Harriet Weigel suffered a lengthy work-related injury, and her bout with this disability inspired an everlasting respect for people with disabilities. She also became a champion of the disabled as a result. Weigel was horrified to visit a convalescent home and see an elderly man, alone and penniless, dying in the friendless environment and ashamed to speak to her because he was naked and lying in a pool of his own urine. She was also touched when she said good night to another resident and tucked the covers around her and kissed her cheek goodnight. The woman told her no one else ever tucked her in and no one else ever kissed her goodnight.
Before her injury, she had devoted 10 years of her life to serving her community. Weigel discovered a sense of purpose in caring for the lost and lonely. She has brightened the day of the terminally ill person who has opted to die with dignity in their own home as well as the elderly individual that spends every hour of their life in a convalescent center waiting for a visitor that never arrives.
In our fast paced lives, most of us do not feel that we can take the time to care. Harriet’s response to someone is not “hello” but “I love you,” and she does. Her love is action, and it is displayed daily. Since her retirement, Harriet carries out her passion full-time. Whether on the phone, on her computer, or in the community. She learned that real value comes not from the bottom line but from people and their relationships. Her passion drives her to be continually advocating for others, using her networking skills to care and mobilize volunteers.
Literally thousands of people are impacted through Harriet’s work. The difference in the community is hard to define because it has a ripple effect. She knows everyone and connects them with each other. She has built a wheelchair path to the beach, works for different hospice programs, organizes prayer chains for those who are dying, recruits other service volunteers, raise funds for various programs and gets churches to have wheelchairs available so the disabled do not have to transport one. One of her most innovative projects is Sabbath Sunday where she brings together a variety of people with varied faiths that have disabilities at a non denominational facility to fellowship with one another.
She also works with the Alzheimer’s Association, American Cancer Association, American Legion Auxiliary Oxnard Unit #48, ARC of Ventura County, Area Agency on Aging, Bread of Life Ministry, Channel Islands Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Christians In Business Network, and Ventura County Volunteer Coordinators Council. In 1998 she was awarded a Volunteer Service Award from the Sheriff’s Department. During 1999 she was honored by the ARC of Ventura, Sheriff’s Department Volunteer Service Award, Distinguished Citizen of the Year by the City of Oxnard and she received a certificate of special Congressional Recognition as Distinguished Citizen of the Year.
Weigel is called the “unseen angel” in Ventura County. She loves her community the same way she loves her six children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grand children. She and her son, Bill, who is developmentally disabled, visit nursing homes and Bill plays the guitar and Harriet offers other means of comfort. Harriet encourages people to make a difference and augment medical care with personal care, human contact, and inspiration.