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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Youths offer help, friendship

Jenny Hoff is surrounded by neighborhood children who  do chores around Hoff's Spokane Valley home. The children, from left Ezra Way, Nate White, Lizzy Way and Davien Engeberg, work on an eye sensor computer that doesn't require hands or voice to operate. 
 (DAN PELLE Photos / The Spokesman-Review)
Jennifer Hoff The Spokesman-Review

On a quiet street in the community of Millwood, an unlikely alliance has formed. I like to call them the Angels of Empire Street.

Jeff and I moved into this neighborhood in September of 2006. I knew I would love it because we are bordered on all sides with great neighbors, people who have been established in this neighborhood for a long time.

Tilly just turned 92, Ruby, somewhere in her late 80s, Nancy, Dora and Debbie. All wonderful neighbors who have offered help. However, what I didn’t expect were the younger people who followed.

On a summer day an adorable now 11-year-old young man introducing himself as Nate, living two doors down, came to my door to give me a wrongly delivered package. I welcomed him to visit any time.

He was soon stopping by on a regular basis to check on me and see if I needed any chores done. As I did not have a caregiver at that time, he was a total blessing. He soon started coming with his buddy Ezra, 7 years old, who lived in a house nearby.

Somewhere in between, I had also become friends with two other very helpful boys down the other side of the street, Tristan and Josh.

The most recent addition to this band of angels are two sweet girls, also 11, Lizzy, (Ezra’s sister) and Davien, her friend. All of these kids have done great things for me, from making beds, doing the dishes, sweeping the ramps, helping me cook, walking Miss Odie the dog, and on and on.

Nate has become very comfortable with me, even offering at times to put on my socks and shoes. Anything he sees me struggle with, he offers help with – very observant and compassionate. He recently arranged a speaking engagement at his school for me to present about ALS awareness.

Ezra’s favorite job has become to scrub the shower floor, and he checks it almost daily. The other day he was desperately looking around for a chore to do while he was here. I had assured him there really wasn’t anything because we were going to be leaving. He spotted a hair brush and started brushing my hair telling me I would look better if it was a little more orderly, then he put my lip gloss on me.

Tristan came to our rescue recently when I was in Seattle and Jeff needed a bit of help.

And recently, while Jeff and I left for a bit, Lizzy and Davien cleaned the entire house and had a beautifully set table with a little microwave dinner prepared for us.

I mean really – what kind of neighborhood kids would do these things? I don’t really know a lot about their home life, but their parents should be very proud of them – it is apparent that I have landed in a neighborhood full of big hearts, and I am grateful.

I could go on and on with hilarious things they say to me, and wonderful things they do for us. I hope this story at least slightly captures the essence of what these kids are to me.

I take my relationship with each of them very seriously, and try to teach them something to take with them into life. It’s given me a fantastic purpose.

So my message is don’t be too quick to dismiss where you may find the most unlikely friends. They may become your best.