Monday, June 30, 2003

Woman's volunteer job became full time


Middfest helper for 20 years

By Janet C. Wetzel
Enquirer contributor

[img]
Jane Fisher is a long time volunteer for Middfest.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
MIDDLETOWN - Whether they've come from Korea, Africa, Scotland or a variety of other places, Jane Fisher makes sure that visitors from the countries highlighted each year in Middfest International feel at home.

Fisher has helped hundreds of participants in Middfest, a yearlong educational project and annual weekend festival featuring a different country each year, as a volunteer for more than 20 years.

Fisher originally didn't plan to be so involved. It began in 1981, Middfest's first year, when she and her husband, Eugene, agreed to host a family from Luxemburg, the featured city.

"I got hooked on Middfest," said Fisher, who retired in 1987 after 37 years as a school psychologist in the Middletown School District. "I thought the concept of people-to-people was really important. And it was just so much fun."

That first year, the Middletown resident went beyond routine hosting.

She and another host family who wanted to give the visitors a taste of true America made a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for more than 30 people.

The next year, Fisher decided just hosting a family wasn't enough, and volunteered for other duties. Soon she was engulfed in the volunteer job, from helping recruit more than 1,000 volunteers each year, to learning the culture of the featured country and making others aware of the guests' needs. "Each year, she does whatever needs to be done to support Middfest," said Middfest representative Ann Mort.

Fisher serves as liaison with area schools involved with Middfest, helps organize school tours, prepares the study guide and all the other educational components. She and her husband have also continued hosting guests and dignitaries almost every year.

Fisher has dealt with thousands of people in recruiting help, and traveled thousands of miles at her own expense as she and Virginia Ritan, Middfest executive director, visit embassies in Washington, New York, Chicago and Detroit to generate awareness and support for Middfest.

"I tell people you couldn't pay me enough to do all this work, but I'll keep doing it for nothing," said Fisher.

"What wonderful experiences I've had," Fisher said. "Some say I do a lot of giving, but I get much more than I could ever give. I'm a people person. Finding out about new cultures and meeting new people keeps my adrenaline going. My life wouldn't be nearly as full or complete if I didn't have the opportunity to meet people like this."

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Do you know a Hometown Hero - someone in your community dedicated to making it a better place to live and helping others? E-mail Janet Wetzel at jjwetzel@siscom.net, or fax to 513-755-4150.




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