In my many years as a news reporter, I’ve learned that there are a lot of generous people around.

Some are very vocal and visible, and give to all sorts of causes, such as homeless shelters and food cupboards.

Some, like Crysten Blount, operate under the radar and you never really hear about all the wonderful things they do.

Blount, 30, and her aunt Kathy Gower, 49, own and operate Curves, a women’s fitness center on Main Street in downtown Waterville.

Every month, they launch a project to help those less fortunate.

“We’ve collected money for the homeless shelter, the animal shelter, Maine Children’s Home and of course, at Christmas we do stockings for nursing home residents,” Blount said Wednesday.

She and Gower also collect Christmas boxes that contain things like toys, paper and pencils, socks and toothpaste to send to needy children around the U.S. and in third world countries.

“Most of our efforts are for the local community,” Blount said. “We’ve done things to help people with muscular dystrophy and breast cancer. We did a thing for the troops where Curves members brought in their change and we bought telephone calling cards for the troops so they could call home.”

In the six years Blount and Gower have owned the local Curves, they’ve had a lot of fundraisers. Twice a year, they collect food to give to food cupboards.

Last month, they collected 3,740 pounds of nonperishable food items that filled a whole corner of the fitness center, exceeding the 2,268 pounds they collected previously. They donated the food to four area food cupboards.

At the Curves center Wednesday morning, a large poster was on display, showing how much food members had collected and praising them for their generosity.

Blount, a talkative, upbeat women with shoulder-length blonde hair and blue eyes, beamed as she spoke about how charitable Curves members are. She said she and Gower always tell them there’s absolutely no pressure to give anything.

“These women are, seriously, the most generous women I’ve ever met,” Blount said. “Everything we do, they give, every time. We have women from all professionals and of all ages. Our oldest member is 89 and our youngest is 12 — she works out with her mom.”

It’s likely the way Blount and Gower go about fundraising that prompts people to want to contribute.

Blount, for instance, sets an admirable example.

In her mere 30 years on this earth, she has traveled to 17 countries doing missionary work, sometimes with her family and sometimes alone. She does everything from showing a child how to wash hands to teaching English.

Using money she raises locally — and Curves members pitch in — she has been to places including South Africa, Guam, the Dominican Republic, Northern Ireland, Kyrgyzstan — and 11 or 12 times to Guatemala.

“I’ve lost track. I’ve been going since I was 15. The first time, I worked in medical situations. I was able to assist in surgeries. Hysterectomies were really a huge thing there. I helped do a knee replacement and they wanted me to suture the patient but there was a woman in the next operating room who was having a baby and I said, ‘Oh, that’s more my style.'”

Blount said she had no formal medical training, other than what few skills the missionaries taught her.

“We practiced sutures on a piece of raw chicken. We practiced doing shots on each other. I had absolutely no training. I was just a 15-year-old girl in an operating room.”

On other Guatemala visits, she went to schools and taught children how to brush their teeth, helped families build stoves and install ventilation — families who had only fire pits in the middle of their floors.

“We did a lot of nebulizer treatments. A lot of women would have a lot of respiratory issues. We also dug 10 feet down and 6 feet across, by hand, to build water cisterns. We filled them with concrete. They were holding tanks underground. We did that at schools and in villages.”

Blount helped families build chicken coops, brought them baby chicks and taught them how to have a home business where they could sell eggs and chickens.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Blount is a worker, a doer, and a very generous and caring soul. She attributes her penchant for helping others to her parents.

“I grew up in a home where hospitality was a huge thing for my Mom. Really, it comes right from the Bible — to give to others and treat others like you want to be treated.”

I can’t help but think that if every one of us did a tenth of the work for others that Blount does, we’d have a happier, healthier and more humane world. As Blount said Wednesday, giving is simple, and what comes back to you is immeasurable.

“You are blessed by blessing others,” she said.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 24 years. Her column appears here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]

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