Work that needs to be done. That's how Leroy Ewy views his volunteerism around the Halstead community, a community he has grown up in and that, admittedly, helped shape that viewpoint.
Attending a one-room school as a child played into that, Ewy said. Helping others came with the territory, as students in kindergarten through eighth grade shared the same learning space — making education a communal and collaborative process. Seeing his parents pitch in in similar ways around the community only embedded those instincts even deeper.
"If you grow up in that and being around your parents and neighbors doing that all the time, it's sort of natural," Ewy said. "It's just kind of a family trait. My dad and mom had done the same thing. In a small town, and growing up on a farm, you just naturally help your neighbors if they need help."
Taking those neighborly duties to heart throughout his life, Ewy helps out where he can. For his efforts, he was selected as this year's Good Neighbor award-winner at the Halstead Old Settlers festival.
On top of managing the family farm and his own construction company, Ewy can frequently be found helping Halstead schools by volunteering at numerous athletic events — whether timing at track meets, working the pass gate at the annual Rupp Tournament or taking on announcing duties (for 30-plus years) at high school football games.
Ewy is also Grand Knight of the Halstead Knights of Columbus, which was started in 2010. The group helps out with a number of church activities, though he particularly enjoys assisting younger members of the parish, whether through providing breakfast for the Parish School Religion (PSR) class or helping the church's Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) group. Additionally, the Knights spearhead fundraising efforts like the Tootsie Roll Drive and, Ewy noted, will also get out in the community to help with storm damage clean-up and other endeavors.
Prior to the dike being built, Ewy said helping out after storms — given Halstead's flooding issues — was a natural community undertaking, bringing everyone together. There were plenty of people in need, but Ewy noted he was always willing to lend a hand.
Being recognized as this year's Good Neighbor honoree was humbling, Ewy said. He was also quick to point out the many deserving people in the community — which is part of what makes it easy for him to do all that he does.
"It's pretty easy to volunteer and to help somebody in our community because everybody there will help you, so it's a give and take and it does make you feel good to be able to help somebody," Ewy said.
Making his point, Ewy pointed to the case of him breaking his foot last year and the number of neighbors and other community members who came to his aid.
Continuing to pay it forward, Ewy noted he will do whatever he can to help his community. Given the number of individuals around Halstead also willing to pitch in, he admitted he has tried to focus on a couple things and doing them well. For Ewy, that has centered on helping out the youth, as he aims to create an enjoyable atmosphere and connect them to the community — so that those neighborly traits so inherent to him may continue on in the next generation, an attitude he notes is well worth it.
"Any little thing big or small, if you really have the right intent," Ewy said, "you're going to feel better than the person you helped."