The hands that keep on giving
A few individuals who honor the spirit of the season all year long
The holidays always bring out the best in people in terms of helping the less fortunate. But those in need don’t suddenly stop being needy in March. We’ve met several people in our community whose works don’t end when the holidays are over. Here are just a few.
Rev. William Webb
For the last 38 years, the Rev. William Webb has been ministering to the northeast Reno community at the Second Baptist Church.
When he first came to Reno in 1964, he and other civil rights activists protested downtown Reno casinos that restricted access to blacks. “Things have progressed tremendously since then,” he said.
Webb grew up in a poor farming community in Arkansas and worked his way through divinity school before settling down in Reno with his wife, Violene.
Webb finds himself with a congregation of nearly 350 attendees, whom he encourages to be politically active.
He also counsels African-American youths, collects food baskets for the needy and raises money for college scholarships. He has been known to give a few bucks to kids after he reviews their report cards.
Webb uses the church for tutoring services and for groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, which use the facilities free of charge. He also visits those in hospices and in jail.
“I like to keep a low profile. I’m nothing more than a steward of God,” Webb said. “I get a joy out of it. At times, I feel more benefited than the recipient.”
Webb said that his generosity has gotten him into trouble sometimes—usually with his wife—but he enjoys the rewards of helping people.
“Just to hear the words ‘thank you’ means a lot to me,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”
As president of the Reno-Sparks Corridor Business Association, Gaye Canepa spends a lot of time looking out for the interests of the area around East Fourth Street. The rest of the time she runs an auto repair shop with her husband, Fred.
Despite her many business commitments, though, she finds the time to help the children living in weekly motels along Fourth Street.
This year marks the fifth that Canepa and the RSCBA will deliver toys and candy to those children—many living in poverty. This year they will give about 750 gift packages to the kids, from infants to teenagers. The packages will include a stocking, a bag of cookies, a toy and a winter hat.
“I’ve had parents sit down and cry,” Canepa said. “Sometimes it’s the only Christmas they get.”
She said that the project started out five years ago as just a small group of people delivering a few hundred gifts along the corridor.
“Klaus, the owner of Bavarian World, suggested that someone should do something for the kids in the motels,” she said. “He said we could use his kitchen to bake cookies if we would deliver them.”
Over the years, the gift-giving caravan has grown to about 100 people, including members of local law enforcement agencies and civic organizations. This year, Canepa said the project will reach over to West Fourth Street as well.
“Every year it seems to increase,” she said.
The RSCBA will deliver Christmas gift packages on Sunday, Dec. 23. They will meet at 11 a.m. at Bavarian World, at the intersection of Sixth Street and Valley Road.
But Christmas isn’t the only time of year Canepa and company will mobilize to help the less fortunate along Fourth Street. A similar toy and candy drive is distributed around Easter, and during events on Mother’s and Father’s Day, donated presents are available for the children to give to their parents. Canepa enjoys seeing kids give gifts to their parents.
“Our reward is to see that child’s face light up,” she said.
Robert & Penny Beck
Robert and Penny Beck opened the Wizdom Thrift Store eight years ago as a tribute to friends and family members they had lost to cancer.
The Becks, former aerospace engineers, opened the store as a means of supporting low-income cancer patients.
After relocating from Southern California, they came to Reno hoping to open a small business as a means of semi-retirement.
The cancer-related illness and deaths of Penny’s mother and Robert’s friend focused the Becks’ efforts in finding resources for those suffering with the disease.
The Becks estimate that they are able to raise an average of $150,000 annually as a result of sales from the store.
Proceeds from the sale of donated items go toward getting medical equipment and supplies for patients and providing cash for prescription medications, travel for out-of-state medical care or just paying a power or phone bill.
Robert Beck said they are able to help 40 clients at a time, and about half them usually succumb to cancer.
“We get a lot of hardcore cases,” said Beck, who manages the store’s daily operations. “I feel real good about it. I like it better than building rockets.”
The Becks also provide counseling services for family members of cancer patients.
Sometimes finding a wig for a patient who has lost her hair or offering some nice clothes can go a long way in cheering them up, Robert says.
The Becks’ operation is also a means for some juveniles to perform community service for minor offenses.
Assisting cancer patients is a positive experience for kids who’ve gotten into trouble.
“It’s a healing process," Penny said. "When you help someone else, you help yourself and help make the world a better place."