Edward Stoddard carries on his campaign of kindness

Chester. A firefighter, Kiwanian, and former schools superintendent and town justice, Mr. Stoddard believes in getting involved and making a difference. It all started when as a boy he took a dollar for cigarettes, and the lesson his mother taught him was a support throughout his life and inspired him to help others in the same way.

| 26 Feb 2020 | 05:31

True heartfelt kindness is an attribute we choose to invest in. To one, that might simply mean writing a card to a loved one. To another, it may mean consoling a friend through a difficult time.

The original creation of a community-oriented business called Lucky U, founded in 1994, was just one way in which a (roughly) 59-year resident of Chester -- Mr. Edward Stoddard -- was able to touch the lives of many, by passing down a fervent message of support, wisdom, and yes, kindness.

Lucky U sought out young people during important developmental stages of their lives and asks them to “get involved in something where it would have positive impacts, and would help them as they ran into challenges further on in the future."

Mr. Stoddard lives this credo: served as the superintendent and principal of the old Maple High School from 1973 to 1993, is a firefighter, was on the town board as a town justice and board member, and has been on the village board. He’s also an active member of the Kiwanis Club. He played a role in the construction of the first pavilion in the Commons.

Lucky U wanted to avoid the “silo effect” caused by organizations that act in an isolated manner. Rather, the organization attempted to contribute to already established organizations that had shown great strides in the promotion of youth improvement. Lucky U had participated in multiple community efforts, such as raising funds for the 9/11 memorial by Carpenter Field in Chester.

What made the donation process to Lucky U stand out is what a donor would receive in return. Once a donation was made, a donor would receive back a “pledge” or “promise” card, where recipients would then make a promise to themselves to stay on the straight and narrow. One of the Lucky U card designs centered around the firefighting terminology “backfire," comparing the preemptive fire control method to taking steps towards halting a minor issue before it evolves into something much worse.

A mother's lesson

Mr. Stoddard said he first committed to the idea of “pledging” after an incident during his younger years.

“When I was in junior high school, I rode down to the general store on a horse, and bought a pack of cigarettes, later going behind the barn to smoke them," he said. "At lunch time my mother said to me, 'I want to see you in your room after you’ve finished lunch.' When I went upstairs she asked me, 'What happened to the dollar bill that was in the glass on the dresser?' And being so naive, I asked her, 'What dollar bill in what glass and what dresser?'

"She said to me, 'Do you want to play ball in high school?,' and I said 'Well you know I do.' She said, 'Why don’t you promise yourself you won’t smoke until you're out of high school?'"

He later went on to practice that particular method of self-control, which supported him through greater difficulties in his life. He’s also had those whom he’s previously exposed to the pledge tell him what a difference it’s truly made for them.

“If you look at today's society, the person that you can look up to and respect or honor across the adult board can be very difficult to find," Mr. Stoddard said, in talking about the current political climate and the Astros scandal. Accounting for community interaction, adult role models, and guiding youth, Mr. Stoddard still strongly believes in Lucky U’s message.

Although Lucky U’s business aspect has, for the most part, become dormant due to lack of traction, Mr. Stoddard said he was more than willing to work with external forces in order to revitalize the message which it holds, and the community connection which it brings.

He said, "If you took the grassroots, and if you start from the bottom up, you could make a difference."

Editor's note: Jacob Mott is a student at the Chester Academy.

“If you look at today's society, the person that you can look up to and respect or honor across the adult board can be very difficult to find." --Edward Stoddard