of all abilities.

Read more

2018 Dr. Kosma Kayes Educator’s Scholarship

The Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship honors the legacy of Kosmas Kayes, Ed.D., a life-long educator, who was dedicated to improving the lives of others through learning.  For more than forty years, Dr. Kayes served the state of Indiana as a teacher, administrator, and mentor – shaping the lives of countless individuals who continue his legacy of integrity and service through education.  

Read more

The Month Ahead: April 2018

April promises to be a fun-filled month at the Joseph Maley Foundation.  Read on and mark your calendars for three great ways to join us as we continue our ten-year celebration in 2018!

Read more

A Passion for Serving Others

Olivia Follman, a sixth grade student at the Center for Inquiry #84, is a young woman who has already demonstrated a passion for serving individuals of all abilities.

Read more