I first saw the village of Kotlik from the window of a small bush plane after an hour’s flight from the “hub town” of Bethel, over the tundra of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in southwest Alaska.
Two years ago, Consuelo Andrade was living in a village with her grandparents in Michoacán, Mexico, where she regularly saw neighbors and acquaintances returning from time spent working in the United States. They wore stylish clothes; some drove cars. She and others were mesmerized. No one, however, spoke about the work up north, and what it took to earn and save to buy such impressive goods.
As fire chief in Kingsburg, a small town in California’s Central Valley, Tim Ray has done more than battle blazes in the past few years. Actual fires here are relatively few, in fact. These days, Ray, a trim 52-year-old with clipped moustache and gentle eyes, oversees a kind of volunteer medical transportation service, hustling patients from this idyllic town—settled by Swedish immigrants in the 1870s and still bedecked with “Välkommen” welcome signs—as far as 20 miles away, to a hospital in Fresno.
Across Montana’s rural Chouteau County, the name Francis Engellant has been synonymous with quiet generosity and diligent work for decades. Mr. Engellant, who farmed and ranched near Geraldine, saw purpose in helping wherever and whenever he could.
When Don Pfau was nine years old the Ohio and Scioto rivers, which form a crescent at his hometown of Portsmouth, swelled and flooded. Water washed over six-foot high walls and mud destroyed churches and schools. Yet, his most vivid memory of the catastrophe is how everyone immediately pitched in to help reconstruct the town and rebuild lives.