–by Mary Helen Darah
PUBLICATION DATE: Oct 01, 2020
Betty Bassett, the recent Volunteer of the Year for the Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce, is one busy lady. She is known for her enthusiasm, hard work and multi-tasking. It seems to be an apple-did-not-fall-from-the-tree scenario, as her family, consisting of twelve, yes a dozen, siblings all possess the same drive and service to their community.
Bassett’s mother, Dorothy Arbogast, and her husband, Urban, managed a household of twelve daughters with great faith and efficiency. “There are 19 years between the oldest sister and the youngest,” said Bassett. “Her first six children were born in under six years. My sixth sister was born in May as my oldest sister turned six in October. It doesn’t seem possible but apparently, it is. My upbringing has a lot to do with who I am today. Having people come into places where I volunteer and say that they have never been in a position where they are in need of food before greatly impacts me. My parents were always community-oriented. As individuals and as a family, we see a need and we do as much as we can to help.”
Bassett’s father was a township trustee and both of her parents were members of the American Legion and involved in local churches and schools. “Community was a big deal,” recalled Bassett. “My dad had a terrible accident. His grain truck was hit by a train and he was thrown from the truck. Our neighbors came around and harvested over 400 acres for us. It showed me the strength of having a community. Life on a farm was a lot of work, but we made work fun. Working together made the load lighter. With no brothers, it was a female-empowering environment. There were no limits on what we were allowed to do … drive a tractor, bale hay, etc. There was no such thing as ‘boy’s work’.”
In keeping with her community-minded family, Bassett serves as director of outreach at Five Lakes Church in Sylvania and volunteers at Sylvania Area Family Services, the Pregnancy Center and at numerous community events. The tireless woman helped distribute food at the beginning of the pandemic, in collaboration with Sautter’s grocery store, to over 200 families through Five Lakes Church. “I like to get involved with community events, especially for organizations such as the Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce that cannot happen without volunteer support,” she stated.
For she and her family, it is not all work without play. The twelve siblings get together every holiday and do a sisters’ trip every summer. “It is the highlight of our year,” said Bassett. “We do everything from hiking in Colorado to whitewater rafting in West Virginia. Most of us enjoy hiking so many trips involve being outdoors. Sometimes we take a trip to the family farm where my mother still lives and sleep in our old beds. Being one of a dozen, you have a willingness to yield to each other and not be so demanding of things for yourself. We can work out such things as where to stay and sleeping arrangements knowing people aren’t going to demand things for themselves. If you have to sleep on the couch to make it work, that’s what you do. We have an ability to get along and believe that everyone doesn’t have to share your opinion. You don’t have to agree to get along.”
Bassett’s mother enjoys her daughters’ visits and still is a force to contend with. “My mom is 92 years old,” said Bassett. “Up until she was 82 she was rototilling the garden. At 86 she said she may need a smaller machine. Two years ago my dad and mom received an award from the state of Ohio. I had to take her to the fair. We discussed how far we had to walk and I told her they had golf carts. She told me she was aware of that (at 91) but that those are for older people.”
Bassett strives to pass along the lessons learned from a “better by the dozen” family to her children. “We passed on the lesson of having a strong work ethic and the need to serve your community at large; not only give back but be part of it,” she stated. “My son won the ‘Men for Others’ award at St. John’s Jesuit for his embodiment of its motto. That’s how we have tried to live – to love God and others. When we all work together, as my family did, it makes a community strong. It is our responsibility to care for ourselves and for our neighbors through our desire to help and our belief in God.”