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Volunteer’s Efforts Make Sweet Music

Thia Roszman’s grandparents passed away in the summer of 2010. They were like a second set of parents to Roszman, and she was still mourning the loss when a neighbor, Nancy Hafer, came up with an idea.

Volunteer’s Efforts Make Sweet Music

Photo by LuAnn Montz

“She wanted to start a handbell choir at Fairhaven Community, where both my grandparents had lived before their passing. I told her if she ever got around to actually doing it, to count me in,” Roszman recalls. “I missed being around my grandparents, and I missed being around seniors.”

The following spring, Hafer began holding practices at the community in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Roszman participated, even though she had no musical experience. Roszman expected to pass out bells and help wherever needed. But Hafer’s work schedule made it difficult for her to attend practices, and the choir was in danger of disbanding.

That left Roszman in a quandary.

“I really didn’t know much about music, but we were enjoying it so much,” she says. “At first I said, ‘No.’ I’m a natural wallflower. But the residents and staff just kept saying, ‘You can do it Thia,’ and so I started directing.”

It was difficult at first, but Roszman soon got used to being out front, directing Fairhaven Commmunity’s first-ever handbell choir. Now, the choir is a favorite of residents and community members alike. Practices are held once a week, and the ringers perform for free wherever they are invited.

“There is nothing in the world like the looks on their faces when they get up there to play,” Roszman says. “I do it for them, and we’ve really become like family.”

The choir has about 30 members, including two who are blind. Spotters tap them to signal when to ring their bells. And, thanks to generous contributions from donors, the choir’s repertoire has expanded.

“We had been limited in what we could play,” says Roszman. “Because we couldn’t afford to buy new songs, we had to keep playing the same ones over and over. Now, we purchased new songs and new bells, and the residents love it even more.”

And Roszman, the former wallflower, even performs occasionally. She says her favorite memory is the first time the choir played before an audience.

“It was a Christmas production,” she says. “We played in the chapel, and all the residents’ friends and family members were invited. I think we were all in tears when it was over.

“But there are many moments where I sit back and say, ‘Aha, this is what it’s all about.’ They’re just so awesome.”