The loss of a loved one can devastate a family. When that person is wonderful, loving and kind — hearts break.
While grieving the loss of Evelyn Guererro, a loving sister and aunt to a family in Juniata, something special sprouted from the treasure of a life that she lived. She inspired the start of a movement – “Give Like Evelyn”.
“It was sudden,” said Nyra of Juniata Park. “It just happened so fast.” In 2017, Nyra’s loving sister Evelyn from Texas was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in a short amount of time. “She was loved … loved so much”.
The funeral was sad, but there was also joy as family and friends remembered the impact that Evelyn had on others — at work — at home — and with strangers. “She was just so kind and giving of herself.”
Nyra contacted the Juniata News recently to suggest that the newspaper start asking people to let the community know of the good things that people in the neighborhood are doing. Sometimes it’s the little things, but those little things can become big inspiration for others to start their own acts of kindness and good deeds.
During that conversation, the Juniata News learned that the impact that Evelyn had on Nyra’s 6 year-old son, Julian, was magnificent. In recent months, Julian kept bringing up his Titi Evelyn in conversation, saying how much he missed her. He remembers how happy and giving she was.
Nyra knows that her son has a certain spark that many in her family have had — being caring and kind. A moment at the beach last year touched her heart. Julian LOVES gumballs. Whenever he sees a gumball machine he lights up. While walking down the boardwalk, he found a quarter. “He was so thrilled,” said Nyra. He immediately wanted to find a gumball machine after asking his mom if he could have the quarter that he found. While they worked their way to what would be a special treat, Nyra’s family passed by a lady playing violin on the side of the boardwalk. People were putting money in the violin box, which intrigued Julian. He asked what was happening, and Nyra explained that maybe she had a special need and was playing to earn money for that need. Julian ran back and put his quarter in the box.
“My husband and I were so touched by that. He’s just 6.” Nyra and her husband were very proud that Julian was so selfless.
That selflessness stayed with Julian at home. When making trips to Walmart or the supermarket, the family sees people holding signs at the intersections. Julian asked what they’re doing. They saw a particularly large number of people doing it as they traveled to visit Nyra’s grandmother and mom in the Kensington area. Nyra explained to her son, in an age-appropriate way, that they are people in need. On a particular occasion after that day, Julian had an apple pie from McDonald’s in his bag. When they came upon a person asking for help, he gave the man his apple pie and asked to pray for him.
That act of kindness brought the family one step closer to a project called “Give Like Evelyn” to honor the memory of Nyra’s sister.
While at a church summer camp, Julian took part in creating “Blessing Bags” which included toiletries and snacks for people in need. The children packed the bags in an assembly-line fashion.
On a hot summer day last year, near-100-degree temperatures kept Nyra and her sons, ages 6 and 3, in the house. Julian asked if they could make their own Blessing Bags to hand out to people. Impressed, Nyra took the kids and headed to Walmart and the dollar store to purchase items for the bags. “He spent the whole afternoon making Blessing Bags. He made like 25 bags.”
Throughout the rest of the summer, they handed out the bags to grateful people on the street.
On Thanksgiving of 2018, the family launched “Give Like Evelyn” on Facebook. The first project was to ask family and friends to donate goods or money for Julian to put together winter “Blessing Bags” for those in need. He put the bags together with the help of his little brother Jeremy, and then returned them to those who donated for them to hand out to those in need themselves. The bags included a washcloth, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, gloves, winter hat, rain poncho, snacks and candies.
Nyra calls 2019 a “Year of Planning” to figure out how to involve kids to grow and incorporate volunteering and giving into their everyday lives, as she did in her high school and college years. She’s instilling that in her children.
“I want them to start at an early age and I want them to do it from a genuine part of their heart, not because they have to”.
Their latest project is creating Birthday Bags for St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. After collecting stuffed animals for the children there, Julian asked about how the kids celebrate birthdays. The family began putting bags together with birthday decorations and more to help families make a joyous occasion in the hospital rooms.
A GOOD DEED
One of the good deeds that Nyra witnessed her sister Evelyn do occurred in a restaurant in Texas after Evelyn picked her up at the airport. Having a feeling that an elderly couple may need something in their lives, Evelyn told the waitress that she would pay for the couple’s meal. Evelyn, being humble, tried to keep it anonymous, but the waitress revealed Evelyn to the grateful couple. “They ran after my sister and said Thank you. This is the kindest thing that we’ve experienced in a long time.” This was shortly before Evelyn fell ill, and then died at the age of 42.
“In her 42 years she impacted many lives,”
said Nyra. “That’s for sure.”
Nyra emulates her sister’s spirit, and is excited for others to join in.
Recently at Aldi in Juniata, a lady in front of Nyra had to leave behind bread and oranges because she ran out of money. While the woman was taking her purchases to pack up at the counter, Nyra told the cashier to put the items on her bill and take them to her.
“I remember people doing kind things for me in the most darkest moments of my life,” Nyra added. “I just want people to stop and think about how one small thing can snowball into something so much bigger in a good way.
If you are interested in collaborating, donating items or sharing some volunteering ideas, you can follow “Give Like Evelyn” on Facebook or email GiveLikeEvelyn@gmail.com.
If you know of someone doing great things, let the Juniata News know at 215-435-3909. We will dedicate a series in Evelyn’s name on everyday people doing extraordinary things, in an effort to spread good news!