Woman’s many acts of kindness help connect Hindu temple with community

Sunita Agarwal believes that acts of kindness can be the bridge that helps unite area communities.

Agarwal, a psychiatrist who has served on the board for the Hindu Temple of Dayton in Beavercreek for four years, was elected its president earlier this year. She emigrated to the United States from India in 1979 for an internship at Miami Valley Hospital.

During her decades in the community, she has organized and led numerous programs that benefit Hindu and Greater Dayton communities with the hope that they will lead many people to learn what people at the Hindu Temple do, what Hinduism is about and what its culture stands for.

She said she volunteers to help in programs throughout the Dayton area because she sees herself as a liaison between the Indian community and the community at large.

“I come across so many people who don’t know about these programs, so when they look at my example and they learn about it, and if they have interest, then they are able to take part in it,” she said.

One program she started enhances a value emphasized in Hindu traditions: Guru Vandana, or “honoring teachers.”

“The teachers, they are getting paid for what they do, but the knowledge and the education they provide is beyond their compensation,” she said. “It is a life-building thing. We believe in that.”

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Another Hindu Temple of Dayton program that Agarwal created stresses the Hindu value of Raksha Bandhan, which means “knot of protection” and emphasizes honoring protectors such as area police and fire departments.

“These are deserving people and every day they sacrifice for us,” she said. “They need to be respected.”

Agarwal also has organized Hindu Temple efforts that have helped the community at large. Manav Seva involves donation of groceries to the poor and needy and financial help to single, unemployed women in difficult financial times, she said. Charitable contributions go to The Foodbank of Dayton.

Another program she developed under the auspices of Hindu temple leadership is a meditation and yoga program that takes place free of charge online from 8:30 to 10 a.m. each Sunday morning for all members of the community.

She created an Adopt-a-Nurse program for St. Leonard Nursing Home and Kettering Health during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and encouraged friends of all backgrounds to participate.

“The hospital-based nurses who were being challenged or being exposed and not knowing how to treat the COVID patients, we would call them, listen to their stories, provide them support, make gift baskets for them and give it to them from a distance,” she said.

Agarwal said she creates such programs because “it’s not within the scope of every one’s resources that they can initiate.”

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

She also volunteers for the charitable efforts of numerous programs throughout the area, including For Love of Children (FLOC), and Miami Valley Association of Physicians of Indian Origin.

Agarwal also is part of the Hindu Temple’s support for the Food for The Journey program. She is galvanizing temple support of the Zero Hunger campaign in Dayton, which is slated to take place Oct. 1 and involves packaging meals for a few thousand families.

Agarwal also is planning and leading the Hindu Heritage Month Celebration in Dayton throughout the month of October to share Hindu culture with the Greater Dayton community. Part of that program will include honoring area teachers, police and firefighters.

“We want to share what we bring from the Hindu culture, our heritage ... our value system,” she said.

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