(By Brian Evans)
It’s a bit of an urban phenomenon that dates back to Roman, British and Celtic mythology: For centuries, people across the world have tossed their shiny coins into fountains all around to make wishes.
In so doing, many people wish for love, wealth and happiness.
Deidre Romine’s wish, however, is a pretty basic one — it was a wish for something that so many of us take for granted.
This past Monday, Romine’s wish was for food, for herself and for her four cats — only Romine wasn’t casting a coin into the fountain to make her wish come true — she was taking coins out.
Romine is mentally disabled, but only slightly different from the rest of us. When this all happened, she had started her usual long walk home from Our Daily Bread around 5:50 p.m. Monday, when her path led her to the the fountain in front of the Logan County Courthouse.
Seeing a vast array of pennies shining in the water, and being broke with no food at home, Romine reached down into the fountain to pull some of them out.
She said she was hungry.
Reports indicate she had gathered around $2.87 when an officer of the Bellefontaine Police Department stopped her after someone called the department advising them someone was taking money out of the fountain. Romine said the officer was nice to her, but issued her a summons for theft.
Media reports online and in print followed and started somewhat of local phenomenon in itself. A lot of people came to Romine’s defense. A lot of people are looking to help her.
“They should have made her put the money back in and apologize,” one citizen said in a Facebook thread. “(Sometimes) all people need is a little help and a smile.”
“Who is the victim here?” one citizen asked. “When is the court date? I’d like to be there.”
Although Romine said she was notified the charges were dropped against her, Bellefontaine Chief of Police Brandon Standley said their records indicate the case is still active. Chief Standley declined further comment because the case is still pending.
An official at Bellefontaine Municipal Court said Romine missed a hearing Monday. That hearing was rescheduled to this Wednesday at 9 a.m.
“You know, I am trying to find a job,” Romine said Friday, from her home at Lamplight Court Apartments. “I’ve been trying to find a job. I am filling out applications all the time. No one will hire me. I get food stamps but they are not enough.”
At 1600 S. Detroit St., Romine’s apartment is fairly desolate and empty. There is no real food in her refrigerator or cupboards. She’s all alone there, just she and her four cats.
“My lease is up here and they are asking me to leave,” Romine continued. “I was just trying to get food for me and my cats — that’s it. It’s really hard for me.”
Adopted at the age of three, Romine described a life with long periods of solitude. She does have ties to family, her adoptive family, but she’s never met her father and only seen her biological mother once, many years ago.
She was one of two girls with six brothers born to her biological family. She says they were all separated and she knows only one of her seven siblings, her brother David. Romine’s husband of six years, Daniel Rae, she said died of cancer around this time last year.
“I was born with defects, mental handicaps,” she said. “There are things I just can’t understand. Otherwise I am normal. I graduated from Alexander High School (in Shelby County) in 1996.”
After high school, eventually, Romine was able to find work. For 10 years, she worked through RTC Industries, but for reasons she did not explain, she no longer does.
“I’ve never used drugs,” Romine said. “I only drink once a year. That’s on New Years Eve . . . I have maybe one or two beers because that’s all I can handle. I get sick if I drink more than that.”
Romine said she’s very relieved the charges were dropped because she said she has no criminal history. She said she didn’t think it was stealing when she took the pennies out of the fountain.
“It’s no one’s money,” she said. “People throw it in there. . . The officer was nice.”
A local resident who recently graduated law school, Tim Steinhelfer, agrees that Romine did not commit any crime.
“The coins in question are abandoned property,” he said. “It is axiomatic that abandoned property cannot be stolen. . .”
Another law school student said the coins become city property once they are left, or property of the owner of the fountain. The police report indicated the victim is the City of Bellefontaine, not the Logan County Commissioners, as previously thought.
In addition to finding a place to live, Romine said she needs furniture, and items to put in the place. She does not own much.
Her current apartment is fairly empty. She has two old couches and a mattress she sleeps on.
“I am looking at a place,” Romine said. “I have to be out of here by November. I have a place in mind, it’s a trailer (home) off Garfield Road but I need to get money together. They are asking for $800. It’d be perfect.”
Because she’s disabled, Romine said she gets $300 per month from Social Security. She also gets assistance for her heating and electricity but it’s still not enough — at least not enough for her current place, which is why she has to leave. If she is able to buy the trailer, she estimates her Social Security should be able to cover the lot space for the trailer.
Several members of the community have asked and sought how they could assist her, with at least one local resident even going to her place to offer her help, although she was not home at the time.
We at ConnectToHome are seeking a way to rally these people, and any non-profit entity that might be able to help Romine.
If you wish to do so, or know how to help, or have any ideas, please contact Brian Evans at ConnectToHome via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (937) 441-7910.
Getting this place, now, is Romine’s only wish…
Perhaps that wish might be granted by one of the $2.87 worth of coins from the fountain, which she turned over. No word on whether they went back into the fountain.
“People do this every year,” she said. “They throw coins in the fountain. I’ve never done this before (taken any out). I will never do it again. I didn’t know it was wrong. It was mostly pennies in there … It’s just been a really rough year.. I haven’t worked. I am trying the best I can.”