14 people who inspire us in the Dayton area

The Dayton region has a reputation for generosity and banding together in tough times to help one another. That’s been true this year as it was more than 100 years ago when a flood devastated the community.

But social distancing can be isolating and make it hard to know how your neighbor has pitched in. That’s why throughout the month of December, the Dayton Daily News will tell the stories of people who have persevered and inspired others during this challenging year.

For a complete list of these stories, go here.

Aja Haywood

Dayton public schools have been closed for weeks, but Aja Haywood hasn’t lost touch with some of her students.

The third-grade teacher at Westwood Elementary School in West Dayton said change can be difficult for kids, and she wants to be there for her pupils following a year marred by disruption and turmoil.

Haywood, a third-grade teacher at Westwood Elementary in West Dayton, said change can be difficult on kids, and the one constant this year has been change and disruption.

With the school district on a coronavirus-related break, Haywood has been hosting regular virtual hangouts with her students to check in and make sure they are doing OK.

Jane and Bill Doorley

While the Fairborn FISH Pantry has fed hungry people in Fairborn since the 1970s, this year it played a crucial role in the community.

The pantry is a nonprofit organization that provides food, and assists with utility bills and rent to those in need. Jane and Bill Doorley are the husband and wife team who run the pantry at the moment, along with about 50 other volunteers. Both are retired, but work 50 to 60 hours per week at the food pantry providing services.

Tae Winston

Many small businesses have been stuck in survival mode since the coronavirus became a pandemic. But one local entrepreneur is bucking the trend, as she grows and expands her business.

When Tae Winston celebrates the one-year anniversary of her first brick-and-mortar business on Tuesday, she will mark the occasion by announcing the location of her newest venture ― a downtown store focused on entrepreneur education and retail offerings.



Rev. Peter Matthews

McKinley United Methodist Church is more than just a place for Sunday worship, and to many people, its pastor Rev. Peter Matthews is the reason why.

Matthews, 48, is a Cincinnati native and had dreams of being president of the United States before becoming a spiritual leader. After a knee injury ended his college basketball career, he said was called by God to be part of a bigger team.

Ryan Garrison

Air Force veteran Ryan Garrison’s service dog, Luke, had pulled him out of hundreds of anxiety attacks and nightmares.

But when Garrison, his son and Luke were in a car crash last January, the dog pulled Garrison out of a flashback so that he was able to save all three of them from the overturned car.

Pamela Hale

Pamela Hale wanted to work for a nonprofit for a long time. Then, COVID-19 opened the door to a nonprofit of her own.

After retiring from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Hale went to work last year for the Tipp City-based Pink Ribbon Girls nonprofit.

When the pandemic struck, she was laid off. Before long, she was back in the nonprofit world, this time at the helm of Little Kindness.

Daj’za Demmings

Daj’za Demmings appreciates all her West Dayton community did to raise her, which is why she does so much to give back.

“I kind of do a little bit of everything,” said Demmings, 29, who started Dayton Young Black Professionals in 2018. “I’m what you call a servant leader. I kind of just see what the needs are and figure out a way to address those needs.”



Josh Egeland

For many people, 2020 is seen as a disaster of a year that’s full of stress, unpredictability and uncertainty — but for many of the youth Josh Egeland works with at Daybreak youth homeless programs, that has been their daily existence.

Egeland has spearheaded a new program, David’s Place, at Daybreak that focuses on LGBTQ youth.

Taneesha Watson

Taneesha Watson is the calm at the center of the storm who adapted a busy pharmacy to keep local vets safe and get them their critical medications, according to the colleagues who work with her daily at the Dayton Veteran Affairs Medical Center.

Watson is the outpatient pharmacy supervisor there in the midst of a global pandemic when patient concerns are heightened, social distancing is required and a complex job gets even more complex.



Sanjii Johnigan

Sanjii Johnigan often cooks and dances with her third and fourth grade students at Dayton SMART Elementary School.

This year, when Johnigan, 54, and her colleagues were thrust into the unfamiliar world of online teaching by a global pandemic, her passion did not wane. She got creative.

Monte Veatch

Monte Veatch made sure Cedarville University students isolated or quarantined due to coronavirus didn’t miss a meal — even if that meant 16,000 hand-delivered meals.

For Veatch, the school’s food service director, that meant grueling work hours and limited family time.

“Obviously, there are some sacrifices involved, but you just keep your eye on the big picture,” he said.

Tiffany Thompson

When she was a little girl, Tiffany Thompson would accompany her parents to volunteer at local nursing homes after Sunday service.

It was there that she developed a passion for helping people and subsequently the desire to become an oncology nurse. Whether it’s treating breast cancer patients, holding their hands as they took their final breaths or assisting COVID-19 patients, nursing is her calling, her ministry. It’s what God created her to do, said Thompson, an administrative director of nursing and respiratory care at Soin Medical Center and Greene Memorial Hospital.

Credit: Ty Greenlees

Credit: Ty Greenlees

Tech. Sgt. Anthony Staton and Senior Master Sgt. David Briden

Two Wright-Patterson Air Force Base airmen are being lauded for their quick action to help save a distressed teenager who was considering jumping from a Fairborn overpass.

On Nov. 18, Tech. Sgt. Anthony Staton was headed to Wright-Patt to begin his workday at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center when he saw a figure hanging onto a light pole outside a railing on the South Maple Drive overpass in Fairborn. At first, he thought it was a child, but then realized it was a young man considering jumping off the structure.

Senior Master Sgt. David Briden, an expeditionary operations manager for the Air Force Installation Contracting Center, also was driving to work when he saw Staton’s uniform, parked his pickup behind the airman’s car and turned on his hazard lights.

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