Mitt Romney, community organizer

Was Mitt Romney a jerk in high school? Maybe. But what is the adult Romney like?

From The Real Romney, by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman (pages 120-121):

One Saturday, Grant Bennett got up on a ladder outside his two-story [house] intent on dislodging a hornets’ nest, which had formed between an air-conditioning unit and a second floor window. . . .The hornets went right at him, and he fell off the ladder, breaking his foot. . . .Romney learned what had happened and went over that afternoon to see if there was anything he could do. He and Bennett chatted for a few minutes, and then Romney left.

About nine thirty that Sunday night, Romney reappeared. Only this time, it was dark out. Romney was in jeans and a polo shirt instead of his suit, and he was carrying a bucket, a piece of hose, and a couple of screwdrivers. “He said, ‘I noticed you hadn’t gotten rid of the hornets,” Bennett recalled. “I said, ‘Mitt you don’t need to do that.’ He said, I’m here, and I’m going to do it. . .You demonstrated that doing it on a ladder is not a good idea.’” Romney went at it from inside the house, opening a window enough to dislodge it. Soon the hornets were gone.

Everyone who knows Romney in the church community seems to have a story like this, about him and his family pitching in to help in ways big and small. They took chicken and asparagus soup to sick parishioners. They invited unsettled Mormon transplants in their home for lasagna.

Helen Claire Stevens and her husband once loaned a friend from church a six-figure sum and weren’t getting paid back. Suddenly, they couldn’t to pay their daughter’s Harvard College tuition. Romney who was [a local Mormon] leader at the time, not only worked closely with the Stevens family and the loan recipient to try to resolve the problem, he offered to give Stevens and her husband money and tried to help her find a job. “He spent an infinite amount of time with, all the time we needed,” Stevens said. “It was way above and beyond what he had to do”. . . .

On Super Bowl Sunday 1989, Douglas Anderson was at home in Belmont with his four children when a fire broke out. The blaze spread quickly, and all Anderson could think of was racing his family to safety. “There was no thought in my mind other than ‘Get my kids out,’” he said. “I was not thinking about saving anything.” He doesn’t remember when Romney, who lived nearby, showed up. But he got there quickly. Immediately, Romney organized the gathered neighbors, and they began dashing into the house to rescue what could: a desk, couches, books. . . . “They saved some important things for us, and Mitt was the general in charge of that.” This went on until firefighters ordered them to stop. “Literally,” Anderson said, “they were finally kicked out by the firemen as they were bringing hoses and stuff.”

After the fire was finally out, Anderson, Romney, and other church members shared a spiritual moment on the front steps of the charred home. . . .Anderson recalled, “we talked about how even in a case like this, if we tried to be true to our faith, it could turn out to be a positive thing.” Over the many years since, Anderson said, the family has seen that come true.

Romney’s acts of charity extended beyond just the church community. After his friend and neighbor Joseph O’Donnell lost a son, Joey, to cystic fibrosis. . .Romney helped lead a community effort to build Joey’s park, a playground. . .in Belmont. “There he was with a hammer in his belt, the Mitt nobody sees,” O’Donnell said.

Romney didn’t stop there. About a year later, it became apparent that the park would need regular maintenance and repairs. “The next thing I know, my wife calls me up and says, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but Mitt Romney is down with a bunch of Boy Scouts and kids and they’re working on the park,’” said O’Donnell. . . .”He did it for like the next five years, without ever calling to say, ‘We’re doing this,’ without a reporter in tow, not looking for any credit.”

Perhaps these sorts of actions signify what it meant to be a community organizer before the left politicized the concept.

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