sam-melden

People.
I am all about people.

Dear Toledo,

You know how people like to ask those “strange facts about yourself” type questions? Like one of those questions from 2 truths and a lie? I really only have one fun fact that I always go back to. It really is quite strange, but it also completely represents who I am. Ready?

Here it is… I never missed a day of school in my life. K through 12. Perfect. Attendance. It’s true. At my high school graduation they asked me to stand up and told everyone and I heard people gasp. And now people of course ask, almost immediately… “What? Didn’t you ever get sick?” And of course the answer is yes.

I just went to school anyway.

Here is why I think that represents who I am so well: I didn’t particularly like school. I went to Lake High School and was in that school system from about 3rd grade on. It was ok. I was a C student. You could say school wasn’t exactly “my thing.” But I went. Every. Single. Day. You know why? Because that’s where my people were. My friends were there. I had quite a few of them, and I loved seeing them. So, I get sick and I’m going to stay home? Alone? Ugh… no thanks. Eating cereal and watching Rickie Lake never quite cut it for me.

People. I am all about people. I love people. And while that sounds fairly basic, here’s what I want to say to you… I love you, Toledo for pretty much one reason… you’ve got the best people. Your collection of roads and buildings and landmarks, filled with history as they may be, aren’t that special to me. It’s your people that make me love you.

This summer I was driving down Adams Street and saw my friend Bryce, walking out of Bleak House. He was talking to a woman I later found out was in a season of homelessness. Bryce was talking with her like he talks to everyone, walking with her, listening to her story. Bryce has made my life better. Do I love Adams St? Not really… I love the people on Adams St. I love how Eileen and Dakota have made that shop work with all of their hard work and dedication. As I passed Bryce I saw Dake Geirke riding that weird scooter of his into work. I love how Dave doesn’t ever act like he’s working, but no one loves their job more than he does. People. Really great people. That’s what I love about you.

One of my favorite places is Ottawa Park. Sure, its a lovely spot full of history. But I love that I learned to play golf there with my stepdad. That I trained for my first marathon on that 5K loop with close friends and my father-in-law.

I love setting up shop at the Oliver House. That lounge is my spot. And, while the beer is incredible… I love the people I see there. Chris, always smiling behind the bar. My friend Erin popping by on her way up to her apartment. The countless meetings I’ve had with close friends and co-workers. Its a nice place… but its the people I love.

I’m writing this letter at Maddie & Bella on St. Clair. It’s hard to get anything done here with this Cheers-like atmosphere. But I love it. Chef Drew quite literally spoon feeding me a sample of the latest creation. Paul Sullivan walking by offering a friendly greeting.

And I love the people I spent time with before, when it was Downtown Latte. My friend, founder of Food for Thought, Don Schiewer and I would meet there often to talk about life. I met Dave Beckwith there, which meant I met a ton of other people there too. Change the name of the business, paint the walls, even drastically improve the customer service, and it’s still just a place. You’re still just a city. But I’m showing up every day, sick or not. Because the people here are just the best.

People. I am all about people. And now I even have little people in my house. 3 little girls that Lindsey and I are taking around this city. And man, what a place it is to raise a family. You know, I can already see it in the way they are experiencing this place… their little buddies make all the difference. You have some great little people too.

Here’s the thing Toledo, I wasn’t sure how to tell you that I love you. It felt weird at first. But then I thought about all of the people around me. How they shape my life, how they challenge me & teach me. Such lovely people. And they are your people, and I love that about you.

Love,

Sam

Sam doesn’t just talk about loving Toledo, though he does that very well, he also does lots of stuff to keep moving Toledo forward. Check out his website here, check out his podcast A Call From here, check out his recent interview on Rough Draft Diaries here, and his episode of Toledo Matters Podcast here. But, he will tell you his biggest joy is being a father. A little over a year ago, their youngest daughter was diagnosed with Spina Bifida in utero – in honor of their strong, thriving daughter Joanna Ruth who was born this January they are raising funds for the Toledo Area Spina Bifida Coalition. Find all the details of their journey and why they are spearheading his campaign – as well as donate – here