When Troy resident Kessie Kaltsounis retired two years ago, the former English teacher decided she wanted to sit down and write in her spare time.
Kaltsounis, named the Troy Distinguished Citizen in 2008, stays active volunteering her time in the community. She’s served as chair for Opa Fest! at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, and her volunteer efforts include the Avondale School District Board of Education, Troy Family Daze and Blessings in a Backpack. On Fridays, the latter initiative provides backpacks filled with enough food to last through the weekend to underprivileged children in Avondale and other school districts.
Kaltsounis took online writing classes through the Troy School District Continuing Education program to strengthen her descriptive writing skills. She got positive feedback on one of her inspirational anecdotes and encouragement to submit it to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series that Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen founded.
She did, and her essay, “Growth for Giving,” was published in the “Chicken Soup for the Soul: From Lemons to Lemonade” 2013 edition as one of the 100 essays compiled in the book.
“The first thing I sent was accepted,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”
Publisher Amy Newmark said in a press release that each story’s author is truly a role model and example of the human spirit’s resilience.
“After you read these stories, you’ll feel empowered to use positive thinking to navigate your own difficult situations, reorient your lives and improve your personal relationships,” Newmark said.
Kaltsounis tells the story of a troubled young man she met through her work with Blessings in a Backpack, who had an unstable family life. He worked with the volunteers for Blessings in a Backpack to pack the backpacks and was a recipient of the food. As months went by, Kaltsounis and other volunteers saw a change in the young man as he became more focused on his studies and positive about his future.
She states in the essay, “The principal later told us that had we not stepped in and given him support, encouragement and guidance, he was sure Andrew (not his real name) would have been dead from gang violence.”
As graduation approached, Kaltsounis privately asked the principal whom Andrew was inviting to commencement ceremonies. The principal told her that Andrew had no one who would come.
Kaltsounis writes, “Those words cut deep into my heart. I knew that I could not let him down, not after all the growth and improvement. I would be there for him.”
And she was.
“I purposely stood where I knew they’d be coming through,” she said.
She writes, “I could see a light in his eyes as he approached. When he reached me, he touched my hand, as if to say thank you. Tears welled up in both of our eyes.”
Kaltsounis said that the last she heard, Andrew had turned his life around and was studying mechanical engineering on a scholarship at Wayne State University.
“Everyone thinks you’re feeding kids, but you’re doing a lot more,” she said.
For information on the book, check online at www.chickensoup.com.
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