Giving thanks – and a hug

Every year after Joan Hartwig receives notice of how much she will receive from the Energy Assistance Program (EAP), she sends a thank you letter to Brightpoint. She has been doing this for at least the past four years.

Kira McKinley, Family Support Assistant Manager, said she occasionally gets thank you letters from EAP recipients, but Joan’s are always memorable. This year’s letter had tiny flowers glued to it with delicately drawn stems and leaves. It was signed, “Love and prayers, Joan A. Hartwig” and included a postscript: “P.S. I love to give hugs, if I ever would meet you.”

On October 24th, Kira got to meet Joan – and got a hug as promised.

Joan (pronounced Jo-Ann) is a spry 80-year old woman who lives by herself in a cozy home on the north side of Fort Wayne. After being married for 57 years, she lost her husband Jack to illness four years ago. Joan said, “If it wouldn’t have been for Brightpoint and the energy assistance – especially when Jack was at home – I’d have been dirt.” She laughs as she claims to be older than dirt herself.

Joan told how her mom, who passed away some time ago, used to do tatting – a kind of knotted lace made by hand with a small shuttle. She has saved some of the small flowers her mom made – flowers like the one that adorned the letter she sent to Kira.

She writes the letters because she says she is very, very thankful. “It sure helps because when Jack passed away, I lost a third of my income.” Jack had several jobs over his lifetime and Joan recalls that her husband was not one to mince words – so he got fired a few times. Jack would always find other work, but he and Joan moved eighteen times over the course of their lives together.

“We got this house and we were beginning to rent it and I saw a thing in the paper: ‘$100 down and assume the mortgage.’” Joan borrowed the hundred dollars, but she didn’t tell her husband right away because she knew he would be mad. Eventually he said it was the smartest thing Joan had ever done – she seems to agree.

The dining room in her home has rustic wood paneling and is filled with family photos, artwork, memorabilia, knick-knacks and plaques that say things like, “Faith Hope Love” and “God Bless Our Home.”

“I probably talked your ear off,” she said apologizing, but it was clear that she enjoyed the company. Joan is already planning for Kira’s return visit as she says goodbye and gives one more hug for good measure.