A community conspires to help one of their own

WORTHINGTON - Robyn Moser walked in the back door of The Stag Monday and struggled to hold back tears. The evidence of what had happened over the weekend while she was away on a mini-vacation was overwhelming, and keeping her emotions in check was a battle.

"Words just aren't enough," she said Monday.

Using friendly deceit and the power of the community, a group of people had gathered together at Robyn's store on Saturday and replaced the 1971 carpet - moving all of the clothing racks out of the way, ripping up old carpeting, scraping floors and replacing the new squares.

The Secret Santa project started because of a partial list found in a cluttered office. Robyn's husband Kenneth had passed away suddenly in 2017, not long after they had purchased The Stag building. Ken had talked with his employer, Radio Works GM Chad Cummings about what needed to be done to the building, and while cleaning off his desk several months ago, Cummings came across the list that only had four items on it.

Ken's to-do projects at The Stag included a new roof, paint, carpet and HVAC.

"People who knew Ken knew he always had a thing about lists," Robyn said. "He'd get halfway through scratching off items on a list and start a new one, moving the leftover stuff to the top."

Ken got the chance to see two of the items be crossed off - the roof and paint.

According to Cummings, excess funds will be used to complete the last items on the list - the HVAC system. As of Monday, Cummings was still receiving phone calls from people who want to help."Now the Secret Santa has checked one more thing off Ken's list," Robyn said.

Ken was a huge part of generosity and volunteerism in Worthington, and Robyn has always done the same. After a fast-moving case of cancer took Ken's life in 2017, many in the community were shaken when Robyn was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year ago.

There were a lot of conspirators working in the background to get this particular project done. Cummings enlisted the help of a lot of people, from raising money to organizing laborers to creating a reason to drag an unsuspecting Robyn out of town overnight.

Cummings' first call was to Susanne Murphy, who organized demo and labor for moving. Marty Rickers and John Standafer took over soliciting funds, Matt DeWall at Carpet Plus helped with the right product for the right price, and Lonny Johnson, whose father had installed the 1971 carpet, led the install process with help from Bruce Stugelmeyer, Daryl Krogman and Tyler Stugelmeyer. Many people took part in this project, and it just isn't possible to list all who helped.

"I'm just amazed!" Robyn laughed. "Part of the hockey team showed up to move boxes of carpet squares, my BINGO friends were here, people I've served on committees with, fire department members.... so many people that I'll never be able to name them all."

Getting Robyn back to the store on Sunday also involved a bit of trickery - she was told there was a customer who needed help getting a suit for a funeral. Instead of finding someone who needed help, she found a group of about 20 people who wanted to see her face when the project was revealed.

"It was all a ruse," Robyn laughed, delighted with the idea. "A lot of people conspired, and it took an entire network of people to pull this off."

The real trick was to get the job done in the allotted time - one carpet professional told Cummings he really hoped they could get it done by Monday. Instead, with lots of labor and dedication, the whole job got done in about six hours.

Robyn took the time to email her family and tell them what had happened. Ken's brother Mike sent back a response that Robyn shared.

" The Worthington effect of community love is really something," Mike wrote. ".... the world shows back on us what we project, and in your store we see the wonderful projection of you and Ken."

Robyn said she is eager for another Secret Santa project to take place in the community so she can help someone else.

Looking around her store and still feeling a bit of disbelief, she shook her head.

"It's just humbling," she admitted.

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