NEW CASTLE —
Jan, a native of Illinois, met Neal when the two were in graduate school in Bloomington, Ind. The two moved to Lawrence County 25 years ago when Neal accepted a position as associate dean at Westminster College, where he now is vice president for student affairs.
When Rachel was born, Grigsby vowed she would not work full-time as long as she had a child at home. Herself a longtime educator, Grigsby currently works 2 to 3 days a week as a professor in the master’s degree and counseling program at Slippery Rock University.
But while she limits her work schedule, Grigsby is constantly in motion with the good deeds she does. According to Cotton, Grigsby will welcome any new family that moves into Neshannock Township with a plate of brownies. If someone is sick, out comes the pot to make some homemade chicken soup. If Grigsby gets wind of someone going through a rough time, as in the loss of a loved one, Grigsby is there with a home-cooked meal. At Christmas time, she is known for her cranberry bread, which she makes and delivers to those who need a lift.
“Jan and Neal do not have relatives in this area, but there are always friends around their table. Whether it’s munchies in the kitchen, burgers on the deck, or a buffet in the dining room, the welcome mat is always out,” Cotton said. “And if Jan gets wind of someone who does not have plans for holiday dinner, the invitation is automatically issued.”
For Grigsby, the reward is much better than the deed itself.
“I get so much out of it,” she says with complete humility. “It makes me feel good inside to be able to do a small bit of something for someone else.”
A HELPING HAND
Cotton tells of an older friend who Grigsby aids on a daily basis. She also has helped two young students get into college.
“I just gave them some advice and took them on some visits,” Grigsby insists, as Cotton shakes her head with a knowing smile.
“She is just so kind,” Cotton said. “When she’s helping someone, she somehow manages to turn it around, so they feel like they’re doing her the favor.”
Grigsby is also quite involved in her Youngstown church, where Cotton says, “she doesn’t just attend services, she jumps in and does everything from cleaning restrooms to being on committees, to fixing food — whether she’s asked or not.”
For years, Grigsby took her certified therapy dog, Maddy, to nursing homes, but when Maddy had to be put down last year, the family’s energetic Jack Russell terrier, Bailey, picked up where Maddy left off.
Grigsby is a regular at pet fairs and clinics in the area through her work with the humane society.
“She can’t pass by a dog without a collar, or one that seems lost without stopping to see if it needs help,” Cotton said. “We joke that she’ll jump from a moving car to check on a dog.”
Grigsby’s good deeds have been infectious for Neal, Rachel and Carly, all of whom volunteer their time in various ways. Rachel, now 21, is a student at Slippery Rock University, while Carly, 17, is a junior at Neshannock.
Neal is a mainstay at the New Castle Playhouse, where he won’t hesitate to grab a lawn mower or paintbrush if it is needed.
Oh, and when she’s not helping people or dogs, Grigsby finds time to enter her quilting and cross-stitch at the Lawrence County Fair, where she has won numerous ribbons.
“I love ribbons,” Grigsby said, adding with a chuckle, “I have an obsession with them.”