By John Cole, guest columnist
Kenyon involvement in the AFS (American Field Service) program goes back into the 1960’s. Students from foreign countries would come to town and spend the school year with a host family. The host family agrees to take care of the student as if he or she was a member of that family. In most cases it worked out really well. Kenyon kids also had the opportunity to go abroad and study as well through this program. Which many did.
While these foreign students were here they made many lifelong friends. They took back home the experience of living in a small town and enjoying everyday working of school and play. Some host families had friends who would take AFS students to see special events or sites which increased their knowledge of the United States.
While the program had its “Do and Don’ts” participation outside the host family was encouraged. One Kenyon business man took it upon himself to make the students stay here a happy one. That man was Bud Forsberg who on his own made many friends by his offer to students. Since AFS students weren’t supposed to drive a car, Bud offered students for many years a free bike. Each year he would call the host family and have them send their AFS student down to his Coast to Coast Hardware store. There he would let them pick out a bicycle from stock on hand. It was their to use till they returned home to their country. Bud would then sell the bikes as used bicycles, and someone always got a good deal.
Buds generosity made him many friends. When our AFS student came from Thailand, she was offered a bike. When she brought it home to our house there was a sparkle in her eye and a smile on her face. Nobody had ever given her something like that before. I remember that I had to make a bike rack in the back yard as that bicycle made five in our family. She used it everyday.
As the years went by they didn’t forget Kenyon. The thing remembered and the bonds these young people had brought many back to town for class reunions, death of host family members or just an old fashioned visit.
When our AFS student Patty returned after thirty years absence it was like she had never left. While she was here we went to the Kenyon County Club on Sunday morning after church, she always attended church with us. While there I was introducing her to those there which included Bud and Joan Forsberg. Patty spoke up and said, “Your the man that gave me the bicycle”. After thirty years she still remembered the generosity of Bud.
Who said that one man can’t make a difference?
John Cole is a Kenyon resident.
Read the original story here.