July 2013

Jumping 'feet-first' to celebrate 'big-deal' birthday

Jack Myers of Diakon Senior Living - Hagerstown skydives for 90th birthday

By the time you reach 90, your birthdays likely are celebratory, but also perhaps a bit low-key, which some may say is befitting a person of that age.

Jack Myers disagrees.

A cottage resident on the Ravenwood campus of Diakon Senior Living – Hagerstown, Md., Myers decided to mark his 90th birthday by strapping on a parachute, jumping out of an airplane, and floating to the ground far below.

"I’ve always been a daredevil, but this is something I never did ...."

"About a month before my birthday (June 17), I got to thinking that 90 is a pretty big deal and I ought to mark this milestone in a special way. I’ve always been a daredevil, but this is something I never did," he says.

"I’m in good shape; my health is good. I play tennis and golf every week," he adds. "I figured since the instructor has done this thousands of times, I could do it at least once. What an experience!"

Jack Myers, Diakon Senior Living - Hagerstown, with feet firmly back on the ground.

Waiting for Myers on the ground, along with family, were two busloads of friends from Diakon Senior Living – Hagerstown. Myers is beloved there and all around Hagerstown. A past winner of a local Senior Idol competition, he entertains as "Grandpa Jack," singing, dancing and telling stories. He often writes letters to local newspaper editors, sharing wisdom gained from a lifetime of experiences.

In fact, he says his has been "a wonderful life." One of 13 children, he grew up during the Depression and later served in World War II. With the help of the GI bill after the war, he learned to upholster furniture and then moved into furniture sales, a career in which he flourished for more than 50 years. He and his late wife, Kate, were married 69 years and reared three sons.

His extended family spans five generations of grand- and great-grandchildren, some of whom traveled from other states to see his skydive firsthand, which took place at the Chambersburg Skydiving Center in Chambersburg, Pa.

One may wonder what he will have in store for his 91st birthday.

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Diakon Disaster Response on the ground in Maryland

Diakon Disaster Response on the ground in Maryland

On Oct. 29 of last year, Superstorm Sandy moved ashore near Ocean City, Md., causing millions of dollars in damage. While much of Maryland's Eastern Shore was spared from its effects, the little town of Crisfield was left underwater.

Crisfield, Md., is surrounded by water on three sides of the city. When Sandy hit, hundreds of businesses and homes were flooded and ultimately condemned. With little support from government, many residents of this small, quaint town turned to other resources to help with their rebuilding process.

Representatives of Lutheran Partners in Disaster Response (LPDR), a partnership between Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries and The Lutheran Mission Society and their affiliated church bodies, were on the scene in Crisfield within two weeks to observe firsthand the devastation caused by the storm and determine the needs of the residents. Lutheran Disaster Responses focuses on long-term assistance, rather than immediate emergency response, to disasters.

“We would like to think we will be there until the end, but additional funding is going to be needed.”

Before any work began, the Rev. Cindy Camp, director of Disaster Response Ministries for Diakon, says there was a substantial amount of legwork involved—and many questions to answer. “What damage has been done? How can we get people back to normal living situations? These are some of the things we had to ask before anything could be done.”

Initially, only 10 homes in Crisfield were considered complete losses. But after a comprehensive assessment was conducted, the number skyrocketed—to 130 homes. With $55,000 in grant money from Lutheran Disaster Response, the rebuilding process began with the help of hundreds of LPDR volunteers. Groundbreaking was held on the first two houses June 2.

With conditions ever-changing, Camp thinks that reconstruction could take up to two years. “We continue to look at unmet needs in a constantly changing situation,” she says. “A lot has been done, but there is a lot more to do.”

There is, however, a strong sense among volunteers that recovery is happening. Yet Camp says recovery will involve a long process. “We would like to think we will be there until the end, but additional funding is going to be needed.”

For more information on or to donate to the rebuilding efforts in Crisfield, please visit www.ldr.org.

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