The sad reality is very few of us change the direction of other people’s lives, at least not on a grand scale, and not profoundly.
Those instances are rare.
But two months ago, our editor received a letter from Brenda Fairbanks of Hudson Falls. She wanted her long letter published as a thank you to the folks at the Glens Falls Area Youth Center.
Our editor started reading and couldn’t stop.
When he got to this part; “I can’t imagine where my life would be right now if I didn’t have the guidance, the encouragement or the strength of humanity from being a member of the Glens Falls Area Youth Center;” he knew one of those rare stories had just dropped in his lap.
That’s not how these stories usually come about. Usually, the story idea comes first, then the testimonial from the community.
Fairbanks made it clear that Matt and Bob Congdon had not only changed the direction of her life, they might have saved it.
Fairbanks, whose essay was published on the Sunday Opinion page, spoke of a bad home life and later hinted at abuse.
And then she drops this bombshell: When things were at their worst, Bob Congdon stepped up and became her legal guardian.
That’s a commitment that is hard to imagine.
Our editor pitched the story to one of our former reporters, Dave Blow, because he had regularly done stories on the youth center over the years.
Our editor told Brenda Fairbanks he would run every word of her essay.
On Sunday, the story graced the front page of this newspaper — “Celebrating a force for good.“ It was the type of inspiring story we all need to read. And if you have not, you should go back on our website and find it.
It chronicled the struggles of Matt and Bob in the early days of the youth center and told the story of the children — like Brenda Fairbanks — whose lives they changed.
We heard about troubled youngsters who went on to college.
Who woke up from surgery to see Matt or Bob, who spent 26 years there before retiring.
One who became a local police officer.
Another who got her masters, became an accountant and raised a family.
We heard about the brothers paying for college application fees.
And the life lessons they imparted about how you live, and how you treat other people.
But here’s what bothered us.
After all the brothers had done, after the differences they had made in so many lives, Bob still felt they had not done enough.
“When I see (bad) stuff in the paper, I feel like I didn’t do enough,” Bob said, thinking of the kids who ended up in prison.
We want him to know he is wrong.
What Matt and Bob did over the years was to make a difference in this community like few people ever do.
People like Matt and Bob are more important, more crucial to the heart and soul of communities like Glens Falls than any politician or business leader.
If you don’t know about the work being done at the Glens Falls Area Youth Center, you should drop by and see Matt and his daughter, Molly and see what they are doing today.
Make a donation.
Or just say thank you.
The Glens Falls Area Youth Center is celebrating its 50th anniversary on June 9. They are expecting some 300 people as part of a grand community reunion.
They’ve made a huge difference.
They continue to make a huge difference.
And they’ve changed the direction of the lives of a countless number of kids.
Congratulations, Matt and Bob.
Congratulations to the Glens Falls Area Youth Center for doing what few people are able to do — make a difference in people’s lives.
Post-Star editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star’s editorial board, which consists of Publisher Robert Forcey, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representatives Carol Merchant, Eric Mondschein and Bob Tatko.