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Good Deeds Help Neighbors

Good Deeds Help Neighbors

Deijah Blanks, 12, held her nephew, Jeremiah Edwards, 3, at a rope pull next to a balloon version of Thomas the Tank Engine at the Make-A-Wish Foundation's pre-game festivities Tuesday at the Poinsettia Bowl. - Peggy Peattie / Union-Tribune

San Diego Union-Tribune

December 25, 2008

A need unseen is often a need unmet, but many San Diegans opened their eyes wide this holiday season. They saw opportunities to turn their generous spirits into generous acts, especially as the economy sinks.

These are only a few stories of giving, only a few of the people who stepped in when they noticed a need: a La Jolla girl putting to use her mother’s lessons of knitting and charity; a San Diego law firm making sure ill children enjoyed the Poinsettia Bowl; Chula Vista police officers aiding a family without heat or electricity.

And Rick Herkert, an Escondido resident who’s got his mind on a conversation he expects to have someday – you know, the one with the entity who greets you as you walk toward the light. Herkert wants to make sure he has something to say.

“I know I gotta stand in front of him sometime, so I might put a few pluses down,” Herkert said. “I’m a contractor, so I probably have a few minuses,” he chuckled.

Herkert laughs like a guy on a roll at a craps table, as if he just can’t fathom his good fortune.

Somehow, with housing construction down, unemployment up and people tapped out, the business he owns with his son Adam – Herkert & Son – is thriving. He’s got what he calls “a heck of a good job” putting in underground electric wires at Miramar College, a project that started in July and is expected to last through next summer.

A few weeks ago, an immediate, desperate need confronted Herkert while he was at church.

Jim Silk, a cook for the Interfaith Community Services kitchen in Escondido, stood up at the Saturday night Mass at Church of the Resurrection and appealed for donations. The way things were going, Silk said, Interfaith wouldn’t have enough to serve its annual Christmas dinner to the indigent.

Herkert waited in his pew as the other parishioners filed out after the service.

“You’re sitting there. You just heard a service. You heard the Gospel, and you say, ‘Gee, there’s gotta be something I can do,’” Herkert said.

So he approached Silk and he asked how much it costs to provide the Christmas dinner. For how many people?, Silk asked. All of them, Herkert said. Silk said he would have to get back to him on that.

Meanwhile, Herkert and his son talked it over. They agreed to cover the entire cost. When Silk called back Monday and said it would be $1,200, Herkert said the check was on its way.

“I feel pretty lucky,” Herkert said. “If you feel lucky, part of what you’re supposed to do is give back.”

Herkert will celebrate today with family in Orange County, while about 200 to 300 people in Escondido will have turkey and ham on him. It turns out that the big conversation is starting before the afterlife.

“It’s like the Lord saying: ‘I gave you all this. What have you done for me lately?’” Herkert said. And he laughed.

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