Wendi Kirsch was not an egotistical person. She was almost ordinary, growing up, becoming a teacher, getting married and having two beautiful children and lots of grandkids to love and spoil.
She loved quilting and she and her husband, Tom, also a teacher, were involved in both the Fairborn Lions and the Fairborn community as a whole. When their children were children, I remember them living on Jefferson Street and hosting teens at their house each week. I believe the group was affectionately named “The Sardines,” because there were so many kids in a small home.
Wendi used to rave about how great all of her “kids’ were and how much she loved working with youth. They had taught for 38 years and had been on 14 NYC trips with the seniors and 16 years as advisors to the FHS Senior Class — a little impressive. It was their love of teens that made them so loved by so many. They seemed to have a natural talent to understand teens and their challenges and Wendi knew how to comfort a teen mom who was scared to death of how to care for her baby. So, when Wendi suddenly passed away on June 1, 2017, the community was stunned and so saddened.
In his Christmas letter to family and friends, her husband Tom speaks of his faith in God and His presence through all the struggles since June. He speaks of Wendi’s favorite word, joy, being part of his being now and how he is working hard to make joy part of his day every day going forward for as he says, “That was the theme of her extraordinary life.”
Family and Youth Initiatives (FYI) partnered with Wendi many times as we had a pregnancy center, The Women’s Network, in Fairborn, to help those teens and women in need of help with both the pregnancies and until the babies were 5 years old. We coordinated the needs of many of the teens she taught in her GRADS classes and many times we worked with them after they graduated high school. Hundreds of teens were influenced by her special touch and her loving heart. And to us too, she focused on the positive — joy and brought that thought to everyone she touched.
Her position has been filled, but her joy and love have never been forgotten.
On Saturday Jan. 27, 2018, FYI, in partnership with Fairborn Knights of Columbus, will host its Annual Spaghetti Dinner in Wendi’s memory. At the dinner, we will share many of Wendi’s memories with the crowd and remember the love she had for this community. Everyone is invited to attend, but reservations are requested through the website so the Knights know how much to cook.
Frank Carchedi, the K of C head cook guarantees a great authentic Italian dinner and we will share the joy we all have because of Wendi. There is a cost for the dinner and there will be a silent auction. All proceeds from the dinner will go to the now called Parenting Center and their needs as they continue to help moms and dads in the community. Registration for the dinner can be found on the FYI website, www.fyiohio.org.
I remember going to Wendi in 1993 and telling her about a 45 percent increase in girls ages 10-12 coming to our center in Fairborn for pregnancy tests. We were both horrified and together we got a program into the schools to talk to the sixth-tenth grade students with appropriate-aged materials so they would understand the difference between love and infatuation, between positive and negative choices, and how to use refusal skills in stopping at-risk behaviors. Our rates went down when we were allowed in the middle and high schools to teach. Because of her help, FYI is in six counties and almost every middle and high school teaching the message Wendi so believed in. We were blessed to have been part of her life.
Our tribute to Wendi is for the Parenting Center. We increase our load every year and now have a 3-year-old program of working with dads so they will know their importance in their child’s life. And our programs encourage the parents to come until their child is 5 years of age, with parents doing homework, and earning points to get most baby things for free. Since this program is very expensive the money we raise from this dinner will help us keep it going. We ask all to remember Wendi’s theme, “Choose Joy” and the biblical quote: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
FYI is also looking for any of the hundreds moms or dads who were touched by Wendi’s kindness and gentleness. We would like to gather some stories of her love and use them to give others hope. Please email them to email@example.com or to the FYI central office, at 468 N. Dayton Lakeview Rd., New Carlisle, OH 45344.
For any questions for the dinner or about the tribute, call Banaszak at 937-845-0403 and come to the dinner so that the joy and hope can be spread throughout the youth of tomorrow.
Pat Banaszak is the executive director of the Family and Youth Initiatives and is a guest writer for the Fairborn Daily Herald.