|Alex and Lelia Wendel and their three young sons, Austen, Hudson, and Logan.|
By Chuck Keller
Small acts have big impacts — like giving away water. Especially if it is an action that fulfills the family mission.
Let me back up a bit. You have no doubt seen the cooler on the steps of a home on South Fort Thomas Avenue. That is the home of Alex and Lelia Wendel and their three young sons, Austen (5), Hudson (2.5), and Logan (5 months).
Lelia says about the cooler that, “We’ve done it a couple of times before. Pre-COVID time we put out a big water cooler and paper cups. So we did that every now and then. Sometimes we put out a free lemonade stand. The boys liked doing it. With the water fountains being off and he’s (pointing to Alex) a runner, so he knows how necessary they are. And people walk by all of the time.” So it seemed a natural thing to do.”
“It was a hot weekend that had come up so we just put some water out for a weekend,” says Alex.
Leila adds that, “So many people took water that we just continued to do it. So we thought we’d do it every weekend, and then we said, you know what, we just need to keep doing it. And the cooler was empty all of the time.”
Alex says that, “We have been going through about 10 to 12 cases a week. It’s super surprising.”
And their boys have fun. Like when they go to the store for ice. They drive a toy car, get an ice cream, and come home with a bag of ice. It becomes an adventure. But it’s an adventure with a purpose.
The boys wave and chat to passing walkers and runners. Lelia says that one son described himself as shy but this has brought him out. He now shouts “You want a water?” to people. Now he doesn’t consider himself so shy. Such a simple thing that carries so much meaning.
“It’s been a really neat thing for them,” she says. Then she recalls one particular event. The boys saw “groups of teenage boys out there and they are so sweet to these little guys.” One teen noticed the family was low on water so “he went and got a case for us.... The things they are teaching these boys is really sweet,” Lelia says. That made a big impact on her boys and she hopes it made a positive impact on his teen friends as well.
But then Lelia revealed something. “Our family mission is that ‘Wendels love’ and we try to find ways to bless people.” A family mission statement? Yes. They have written down the tenets that they try to live by. It is their listed beliefs that can be expressed in action. Some others include “Wendels work hard. Wendels seek out and discover new things. Wendels are kind.” Alex wrote the list as part of a church project. He says, “We wanted rules that were kid friendly, something they could understand.” Leila says to one of her sons, “Hard work” and he finished with “is always worth it.” And there it is. Their love in action.
So how long will they continue to give away water? “Till they freeze,” Alex chuckles. Or at least until people stop taking them.
Lelia adds that, “We've had so many thank you notes." Alex adds, “People leave thank you notes on the chalk board.” They seem a bit surprised but are also pleased that people express their gratitude.
They can now add one more statement to their list of beliefs. Their family mission builds community.