Senior living resident volunteers with program changing lives of children
Topton, Pa. Friday August 30, 2019
It was only about two weeks after Sarah Fershee moved into Luther Haven, an independent-living community at The Lutheran Home at Topton, that she decided to take a walk “up the hill” to Old Main to see if she could make a difference.
In fact, Fershee, who had retired from a career in health care, always had a strong belief in foster care and adoption. She had several friends who had fostered and adopted children and a family member who had been well-fostered into a healthy, thriving adulthood.
She asked the first person she saw if Diakon Adoption & Foster Care, housed on the second floor of the recently renovated Old Main building, needed any volunteers. Although she understood she might not have opportunity to work directly with children or youths, she explained to Diakon Adoption & Foster Care staff that she had worked in pediatric nursing, taught Sunday School and led children’s retreats.
A week later, Fershee reported to Pat Bittner, administrative assistant with the Diakon Adoption & Foster Care office at Topton. While she was uncertain what she would be asked to do, she was equally certain she wanted to help in any way she could.
That was nearly four years ago and Fershee has been helping out a few hours most Wednesday mornings ever since.
“I go up the hill and don’t know what they’ll need me to do that day,” she says. “But whatever it is, it needs to be done. I’m doing it for the staff, freeing them up to do other things” that enhance foster care and adoption efforts to serve children and youths in need.
Her efforts have included filling folders on prospective foster parents, scanning files in support of efforts to go as paperless as possible and other clerical tasks. One of the most moving jobs she has done, she says, is scanning “Life Books,” which adoption staff create with every child or youth served by the program. The books include historical information about the child, artwork by the young person and worksheets and other material documenting the progression of life for the child.
While she never discloses any information she sees in completing her tasks, she says it is “an amazing privilege to be able to have even a small part in preserving their stories.”
At times, Fershee also has served as a liaison for “The Stitchers,” a group of other residents of The Lutheran Home at Topton who knit or crochet blankets, hats, scarves, sweaters and other items for the infants and children in foster care or the adoption process.
“Sarah has been a dedicated volunteer and a joy to get to know,” says Bittner. “Her commitment to assisting us with a wide variety of projects has been immensely helpful. In addition, Sarah has been such a special connection to the wonderful community with which we share this campus. We can’t thank her enough for making such a huge difference here.”
Fershee and her partner, Virginia Miles, enjoy being a part of the community. The couple spent most of their lives in the greater D.C. area but were ready to move to a more rural area and be closer to Miles’ family. They looked at several places, but liked the friendliness of The Lutheran Home at Topton.
“We have a lot of fun here,” Fershee says. “People are authentic and open and they’ve made us feel very welcome.”
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