My respect increased this week as the state representative from Hickory Flat announced he is battling a rare form of leukemia, and now he needs our help, support and prayers.
But even in this tough time for him and his family, he also wanted the community to know that he is still working for us as our legislator and that his office is there to help until he can get back to work.
When I first met Calvin, I was working at the Tribune when the annual fundraiser for Reinhardt University, A-Day, was started about 25 years ago and I was given Calvin and Cheryl Hill’s business to call on for a donation. I had already called the ones I knew and felt lucky to get $30 or $40.
When I finally got around to calling the Hills, Cheryl let me know politely right away that she had been awaiting my call and wondering why I had not gotten in touch sooner. She said she had a check waiting that would cover the scholarship for one student.
I almost fainted, because if I remember correctly that was about $600. That was a huge check and a wonderful donation.
I asked where she was located and hurried right down to pick it up and get it to the college. That was just the first time of many, many when Calvin and Cheryl reached into their pocketbook to help the community.
But they did more than that.
In high school, my daughter and the Hills’ daughter were on the Cherokee High track team freshman year. My daughter began seeing a young man on the boys team whose family did not do much to support him. He was a great kid, but he had a really hard time just getting to school, much less to play sports.
While he and my daughter eventually broke up, we all remained in touch through school.
But unfortunately, after graduation, he was arrested for drugs.
My husband and I reached out to him and tried to help him get back on his feet after he was sentenced to probation. He wanted to put drugs behind him and move on with his life.
When Calvin and Cheryl heard we were trying to help him, they called and said they would like to offer him a job at their warehouse. They remembered him fondly as well, and wanted to help give him another chance at a better life.
Calvin met with him, and laid down the law about what would be expected. He did not mince words.
The young man went to work for them and remained there for several years, and hopefully that time did help him turn his life around.
That is how the Hills have always been, ready to lend a helping hand.
Following is the letter Calvin sent Thursday to the community:
“Wow, these last two weeks have been a couple of the fastest moving, emotionally and physically challenging ones I have ever experienced! From waking up with pneumonia on July Fourth and checking into the hospital — then discovering critically low levels of platelets and blood counts and the subsequent flurry of bone marrow biopsies and blood tests leading to a diagnosis of a rare form of leukemia, it has been a real roller coaster ride.
Cheryl and I thank all of you so much for your uplifting prayers during this time. We look forward to your continuing support as we work towards total remission.
From there we will face the final chapter of bone marrow transplants, as the good Lord leads us on our path to recovery.
For now, I remain in the isolation ward of the Northside Hospital Bone Marrow Transplant Unit in Atlanta. (They do not allow any fresh plants, flowers or even fruits or vegetables in here)
Untold numbers of tests and analysis are yet to come as we look forward to various therapy and chemotherapy programs that will be designed to suit my particular syndrome.
For those who ask ‘Will I fight this thing?’ I believe you know that we fully intend to beat it with a combination of prayer, science and old-fashioned hard work. It takes an equal application of all three to overcome something of this magnitude.
During this period, my assistant at the Capitol, Jan Brown will be glad to assist you with any legislative concerns you may have. You may reach her at (404) 656-7855 or jan.brown@house .ga.gov.
May the Lord of all Bless us all in this our time of greatest need.
Just as Calvin has always been there for others, I hope he knows the community is sending support and prayers his way. Our thoughts are with him.
Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.