Children and Lent

Written by Susan Payne, Director of Children’s Ministry

We have started talking to the children about Lent and Lenten reflections during Sunday School and Wednesday Night Bible Study.  As parents, Lent offers us an opportunity to extend the conversation at home by teaching them at an early age about the value of quiet reflective time. This means time without electronic devices including Television.  Jesus had a lot of reflective of time during his 40 days in the desert.   For us this period of time allows us to re-evaluate our actions and devote ourselves to becoming more “Christ-like”, growing in our faith.

During this past Wednesday night’s Children’s Bible Study Whitney Lowe led a discussion about how to observe Lent.  She mentioned adding something into our lives that is new or removing something from our daily lives. These additions and subtractions are reminders that we need to be mindful of what we do on a daily basis.  As a sat there listening to the discussion it made me think of how the choices we make have ripple effects in our lives.  We very often forget to stop and think first.  Stopping to reflect and be mindful before making a choice is a good practice to begin at this time. The younger we teach it to our children, the more useful it will be as a tool in their toolbox for life.

Following Jesus’ baptism, when he retreated to the desert to pray and fast for 40 days, the devil tried three times to tempt Jesus.  Jesus had choices to make each time, choices that would have consequences.  Was he going to serve God’s will or be tempted by the devil? The devil was offering him self-serving options to sate his hunger by turning stone into bread, sate his ego by proving that even if he jumps off of a cliff he is so important that the Angels will swoop in to catch him, or sate his material desire by worshiping Satan in exchange for ruling over all Kingdoms.  Each time he was tempted Jesus leaned on and quoted scripture to make his choices, thereby, leaning on his faith to guide him.  We are now in the desert and Jesus is with us as we walk it.  We have the gift of our faith and the scripture left behind for us.  We, as adults, know the path that the Good Shepherd has laid out for us.  We can spend time in lent reflecting on where this path is going and see if we have strayed too far, readjusting as necessary.  If we teach the children to be mindful and “Be Still” for a moment at this age we open the door for them to see where the path is and how they return to it.  Lent is truly a gift for all.

Bill and Dawn Harrison: Living Christ’s Words

By Joan Doggrell

Jesus left guidelines for his followers, many of them in the form of parables. A few are enigmatic, but for the most part, His meaning is quite clear. You don’t have to be a Biblical scholar to catch the drift of this passage:

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And      when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?”

And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matthew 25, 34-40

In this passage, Christ gives us straightforward instructions of how He wants us to live, but sometimes, following His directions is about as simple as assembling a piece of furniture by the manufacturer’s “easy” steps. It can be a temptation to just give up. However, St. Paul’s is not a parish of quitters. There are lots of folks at St. Paul’s that live out Christ’s love both inside the parish and outside in the Newnan community and the world beyond. Two such people are Bill and Dawn Harrison. I would like you to get to know them.

They both hail from Pittsburgh. They are high school sweethearts who have lived happily ever after for more than fifty years. They raised their four children in towns and cities from Florida to Maine.  Everywhere they lived, they played major roles in the life of their parishes.

The Harrison family in Baca Raton celebrating the fiftieth birthday of their eldest.

Though brought up in different Christian sects, they have this in common: parents committed to their churches and communities.

“A lot of it gets down to upbringing,” said Bill. “Both of our families were heavily involved in church, and so were we from the time we were knee high to a grasshopper. As you go through life, moving different places, having good and bad experiences with churches – we’ve had both – your faith evolves. You realize that Matthew 25 tells us just what we’re supposed to do.”

“Bill’s right,” said Dawn. “I was taken to church every Sunday by my father. My mother was a sporadic attender. She had a lot of medical issues. But my dad went every Sunday. He was Junior Warden of St. Stephen’s for thirty years. (They didn’t change positions back then.) As a child, I built an altar in my bedroom. I had a little table with candles on it and everything.”

“I married into the Episcopal church,” said Bill. “I was raised Presbyterian. One of the jokes we share is, my mother had a hard time getting used to my being an Episcopalian – all that standing up and sitting down, all that kneeling, candles… my favorite saying of hers was ‘Communion once a quarter is plenty.’”

At St. Paul’s, Dawn leads the Bell Choir and the Children’s Choir and sings in the Parish Choir, as does Bill. She also plays the organ and the piano and occasionally subs for our organist and choir director Mason Copeland. So Dawn makes a major contribution to our music program, not only through her own talents but also by passing on our glorious sacred music heritage.

But that’s not all she does. She is there to help anybody who needs support for any reason: post-surgery, emotional, transportation. And she is a steady guide in personal emergencies.

I like lists. They keep me organized. So, to keep track of how Bill and Dawn are meeting their commitment to Christ, let’s organize their contributions under these hearings:

  1. Give food and drink to the hungry and thirsty.
  2. Welcome the stranger.
  3. Visit the sick.
  4. Clothe the naked.
  5. Visit the prisoners.

Give food and drink to the hungry and thirsty

“As we’ve gotten older, we see a lot of need in the church to reach out to people

in the community,” said Dawn. “Bill and I both deliver Meals on Wheels. I did it in Pittsburgh too, when I had four children. I would take all four of them with me. The people loved the kids.”

Welcome the stranger

I know Bill and Dawn welcome strangers. They were the first to greet Don and me when we walked into St. Paul’s. Dawn immediately recruited me for the choir!

“Just greeting a newcomer to church is a big ministry,” said Dawn.

But Dawn goes further. She understands what it means to be a stranger to human contact, to be alone during life’s trials.

“I was parish administrator at Peter and Paul in Marietta,” said Dawn. “The priest and associate would be gone a lot. Strangers would come in the office wanting to speak to one of the clergy. Before I could say, ‘Would you like me to make you an appointment?’ they would be sitting down and unburdening themselves. And I’m thinking, these people are really hurting. They need somebody to listen to them. And I think that was the beginning of my decision to reach out to the stranger in need.”

Visit the sick

My husband Don has been hospitalized several times since we’ve been members of St. Paul’s. Bill and Dawn were two of many St. Paul’s folks who visited him. And Bill’s Lay Eucharist Visitor ministry brings him to the homes of the sick and the nursing homes of the elderly.

But sickness can mean more than physical disease. Two persistent illnesses of modern life are loneliness and depression. Dawn and Bill, with their kind natures and formal training, are well equipped to treat these forms of sickness and have been doing so for years.

If you are involved in any kind of personal emergency, you want Dawn or Bill at your side. They will know what to do. Dawn attributes their skill to training as Stephen Ministers. The purpose of the Stephen Ministry is to provide companionship to a person going through a crisis: a death, a divorce, a job loss. Dawn and Bill took their training at St. Gregory’s in Boca Raton, Florida.

“Six of us were candidates, and we went through fifty hours of training” said Dawn. “We would visit with people in need once a week for an hour or longer. The main thing was just to listen. But the ministry also taught us how to deal with certain issues if we felt that the person was not quite mentally stable. They taught us to get in touch with the proper authority. That, to me, was very rewarding.”

“When we were in Florida, I had three people I ministered to, and Bill had two. My favorite and last one was the mother-in-law of our associate priest. He felt she would be lonely because he and his wife went to Maine in the summer. He asked me if I would be a Stephen Minister to her and visit her once a week, which I did. Usually you minister to someone for two years. But we became such great friends that after two years, I said, ‘Tina, you really don’t need a Stephen Minister. How about I just come as a friend?’ So I continued to visit her every week, and we just enjoyed each other’s company. In fact, when we moved back here to Newnan, I sent her a letter every week. I usually wrote it on Tuesday, the day I would visit her.

“She passed away in January two years ago. It so happened that I was going to be flying down to Boca Raton on the day of her service. I flew in, and my daughter brought me to the Catholic church where she was a member. I walked in at the Gospel reading. Tina’s daughter, when she saw me, just dissolved into tears. She gave me one of Tina’s little angel statues, which Tina used to collect. I have it on the mantel. I look at it all the time and it reminds me of her.

“The Stephen Ministry is really rewarding, and I would like to see something like that get started at St. Paul’s. We have a lot of people who are widowed, divorced, or having other life crises. New babies arrive, and the mothers may be going through post-partum depression and just need to talk to somebody. Bill and I have the skills to do that because we were taught.”

Clothe the naked

I’m giving Dawn and Bill a pass on this one, in the literal sense. With cheap clothing readily available at Goodwill and the Salvation Army, no one needs to be naked. Nevertheless, there are still clothing needs.

“One of my heroes is a fellow we met up in Marietta at St. Peter and St. Paul,” said Dawn. “His name was Dick Hillman. Every winter he would collect socks from people and go to downtown Atlanta and give socks to the homeless. I thought that was a great ministry. I don’t know how he got all the socks.”

“I used to go with him sometimes to the manufacturers and the retailers,” said Bill. “He would say ‘Hey, I’m doing this,’ and they would give him socks.”

But, like sickness, nakedness might be interpreted more broadly. One could be naked of dignity or respect. Bill and Dawn attend the funerals of babies that die under sad circumstances.

“Generally, it’s indigent families who can’t afford to bury their babies for one reason or another,” said Dawn. “Maybe the child has been beaten. Sometimes the families will be at the burials, and sometimes not. We just go to witness, Bill and I, and David Waldron too. The babies are in individual coffins and are prayed over.

“Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Dunwoody spearheaded this ministry. It really struck a chord with me because I had lost a baby. I was in the hospital and didn’t get to see the child buried. So it just tugged at my heart that these babies would be laid to rest and nobody was going to be there.”

“Fulton County has a fulltime chaplain,” said Bill, “and part of his responsibility is indigent burials, both adults and children. What happens to indigent children and adults in Coweta County? Is there a program that provides a decent burial? It’s important to give them that dignity.”

Another form of nakedness is the lack of a roof over one’s head.

“Bill and I also did a ministry in Boca Raton called Family Promise, which takes in families that are homeless,” said Dawn. “Each church would take several families for a week. Our church had an old rectory where we were able to bring the families in the afternoon. We would greet them, play with the children, help them with homework, feed them dinner, and get them settled for the night. Then a bus would come in the morning and take them back to DelRay where the kids would go to school and the adults were able to do resumes and job applications.”

Visit the prisoners

Has Bill ever asked you for cookies? Dozens of them, six to a baggie? They are for his prison ministry called Kairos.

And what is Kairos?

According to their website, “Kairos Prison Ministry International, Inc. is a lay-led, interdenominational Christian ministry in which men and women volunteers bring Christ’s love and forgiveness to prisoners and their families. The Kairos programs take the participants on a journey that demonstrates the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Kairos Prison Ministry is Christian in nature, although no religious affiliation is necessary to be a participant.” For further information see http://www.kairosprisonministry.org/about-kairos-prison-ministry.php

“The first time I heard of Kairos was at St. Paul’s,” said Bill.  “A man named Ron Gillihan told a wonderful story. He had a son that was murdered. He wound up going to a prison to visit and forgive the person who killed his son. His experience led him to join the Kairos prison ministry.

“Once I started hearing about Kairos, it chased me around,” said Bill. “I was in Oklahoma on a consulting assignment for three years by myself pretty much. God just grabbed me by the scruff of the neck. I was in Kairos up there. Then when I moved back here, I was reminded of it at our men’s breakfast. Jeff Lamb came to the breakfast and mentioned the magic word.

“I was at a Kairos Prayer & Share meeting this morning. That’s kind of my heart, just watching those guys and hearing some of their faith stories. It’s the power of teaching people that there are no Lone Rangers in Christianity. You’ve got to have relationships, and you’ve got to have a group of people you can share with, your concerns, joys, sorrows. And that’s what we try to teach these guys.”

“I went to one of the Kairos closing on a Sunday afternoon,” said Dawn, “And to see the change in those men, listen to them speak, would just warm your heart. The Kairos volunteers hug them and give them the assurance that they’re loved. Some of them have never even touched a person before. That’s sad, because touch is very important to people.”

“We used to joke about how some of them come just for the cookies,” said Bill. “No doubt that’s sometimes the case. But they come for curiosity and then get the good stuff. The power comes when you can see guys of different backgrounds getting together like lifelong friends. At one table this morning there were two Hispanics, one Black and one White. Their heads were together and they were talking. That just doesn’t happen very often, even outside. I’m hoping that the relationship continues, and they can talk about really important stuff.

“One of the things we can do as followers of Christ is to get people to realize that there but for the grace of God go I! It’s so important for prisoners to feel they have somebody to talk to, pray with. It’s so easy to get in with the wrong crowd.”

Final Thoughts

“It’s become very important to me that we acknowledge that there are so many different faiths,” said Bill. “Denominations within Christianity is a whole different story, but we must be able to value other world religions. We are all children of God.”

“Many of the things Dawn and I do are religiously oriented, but there are other ways we can do ministry. For example, Meals on Wheels has no overt religious content. We need to value other efforts too, like the GED program. And then this new ministry that’s starting, NEST, that’s going to be important too.  It’s a joint effort led by the Newnan City Church to provide a warm place to sleep for the homeless on freezing nights.”

“The other dimension is – and I firmly believe this –the joy you feel, whether it’s taking communion to somebody or helping somebody with a math problem. I think we need to be more effective in allowing people to have those kinds of experiences. It’s not altruistic. We joke about it in Kairos. We get much more than we give.

“I also think there’s a fellowship dimension to living that’s important. Not necessarily from a spiritual point of view. That comes in different ways for different people. But I think we undervalue the importance of close relationships. It’s like our Tuesday breakfast, and Daughters of the King – the purpose is to have a relationship and know that there are other people who care about the same things you care about. And even care about you. I can’t underestimate how important that is in living.”

“Somebody said once, God wants us to be more Christlike,” said Dawn. “We can do that. It doesn’t cost anything. Just be kind to people.”

Doing all the things that Bill and Dawn do would wear most of us out. But that doesn’t seem to happen to them.

“We persevere,” said Dawn. “It’s important. You have to think, what would this person do if he or she couldn’t call on me?”

So there you have “The Bill and Dawn Story.” Admirable folks, whom I try to emulate, but not unique. There are more like them at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Come join us and get to know their stories as well.

The Dwight and Kathy Ellison Story: From LaGrange GA to Washington DC and Home Again

By Joan Doggrell

Dwight and Kathy Ellison are active and beloved members of St. Paul’s. Kathy co-chairs the St. Paul’s Altar Guild and is a Daughter of the King. Dwight is a member of the Men’s Club, is an Usher and Verger and, until recently, trained and directed the acolytes. Kathy teaches GED classes at West Georgia Technical College, and Dwight takes care of his grandson while his mother works outside the home.

These “mild mannered” occupations disguise a far more exciting past. For twenty years Dwight was a United States Secret Service Agent. With Kathy’s support at home, he served in Newark, New Jersey, Atlanta, Georgia, Plains, Georgia, and Washington DC, with other temporary assignments all over the country, and, on numerous occasions, overseas.

Then he had a second career as head of security at Turner Broadcasting. More about that later.

According to the USSS Facebook page, the Secret Service was founded on July 5, 1865. This is their Mission Statement:

The mission of the United States Secret Service is to safeguard the nation’s financial infrastructure and payment systems to preserve the integrity of the economy, and to protect national leaders, visiting heads of state and government, designated sites and National Special Security Events.

Dwight Ellison, an innocent young man whose ambition was to teach high school English, wore this badge for twenty years and a day.

While a senior at Clark College in Atlanta, Dwight was approached by four Secret Service recruiters. It seems there was an effort going forth to bring more minorities into the Service. However, Dwight had trained to be a teacher, and he was looking forward to taking a position doing just that. So, he put the application form in his footlocker and forgot about it.

For three years, Dwight pursued a successful career in his hometown of LaGrange teaching high school English, coaching football and Track and Field.

“I enjoyed being home and working to expand my students understanding and use of our language,” said Dwight. “I coached football and was the head track coach, which was my specialty.  I enjoyed that more than anything.”

But then Dwight and his principal had a disagreement.  He loved his job, but just didn’t feel he could stay in it any longer. As fate would have it, he found the Secret Service application where it had lain ever since the agents had attempted to recruit him back in college.

“I called a friend that I’d known for quite a while – I knew his family – who was a Secret Service Agent. He told me there was still an effort afoot to hire minorities.”

Dwight finished his teaching year while applying for a Secret Service position, taking tests and interviewing. In April of 1971, he was notified by letter that he was hired. He reported for duty at the Atlanta Field Office on June 28, 1971. (Dwight has a precise memory for dates.)

“So I went to work,” said Dwight. “After six weeks of Treasury School, I received notice that I was going to be transferred. And I’d only been on the job for four or five months!”

Meanwhile, where was Kathy?

“I was still single,” said Dwight. “but we were dating. I had no idea I was going to be leaving LaGrange. But I was transferred to the Newark Field Office in October of 1971. In December of 1972, Kathy and I were married, and she left college in the middle of her junior year and  moved to New Jersey. I had promised her mom I would make sure she finished school. So she enrolled in Newark State Teachers’ College, completing a semester up there.”

I asked if they had experienced culture shock.

“Well,” said Dwight. “We were both little country kids who moved to New Jersey and made it, in spite of the culture change”

“The agents and their wives always wanted to hear me talk,” added Kathy.  Kathy had a pronounced southern accent.

They spent two years in Newark. “I worked a lot of criminal cases, made a lot of arrests, worked a lot of undercover, and traveled all over the country doing that. Back then, the big deal was counterfeiting and check forgery: Social Security and Veterans’ Administration checks, any check with a Treasury seal on it. We investigated forgery and fraud of those documents.”

“It was hard work involving a lot of all-nighters, a lot of surveillance, and serving arrest warrants. And it was just me and maybe one agent covering me. It was dangerous stuff,” admitted Dwight. “But the good news for me then was that everybody didn’t have four or five guns, and if they had them, they didn’t carry them. We made several arrests where people had firearms in their homes, but there were very few occasions where we had to confront someone who had a gun. Very few. Today it’s commonplace. I wouldn’t want to be an agent today.”

“What did you think, Kathy?” I asked

“It was just normal,” she replied.

Dwight was in Newark until August of 1973, when he was asked to return to the Atlanta Field Office. They needed a minority agent in that office to do undercover work among Black counterfeiters.

“Did you worry about him then?” I asked.

“I never worried about him as an individual,” said Kathy. “One time he came home with tape all over him. I thought something had happened to him. But the tape was from the wire he was wearing. That’s the only time I ever threw a panic. I thought, ‘He’s been shot!’ But I never really worried about him.”

“Most of the time, as long as you remember where you are and what you’re doing and you don’t do something stupid, you’re fine,” said Dwight. “And if you don’t run into someone who is so doggone crazy it doesn’t make a difference.”

“You never really give the suspects money,” Dwight added. “You just examine the counterfeit and then lock them up. You come out of your undercover mode and became a policeman. I was always wearing a wire, and someone was always listening to my conversation.  I wasn’t stranded out there, out of touch. And I had another agent with me.”

His last undercover assignment, however, went beyond his expectations. And not in a good way.

“The last time I worked undercover,” Dwight said, “we were making a counterfeit buy from an old man in southwest Atlanta. He hadn’t manufactured anything, but he had possession of a lot of $20 bills, probably 80 or 90 thousand dollars’ worth. We went to his apartment, Doug James and I, to make the buy. We knocked, and a young lady came to the door. She said she was his intermediary and that we had to conduct the sale thru her. Well, we went inside and made the deal. I said, ‘I need to see the money.’

“She went into the back and returned with a paper bag full of twenty-dollar bills. I opened it. As I was looking inside, she pulled a weapon out of her purse. She said, ‘I want my money now.’ Doug then pulled his revolver and said, ‘Make a choice. Money or your life.’ She dropped the gun, and we made the arrest of her and the old man.

“That was the last undercover assignment I ever worked. I’d never had anyone draw a gun on me before. I said, that’s it.”

Meanwhile, Kathy stayed busy. She went back Clark College in Atlanta, the same one she had left to accompany her husband to Newark – and, still on scholarship, completed her degree in Elementary School Education, graduating with her class and finishing with a 3.9 GPA. She taught for two years full time and then stayed home with their two children.

“I volunteered at their schools. When one of the supervisors found out I was a teacher, he asked me to sub in the children’s school, so I did that. Otherwise I was home with them. Dwight traveled a lot, so somebody needed to be home. We tried to live in neighborhoods where there were other agents with families. Fortunately, all of the guys wouldn’t be gone at the same time.

“When Dawn got sick, Dwight was in West Virginia,” said Kathy. “But a friend of ours, also an agent, was there. We were living up in Upper Marlboro, MD.  The neighboring agent took me to the hospital while his wife kept Kimberly. Dwight was notified and was flown back home within hours.  Usually someone was around who could get in touch with him and let him know what was going on.”

“I doubt seriously that that kind of caring exists anymore,” said Dwight, “primarily because the jurisdiction has expanded so much that agents are in travel status between 60-70 percent of their time. When I retired, we had 45-50 agents in the Atlanta Field Office. Today, they have close to 100. If you were to go into a field office today, you’d be lucky to find 15 people in there. They’re out doing other things: protecting the President, protecting a foreign dignitary, or they’re in school and training. “

Dwight returned to Washington DC in October of 1976. After spending two years in the Intelligence Division, he was transferred to the Presidential Protective Division. Jimmy Carter was President, and Dwight was assigned to his protection. And that led to one of the few times that Kathy worried.

As she tells it, “When Reagan was sworn in and Carter departed to civilian life in Plains, GA, Dwight packed bags. He was traveling with President Carter back to Plains. He said he might not see us for a couple of days. A few days later, while we were watching TV, there he was! In Germany. We didn’t know he was going. Afterwards we learned that as soon as Reagan was sworn in, Dwight was on his way to Germany with President Carter. American hostages, who had been held by leaders of Iran, were released and transferred to Germany. Since these hostages had been taken and held captive during President Carter’s term in office, Carter wanted to bring the hostages home.

“President Reagan had threatened the Iranians with serious consequences if the Americans were still being held hostage the day Reagan was sworn in.  Dwight wasn’t gone very long. But we didn’t know when he was coming home.”

Dwight explained, “At that point, President Carter had left office. I was still on the Presidential Protective Detail, but I was temporarily assigned to escort Former President Carter home to Plains, GA. When word broke that the hostages were going to be released, President Reagan sent an aircraft to pick up Former President Carter. We flew with Carter to Germany.”

Why were the hostages released so quickly after Reagan became President? I have always wanted to know. This is Dwight’s explanation.

“When the hostages were taken, Carter was still in the White House. He had been trying to negotiate their release for close to a year. On his watch, an attempt had been made to rescue them, but the attempt had failed. When Reagan took office, his message to the Ayatollah was, if you don’t release the hostages, I will come over and make where you live a parking lot. The Iranians took his threat seriously because they didn’t hesitate to release the hostages.

“We saw all that up close and personal. We were a part of history,” said Dwight.

Dwight was on the plane that flew the hostages home.

After that, a quiet life away from Washington looked very attractive. Dwight volunteered for the former President’s detail, “And then,” said Dwight, “we left and moved to Albany, Georgia, and set up homestead there. We loved it. We were there for three years.”

But the peaceful life didn’t last. Dwight and Kathy returned to Atlanta where he was promoted to squad supervisor. More promotions followed, and another Presidential Protection assignment.

“In 1984, when Jesse Jackson ran for President, I was in charge of his detail,” said Dwight.

“We had just moved into a house in Lithonia when he got a call,” said Kathy. “We hadn’t been there two weeks. And I knew, when Jesse said he was going to run, I just knew that’s what they had called about. We had just moved in, and Dwight was gone. Within two days.”

“Jesse and I hadn’t met before that,” said Dwight. “He wasn’t used to the agents and did not fully understand our mission.  He was busy doing his own thing. We had to have a couple of come-to-Jesus conversations. But we got to be pretty close after a while.”

“He told me I had the meanest husband he’d ever seen,” said Kathy. “I told him, you do as he says because I want him to come home! And Jackie wants you to come home.“

Because of Jesse, Kathy very nearly made the cover of the National Inquirer.

“We went to meet him for the first time at the Fulton County Airport. I had my back to the press. I spoke to him, and as he hugged me, I could hear a sound like cattle running. It was the press. I was there with two little girls who just kind of appeared, and they had never seen me before. They were looking for a story!”

Dwight’s next promotion was to the Office of Inspection back in DC. Not long thereafter, he was assigned to Secret Service Headquarters with another promotion to the Senior Executive Service. That is as high as you can go in the Secret Service.

“I was Deputy Assistant Director for a little over a year when the position of Special Agent in Charge in the Atlanta office came vacant. My former boss there had retired. He called and told me he was leaving and wanted to know if I was interested in the job. I said, ‘Are you kidding? I want to get home.’ So we went back to Atlanta for the third time, and this time I was the boss. I spent my last year and a half on the job there.”

About six months before he was eligible to retire, Dwight got a call from Turner Broadcasting. “They wanted me to come to work right away,” he said. “I couldn’t do that because I would lose my opportunity to retire outright in twenty years and get an annuity.”

So, one day a week, for about two months, Dwight spent unpaid time at Turner learning his new job. Although he had planned to stay with the Secret Service another two or three years, he retired on June 28, 1991, after twenty years and one day. The Monday following retirement from the Secret Service, he went to work for Turner Broadcasting, where he would spend the next eleven and a half years as Corporate Director of Security.

Now he faced a new set of challenges.

“Security wasn’t exactly at the top of their list of priorities,” he said. “I had to introduce to them the need for security, especially living and working in CNN Center. Everything is wide open: the public entrance to the facility, that whole first floor lobby area, with private vendors, food service, a fitness center, a sports store and the CNN tours. High profile people on television who receive threats every day faced exposure as they were coming and going.”

The women were especially vulnerable and received the most threats. They all wanted their own security escorts. Though that wasn’t possible, Dwight or one of his employees surveyed their homes, screened their mail and calls, recommended specific security measures, and gave advice about their travel habits. They were given prioritized parking where a security officer was stationed and an escort to and from their cars.

So, using what he had learned in the Secret Service and a large dose of common sense, Dwight became the “security guru” for all of Turner, worldwide, and shared his expertise with other corporations in Atlanta. He retired from Turner Broadcasting in January of 2002 after eleven and a half years.

“I started a little private investigative business. I got a few jobs, made a few dollars, but the rewards failed to measure up to the efforts and time required.”

So Dwight accepted full retirement. “Except for taking care of the baby,” said Kathy.

I asked Dwight how the Secret Service today compares with what it was like when he was an Agent.

“The Service was founded to suppress counterfeiting,” said Dwight. “That is still one of the top investigative priorities, but cyber-crime is now on top of everything else. Counterfeiting is probably still in second place. Today, they investigate a lot of computer crime. In fact, the Service heads a number of inter-agency cyber-crime units. They have participation from the local police, the GBI, the FBI, and maybe one other Justice Department inter-agency is involved on those task forces. They do a lot of preventive work. They find out what is going on, such as bank fraud. But more than anything else now is cyber-crime. We didn’t know anything about that in my day. Then the big deal was counterfeiting and check forgery.”

“I wouldn’t do it today. Everybody’s crazy. Everybody has a gun: eighteen, seventeen, sixteen-year-olds have guns, and they think it’s a rite of passage to shoot somebody. To get into these gangs, you have to shoot or rob somebody or break into somebody’s car, home or business. The majority of the car thefts you see on TV are gang initiations, as are local store break-ins. That’s what you have to do to show that you’re ‘worthy’ of being a member of one of these gangs.”

Though it is not generally known among today’s parish family, Dwight is a member of the St Paul’s Security Committee. He comes with an excellent resume!

Kathy and Dwight joined St. Paul’s in 1991. They had attended church in Atlanta until they realized there was a St. Paul’s in Newnan not far from where they lived. They gave it a try. They received such a warm welcome they decided to stay. And, in so many ways, we are glad they did!

Kathy Brown: Helping to Keep Food Production Safe and Legal

Kathy Brown: Helping to Keep Food Production Safe and Legal

By Joan Doggrell

Kathy met our former governor, Sonny Perdue, at an expo in Savannah

Have you ever wondered how those beautiful fresh vegetables and fruits get from the farms to your grocery store? Well, it’s a multi-stage journey. St. Paul’s Kathy Brown is familiar with the early stages of that journey. She plays a role in bringing documented workers into the United States to harvest crops. She is an H2A consultant who works for farm labor contractors and farmers throughout the United States. An H2A visa allows a farmer or a farm labor contractor (FLC) to bring workers into the US legally for a limited period ranging from two months to a maximum of 10 months.

Her focus is vegetable and fruit farms. She is quick to state that she does not work with livestock farmers. Her job takes her as far north as Michigan, as far west as Texas, and south into Florida.

Kathy helps farmers and farm labor contractors ensure that they are in compliance with the US Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. She also assists them with Workers Compensation, general liability, insurance, and housing. In addition, her job includes follow-up visits to the farms to make sure the workers are being treated with compassion and that the workers themselves are meeting their obligations to the farmer.

“It’s a two-way street,” said Kathy. “I make sure the workers are doing what they promised to do and that the farmer or the farm labor contractor (FLC) is fulfilling his promise to the worker.”

“I’m there when they get off the bus,” she adds. “Somebody has to sign the paperwork that makes them employees of the farmer.”

Celery farm workers in southwest Florida

The H2A program

The US government started the H2A program during World War II when a lot of the men who worked on the farms or owned the farms signed up for the war. There was a shortage of pickers to harvest the fruit and vegetables, so the government started bringing foreign workers into the US to help with the harvest. This was called the bracero program. That’s where migration began generations ago. Then after the war, the government started the H2A-B visa program for migrant workers. H2A visas are agricultural, H2Bs are non-agricultural, and then there are student visas. All carry different conditions for the employer.

“My maternal grandmother’s family owned a blueberry farm in Michigan. This was her with the fruit harvesters.” Kathy

A contract is signed between the worker and whoever is offering the job, the farmer or the FLC. The contract specifies what is going to be harvested and how much the worker is going to be paid. Every state has a different hourly rate. Florida’s is $11.24 an hour. North Carolina’s is $12.25 an hour. Workers must supply the government with the address of every farm where they are going to pick, what type of produce, and what they are willing to minimal pay the worker, sometimes it is a piece rate that makes it more profitable for the farmer and the worker. They will have to be paid the minimal H2A hourly rate, which changes from state to state.

“I would estimate that around 15% of the agriculture workers are here with H2A visas,” said Kathy. “The rest of the workers are undocumented or unemployable in other business sectors. However, the H2A program is growing, especially in Georgia right now, which is the top state for H2A applications. Ten years ago, the program brought in over 95,000. I think last year it brought in more than 170,000 people.”

Many of these people have been college educated in Mexico and are paying off student loans. Most are young, usually under 25. They are here to work.

To bring somebody here legally in the H2A program costs $1500.00, which is paid by either the contractor or the farmer. “A lot of the contractors don’t like bringing the same persons after three or four years,” said Kathy. “They get so Americanized that their productivity does not keep up. They don’t make money either if the men or the women don’t pick enough. Everyone has to work together.”

Farmers’ obligations to workers

The workers’ housing is regularly inspected by the Federal Housing Authority. Farmers who don’t own homes for the workers rent hotels. The rules are very nitty-gritty. Trash cans must have lids, there must be sufficient rolls of toilet paper for every worker, etc. Farmers are fined if any of these areas is deficient.

Furthermore, the Department of Labor (DOL) can show up at any time of the day for an inspection. So if a worker didn’t put the lid on a trash can, that means a fine for the farmer of $250.00.

“The workers come from a third world country,” said Kathy.  “Many of them don’t like certain living conditions such as the screens on the windows. They will take them off. So when the DOL comes in and inspects the housing, the farmer gets in trouble”

“But I like the program,” Kathy added. “I think it benefits everybody, although It’s very expensive. The farmer has to have a serious labor shortage to want to do this.”

How Kathy became an independent contractor

Kathy first got into the migrant worker business when she lived in central Florida, the citrus capital of the world. She started out working for a company that verified paperwork for domestic workers. As the company grew, she added more skills, including unemployment processing, accounts payable, and finally Workers Compensation.

“My dad had a Workers Comp claim when I was growing up, so I felt I was doing something good this time. I understood what a family should receive,” said Kathy.

Kathy worked with Workers Compensation for fourteen years.

“During that time, I learned about compliance, risk management, and OSHA,” said Kathy.

Then 9/11 hit, and everything changed.

“Before 9/11, my boss worked with H2B workers. He had maids in hotels and people in manufacturing. In the wake of 9/II he had to send all these people home. Several apartments for them were rented in his name, and he couldn’t break the leases. He had to keep paying. It was bad, but we struggled on.”

Then in 2004, four hurricanes went through central Florida. The crop was almost wiped out.

“We struggled. We all cut back on our hours. But the company never recovered. My boss lasted another eight years,” said Kathy. “But In 2012 he closed up shop. I really thought I was done with agriculture; maybe it was my time to do something different.”

But within three or four months, she had clients coming to her asking for help.

That was when Kathy first became an independent consultant. Within six months, she had fifteen clients. But then Harbor America offered her a job doing what she loved: Workers Compensation. That job lasted until disaster struck again; the company was bought by venture capitalists. They structured things differently in the company, and the clients missed the service that they had come accustomed to. So Kathy decided it was her time to move on.

“I had run the agricultural segment of the business for five years,” said Kathy. “I’d doubled it. Our Workers Compensation claims, which were at a 130% loss ratio, went down to 30%. But after the venture capitalists took over, I’d be on the phone from Thursday night until Sunday trying to correct mistakes they had made. The workers live check to check. If they earn $500, $400 goes home to their families. That money has to be there. Also, part of the DOL regulations state that workers are always paid on the same day of the week. If they don’t get paid on time, the farmer is not in compliance, and I have just cost him a fine.”

“I no longer loved my job. So I told my boss I quit.”

But she wasn’t idle for long. She soon had clients again, calling her and requesting her services. There was plenty to do.

“The hardest thing for the FLCs and the farmers to obtain is Workers Compensation,” said Kathy. “Nobody wants to insure these workers because every day they’re in a school bus with forty-five people or a van carrying fifteen, and that’s a huge liability.”

When they harvest, they get up at 6:00 am. They can be driven up to fifty miles a day without being paid an hourly rate for their travel time.

“When we bring a group of workers onto the program, we inspect the buses, making sure the tires are good. They don’t have to have seatbelts because school buses don’t have them. But the tires are a big thing. A lot of times, the buses are driven so much that their tires will be showing metal. And they’re transporting lives every day. So we’ll go in and make sure the school buses are up to standard. The good thing with the H2A program is that before the FLCs bring people over, they have to get their vehicles inspected. That’s what I like about the program. There are so many safety standards that the farmer and the FLC have to meet.”

But undocumented workers are not so fortunate.

“There’s a whole other side to the business which we try to avoid,” said Kathy. “Sometimes people actually pay to get these jobs. They will go borrow money from family – they have this idea of the American Dream, and they want to come here. It’s illegal, and a horrible scam where these people are taken advantage of, but the practice goes on all the time.”

“On a farm in South Georgia that was next to one of the farms I was working with, they had fifty women working out in the heat and living in a two-bedroom trailer. These women were sleeping on the floor. That was in 2018. It still goes on.”

She also sees the consequences of illegal transportation practices.

“You don’t see it so much where we live because there’s no farming here – we’re in a metropolitan area. But in Florida there are orange trees everywhere. In South Georgia you see the school buses where they are harvesting watermelons. They overload the buses because if they can put four or five extra workers in the bus, they don’t have to pay for another driver or fuel.”

“In the mid-2000s, a fifteen-passenger van with twenty-three illegal domestic people flipped on a major interstate. All of them either died or became wheelchair-bound.”

Kathy is in a position to observe first-hand what the rest of us only hear about through the news media.

“We’re going on a third generation of Hispanic people born in the United States,” she said. “They are not picking anymore. They are doing landscaping or construction, where they can make more money and work in a safer environment. A lot of the women are employed in the fast food industry. Although these jobs usually pay only minimum wages, the workers are not out in the heat, and they have benefits such as health insurance.”

“False documentation is easy for undocumented workers to come by. They will get a fake Social Security card and a driver’s license. The scary thing is, you can go into these mom and pop gas stations in rural areas and buy IDs for ten dollars. They’ll get their ID and take a job just harvesting. When they fill out their W2 and W4, they will put in ‘married, 8 children’ to minimize the amount held back by the employer. But they are still taxed for Social Security, and they don’t get to claim it. They never get their contribution back. It’s a side of the taxes most people do not talk about.”

Do migrant workers take jobs away from Americans?

This is Kathy’s answer to that question.

“People ask, why do we bring these people here to work when Americans need jobs? It’s not true that they’re taking Americans’ jobs. These are hard-working people who do jobs that Americans won’t take, such as butchering animals. That is an emotionally draining thing to do. The H2A workers are no different from you and me. But they take these jobs because they need to earn money for their families back home.”

“Oranges are picked in huge sacks. Full, they can weigh up to 90 pounds. Carrying a 90-pound sack around your neck and up a 20-foot ladder is hard labor. I don’t know anyone that wants to do that or to sit in the sun and pick fruit or vegetables.

“Alabama passed a law about ten years ago that enforced the use of E-Verify. Crops were left out in the field. Of course, it was illegals that were picking the product. Because the state made the farmers use E-Verify, I don’t know how many hundreds of acres of crops were lost.

“If you had American workers picking fruit, there would be Workers Compensation claims, unemployment claims. And you’d probably be paying eight dollars for those two tomatoes you paid three dollars for.”

Those Pesky Food Safety Regulations

We hear a lot of complaints about regulations that hamper business. Kathy has first-hand experience to share on that subject as well.

“The food standards of safety in the US are ten times better than those of any other country. I’ve never been to the farms of Mexico and South America, but I’ve seen pictures. Believe me, you don’t want to think about that stuff.

“Through my position on the agricultural side, I got invited to one of Publix’s food safety class. Publix periodically goes into farms in the US, and they swab everything. They look for listeria, e-coli, just as an extra safety concern. That is why the shelf life for their products isn’t as long because they take that extra step. We should be grateful for the US food safety standards, because for the amount of food that is picked and harvested here in the States, there should be a lot more illness. But our government has almost perfected keeping us safe”

So the next time you buy fresh produce, remember Kathy. She works in an imperfect system, but she does her best to protect the people who harvest our food – and indirectly, she is protecting you.

 

Nola Daniel’s Distinguished Ancestry

By Joan Doggrell

St. Paul’s very own Nola Daniel, member of the Parish Choir, a Daughter of the King, holistic healer, folk singer, and mother of seven children, comes from a family that played a central role in the preservation of the folk songs and stories of Appalachia. In 1916, when Cecil Sharp and Maude Karpeles were collecting ballads and tales in Hot Springs, North Carolina, Sharp went to Nola’s great-grandmother, Jane Gentry.

“Cecil Sharp collected more songs from my great-grandmother than from anyone else, more than 70 songs. Everybody said you should go see Jane Gentry and one other person – people said they were the ones who really knew how to sing these songs,” said Nola.

On August 24, 2019, more than 100 people came to Hot Springs for the Centennial of Cecil Sharp and Maude Karpeles. And you’ll never guess who was there.

This is her picture taken from the website Cecil Sharp in Appalachia. https://cecilsharpinappalachia.org/janegentry.html

When she was a child, Nola and her family made frequent trips to Hot Springs for the Dorland-Bell Girls’ School reunion. (More about this school later.)

“We would go up there in the summer on vacation, though not every year. Mom would pile us all in the station wagon. My dad would usually stay home and work. He held two or three jobs. There are seven of us. The first time I remember much about it, I was in the fifth grade, I think.

“We stayed with Aunt Maud in the big house called Sunnybank. It was built as a boarding house. Aunt Maud taught all people in that area how to play the piano and organ. She knew all the words to all the songs in the Presbyterian hymnal.”

Hot Springs is on the French River, and Main Street is part of the Appalachian trail. Sunnybank is still a boarding house today. The present owner gives trail hikers special price breaks.

Nola’s Heritage

Why were so ancient many folk songs found in Appalachia and nowhere else in the USA? According to the above website, “Settlers established themselves in the Appalachian region of several states, including North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia. In these isolated areas, the old songs of love, loss, murder, ghosts, and earlier times were passed down by oral tradition, expressing timeless themes and ties to the past.”

“Back then, people couldn’t just run up to Appalachia,” said Nola. “It was hard to travel there – it was up in the high mountains.” Because of their isolation, the people sang the same songs and told the same stories generation after generation.

Nola explains how the songs were discovered and made known to the world.

“Cecil Sharp was an Englishman and a music historian. He was visiting one of the rich landowners when he heard this beautiful singing, songs he had never heard before. He asked his host what it was. The host said, ‘Oh, it’s just the gardener. He sings while he’s working.’ Cecil was mesmerized by the music, so he listened and studied the matter and found out that the people of the region were singing these old songs the way they had been sung 200 years earlier. And so he came to hear and then capture the songs because it was the way they had been sung so long ago in the British Isles.”

Nola knows these songs, and she sings them beautifully. She can tell stories, too.

“My great grandmother was a singer of old English ballads. She was also a teller of the Jack, Will and Tom tales and also the Grandfather tales, which have been passed down via the oral tradition. My great aunt, one of my grandmother’s sisters, Aunt Maud, recorded the songs and stories for the Library of Congress. My sister Zola and her husband got a copy of the record and made us all cassette tapes of the songs and stories. My children and I learned them by listening to the tape in the car.”

Maud Gentry Long lived in Sunnybank in downtown Hot Springs. However, she and her siblings were all born out at Meadow Fork, about 10 miles north of Hot Springs downtown. The family kept sheep and used their wool to make their own clothing.

“On the Library of Congress record, Maud talks about how, in the evening, the family would all be busy. Father would be working on harness or other things he needed for the horses, and Mother would be cleaning, picking and carding the wool to get it ready to be spun the next day. The kids all had chores to do as well.”

And that’s when they would sing together and tell stories.

“I can almost quote Aunt Maud line and verse,” said Nola. “She said the songs and stories were ‘to keep our hearts merry and our eyes bright.’ Mother would tell the wonderful Jack, Will and Tom tales and sing the songs. I learned her way of singing through the tape I have. Joan Baez learned The Cherry Tree Carol from my Aunt Maud.”

Maud’s mother is Nola’s great grandmother, Jane Gentry.

“When I first came to St. Paul’s, William Fred Scott was there. He played The Cherry Tree Carol and Wondrous Love, two of my favorite songs of all time, and I told him how much I enjoyed his playing them.”

Nola sings The Cherry Tree Carol from her book, Jane Hicks Gentry: A Singer Among Singers, written by Betty Smith. “She is a cousin of my Mom’s,” said Nola.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130jb50

“My grandmother was born in 1898,” said Nola. “She was the second or third child of thirteen children. There is a story in this book about her when she was a baby. The family, including her mother, were working on a hill side clearing trees. She nursed her baby and then put her to sleep in a piece of bark. When it dried, the bark curled up and rolled down the mountain, baby and all. Suddenly the family noticed she wasn’t there anymore. After a frantic search, they found her down the hill, still sound asleep, rolled up in the bark.”

As well as singing together, the family would listen to stories, many of them known as the Jack Tales. One of those tales, Jack in the Beanstalk, comes to us from the British tradition.  But there are a lot of other tales about Jack, as well as his two brothers, Will and Tom, that hadn’t made it into popular culture, either British or American. However, they survived in Appalachia, passed down orally, and today are published in books and told at storytelling festivals.

“There is a whole collection of these stories,” said Nola. “They are about a family of three brothers who get into all kinds of trouble. There are a number of stories on my cassette tape. ‘Jack and the Bull’ is a really funny story. The stories they told children then were about real life. They were pretty macabre. The phrase ‘Haggy old witch of a woman’ appears frequently. There was always one in the story.”

Below is one of several publications of the stories collected by Richard Chase.

The following information comes from Folkstreams http://www.folkstreams.net/film-context.php?id=258

“In the last fifty years, Jack Tales have come to occupy a privileged position for scholarly analysts of folklore, for popular purveyors of folklore, and even for folk themselves. … As far back as English-language folktales can be traced, there are stories about Jack. From the fifteenth century, when ‘Jack and His Step-Dame’ was set down in rhyme in England, to the present, when Ray Hick’s rendition of ‘Jack and the Three Steers’ dominates the National Storytelling Festival, one name above all others has been associated with magic tales in the British-American tradition. Yet the relation between the earlier Jacks and the most recent is difficult to trace, since no oral Jack Tales have survived from distant centuries.”

These are the stories Nola’s ancestors told as they did their evening chores.

Another piece of history that includes Nola’s family was the Dorland-Bell School in Hot Springs.

According to Wikipedia, “The Dorland-Bell School was a mission school in Hot SpringsNorth Carolina, USA. It was founded in 1886, when Luke and Juliette Dorland, Presbyterian missionaries and educators, retired to Hot Springs. At the request of area residents, they established a school in Hot Springs and soon were teaching 25 students in their home.

By 1894, the school, now known as the Dorland Institute, had grown to include a girls’ dormitory, an expanded schoolhouse, and additional teachers. In 1918, the Dorland Institute merged with the Bell Institute, a large day school for girls, to form the Dorland-Bell School . . . When Dorland-Bell School closed in 1942, it merged with the Asheville Farm School to form what is now Warren Wilson College.”

According to Nola, “Before the school was started, there was no schooling available for girls. The boys were given some education, but it was not considered necessary to educate girls except in the skills needed to run a household. My grandmother, born in 1898, attended that school.”

Nola’s family is also connected to the John C Campbell Folk School. Her mother’s cousin Betty Smith taught there.

According to Wikipedia, “The John C. Campbell Folk School . . . was founded to nurture and preserve the folk arts of the Appalachian Mountains. It is a non-profit adult educational organization based on non-competitive learning. Founded in 1925, the Folk School’s motto is “I sing behind the plow.”

The school continues today, offering “week-long and weekend classes year-round in traditional and contemporary arts, including blacksmithing, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography, storytelling and writing.”

If you’ve ever thought there was something special about Nola Daniel, well, you were right. She is the embodiment of a unique chapter in American history and culture.

Anne Graner’s Story

By Joan Doggrell

I’d heard that the Launch Pad Library at Ruth Hill Elementary School is an awesome place, and when I visited it, I wanted to be a kid again. The large, colorfully decorated room is organized so that books, STEAM activities, and community connections are grouped together by common themes. They are organized in six learning portals: Travel the World & Beyond; Learn from the Past; Stay Fit & Healthy; Investigate Nature; Express Yourself; and Discover a Solution. And it all looks attractive and inviting.

Kids can experiment with a sewing machine, a 3-D printer, and musical instruments. They can also make movies and audio recordings in the recording studio.  They are involved with career exploration, are taught soft skills focused on professionalism, and are encouraged to create projects that impact others.

The learning portals are sponsored by community partners who supply materials and expertise. If students have a project calling for outside help, the partners are ready to supply it. For example, the Newnan Times Herald carried a story on June 9 about students making weighted lap pads that are used to help autistic children focus on learning.  The Coweta Community Foundation stepped in to help them purchase useful, quality products.

Obviously, the Launch Pad Library is a far cry from traditional school libraries. Its conception and creation are the work of St. Paul’s own Anne Graner. Anne is on a mission to empower the Ruth Hill students, 85% of which are on free and reduced lunch.  She believes that every child has the potential to succeed. With the collaboration of other teachers and community partners, the Launch Pad Library constantly strives to improve its offerings to close the opportunity gap so many of the students have.

“We don’t stop when the school year ends,” said Anne.  “For three summers, we’ve had a weekly bookmobile that reaches some of our neediest students so they can have free books over the summer.”

I met Anne at a St. Paul’s women’s retreat at Banning Mills a few years back. She took us on a “prayer hike” where we stopped and prayed at inspiring natural sights, and then she led a free-form dance that encouraged us to worship with our bodies. I knew then that this woman had a creative gift, one that could inspire others.

My own involvement with the Launch Pad Library occurred every Tuesday afternoon while students Christian and De’ Angelo filmed and interviewed me about my prosthesis. This video project ended up winning first place at the Coweta County Technology Competition.

I usually arrived just before dismissal. I watched Mrs. Graner bring her busy fifth graders, who were working on various projects throughout the library, to a halt with very few words – spoken softly. They all stopped in their tracks. They sat down together to debrief about their activities, and then were quietly dismissed. I was speechless in admiration.

How does a person become an Anne Graner? Where does that creative leadership come from?

I had a chance to ask her on June 13, when she and husband Lou Graner (more about Lou in another post) agreed to be interviewed. We began with a question:

Joan: What is in your background, or what inspired you, to develop that wonderful Launch Pad Library at Ruth Hill?

Anne: I have to go back to my parents. They were creative educators and missionaries. My mom started out teaching kindergarten and later became an elementary school principal. My dad was an Episcopal priest. Soon after they married, they went to Liberia, West Africa, as missionaries for the Episcopal Church. Mom co-founded a school there. Along with leading worship services, Dad taught courses at Cuttington College –the oldest private and coeducation university in Africa — and also served as its interim president.  I was born into this way of being: following a call, serving God and others with the gifts you’ve been given, finding creative ways to solve problems, and making the most out of being alive.

Later in life, I became a classroom teacher and noticed how much my parents’ philosophy of education and living fully influenced the type of teacher I became. That early childhood influence was a key foundation to leading me to create the Launch Pad Library.  I have found that when you observe kids and listen to them, you can get a better sense of what excites them, what they are curious about. Then you build a space and bring in resources to help them explore and become.

Mom and Dad passed away before the creation of the Launch Pad Library, but their essence permeates so much of what occurs there. I am also blessed to have the support of my husband Lou who has scrubbed floors, worked the book fair, moved bookcases and has been a sounding board for ideas and an extra hand when needed.  Our two daughters, Jessica and Lindsay, have witnessed the birth and development of the Launch Pad Library, and are excited to see how the legacy of their grandparents lives on.

Joan: Anne, any other passions that drive you?

Anne:  Yes!  I have a passion for story- for discovering other people’s stories, for documenting others’ stories with video, and for expressing my story through free-form dancing.  And I’ve always had this desire for deeper spirituality. I’ve been to the Kripalu Holistic Health Center in Massachusetts where I’ve taken workshops and trained as a yoga dance teacher. All of it was about how to access and bring alive deeper, sacred parts of me, and to learn how to invite and lead others in spiritual experiences.  It’s been a blessing to lead workshops, sacred dance experiences, and now currently, to be a healing intercessor at our church.

My passion for story led me to explore documentary filmmaking.  The training I received was very hands-on and entrenched me in the life of another. What an experience!  For someone to allow you to film them in their ordinariness and in their self-discovery was so sacred.

After the training, I was able to film other videos and created a website for these videos: http://snowpicnicfilms.com/  One of the videos features church member Billy Newman and his creative photography.  The website’s name, Snow Picnic Films, is in honor of my dad because he used to take us on picnics in the snow when we were living in New York state.

What it all boils down to is I just want to be true to my callings, to use the gifts I’ve been given, to embrace different kinds of people, and to live life fully.  Life has not always been easy.  I’ve experienced a lot of heartache.  But I continue to try to navigate all of this alongside taking time to listen, to pray, to be in nature, to create, and to just be.