Member In Mission John Scheffler
by. Kelly Thurber
John Scheffler was one of the very first people who talked with me and connected with me when we first visited Good Sam. I seemed to see him everywhere! As I started to get more involved at church his name popped up as the point of contact or as a good person to talk to about their experience over and over again. How much can one person be involved in? Turns out when you retire and choose a path of “Professional Volunteer” you can be involved in quite a lot. It’s not about how much he can do though, it’s about a calling and openness to give small amounts of his time that make a big impact.
John moved to the area in 1997 with the Navy, bringing his wife Cyndi and their two girls Carol & Amy, who are now grown and married. Having been baptized and raised in the Lutheran Church and even attending Lutheran elementary and high schools, each duty station they sought a Lutheran Church. So when they moved to Pax, John pulled out the best 90’s technology for finding a church – the phone book! He found Good Samaritan and was given the rather cryptic instructions of where to find it in Millison Plaza: “in the basement under the restaurant, next to the art studio” (ok, so it was really under a bar & beside a tattoo parlor). Read More.
After his retirement from the Navy in 2005, he spent the next 9 years as a contractor. Following the passing of his wife Cyndi in 2013, he began looking for an alternate career, and in 2014 he left his job and chose to become a professional volunteer serving his community. John and his family were first introduced to Hospice as his wife spent her last weeks there. This experience led John to a passion for health care advocacy and eventually landed him on the St. Mary’s Hospice Board. Every week he spends a couple hours in the office helping with admin tasks. He also helps with their annual events such as the Run & Fun Walk fundraiser, Festival of Trees, and Camp Sunrise for kids who have experienced losses . His very first volunteer experience was helping with this camp in 2014, and he subsequently has had the privilege of presenting veteran’s honor certificates and occasionally serving specific Hospice patients.
From Choir to Men’s Word & Prayer Bible Study to Finance Team – John has been active at Good Sam in these quiet roles for decades, but he is also instrumental in several other programs in the church and community as well. Although he doesn’t remember exactly how he initially became involved with the Saint Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen, over time he answered more requests to volunteer and is now the lead volunteer for Good Sam’s monthly 3rd Saturday breakfast at the soup kitchen – planning the meal and coordinating volunteers in cooking and serving . He is always happy to welcome new volunteers who have an interest in checking it out. Those three hours on one Saturday each month feed dozens of men, women and children.
If you don’t have a middle schooler, you may not know that John is also the co-lead for Confirmation with Jennifer Normyle. Each week John uses his gifts to connect with and guide our kids through confirmation topics! But John’s love of working with youth also extends to his participation in the reading tutoring program at Carver Elementary (a partnership started by Gennifer Koebke 3 years ago with the Title 1 school that serves Good Sam’s neighborhood). He continues to go for one hour every Thursday morning to work with students on their reading and gets to share in the joy of reaching their goals as their skills and confidence improve. After traveling to Guatemala last fall, he enjoyed using his very rudimentary Spanish to talk with a student in both Spanish and English.
Thank you John for your servant heart and cheerful spirit and for sharing your personal journey into mission.
You may recognize Rich Slavik as the guy who hands you a bulletin as you walk into church or passes you an offering plate during service. He’s quietly assumed this role of usher for so long that even he has forgotten how many years its been, but he’s earned the title of lead usher because without fail he shows up and is there to serve. He has been showing up at Good Sam since 1996, back before the tattoo shop, when our congregation met at the Knight’s of Columbus Hall.
Originally from New Jersey, Rich first found himself here in Pax River with the Navy and during his 27 year career he was stationed a total of 4 times. It was on his last tour here that he found Good Sam. After retiring from the navy, he dabbled briefly with civilian contracting on base, but ultimately found his next calling in serving with The Arc Southern Maryland. This organization’s mission is “Creating opportunities for independence and personal success for people with different abilities in inclusive communities.” This job brought him into a support and friendship role with adults with developmental disabilities – Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy and more. Rich spent the next 14 years taking assignments to care for and serve individuals; helping them with their daily routines, taking them shopping, playing pool, or going to movies. He maintained connections and friendships with these men and women and their families.
All the while Rich continued to attend and serve Good Sam, through transitions and changes of location. He has served on the finance team on and off, and still serves as secretary. He witnessed the birth of the Food Pantry through a youth group challenge to bring in food, watched it grow, helped when he could, and after retirement eventually took over as the lead of Our Daily Bread food pantry. I see Rich in the office every Monday like clockwork as he picks up food from the donation bins and carries it across the parking lot. He is participating in a group trying to bring a Food Bank to St Mary’s County for the benefit of ALL of the local food pantries and soup kitchens, but for now he and others weekly drive to Waldorf to restock what’s needed from the closest area Food Bank. He leads volunteers from our church and community every Wednesday and Friday as they restock shelves and then help hand out food to the 120 patrons who come each week. Rich’s steady and persistent mission to serve others helps sustains the ministries he touches, and we are lucky to have this member in mission as part of our community.
Wife, Mother, Church Member, Business Manager and Volunteer EMT – these are the many roles Leanne has been called to. How does one come into all of these roles in life and in the community? A life time of answering those calls to mission and purpose!
Born in New York, Leanne grew up an Air Force kid and came to live in Pax River with her family as a child. In 2000 her mother, Deborah Yates, started a residential and commercial cleaning company called Spare Hands Cleaning. In 2006 Leanne joined the company and for the last 10 years she has been the manager as well. This is the same company that has cleaned for Good Sam every other week for more than 8 years and has served the community for 19 years! This family company has a remarkable mission – and it’s not just cleaning! Like many businesses they do their fair share of donating a percent of profits and raffling off a free service, but they also partner with the Department of Aging to offer discounted services to those in need and have services available to hoarders who want help making their homes livable. Another wonderful program they participate in is “Cleaning for a Reason” – A non-profit that serves women undergoing cancer treatment by matching them with a company who will provide house cleaning service for free. Locally Spare Hands donates 2 cleanings a month to the program and Leanne had been blessed to be a part of the lives of all those in need who find their way to the Spare Hands family.
A year after starting with Spare Hands, Leanne and her fiancé Thomas were searching for a church that would marry them and their path led them to Good Sam. They continue to embrace the mission of the church as well, finding ways to serve the community. Just 4 years ago Leanne decided to answer another type of call – to be a trained as a volunteer EMT for our local Lexington Park Volunteer Rescue Squad (LPVRS). The 2 stations that make up the LPVRS are on call 24/7 staffed 100% by volunteers – drivers, EMT providers, and crew! To become an EMT, Leanne took the 5-month training course and passed a practical exam and committed to passing a National Certification Exam as well to serve to her maximum potential. The flexibility of volunteering for shifts and committing to a minimum of 30 hours a month fit well with her other roles in home and business. Her 12-year-old, Kara, is involved as well as an Associate Member helping with fundraising and starting on her own years of service in our community. When she turns 16 she will be able to serve as a Junior Member, become CPR certified, serve on shifts and even ride on as crew. Her older daughter Kamesha found her own path in the community volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. Thank you, Leanne for sharing your mission and being an example to your children and a light to those around you in our church family and our community.
I enjoy reading to my girls. We talk and giggle. We snuggle and focus together. Reading opens worlds in the mind and in our lives. A child who loves and confidently reads on grade level by third grade is far more likely to graduate from High School than a child who cannot (ref). It is really true that reading and learning to read makes so much possible.
We have an invitation from Carver Elementary to read to our neighborhood children at School and in the classroom. The program is called Read Across America. You can sign up to read as little as ½ hour to a class. I signed up to read Green Eggs and Ham to a first and then a second grade class on Monday Feb. 25th. Would you be willing to help? This year Read Across America runs from Feb. 25 – March 1st. Contact Lisa McCoy at Carver to sign up.
What if we could find our neighbors throughout the process of fostering a love of reading among children in our community. Some families do this naturally and some do not. What a great way to celebrate our children and have fun together. Do you have a favorite children’s book that you would love to share. Dr. Seuss is a great place to look. I remember having Cat in the Hat read to me as a child. What a great gift to share.
The National Education Association is building a nation of readers through its signature program, NEA’s Read Across America. Now in its 20th year, this year-round program focuses on motivating children and teens to read through events, partnerships, and reading resources.
“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.”
As we continue our partnership with supporting our community – we each have an opportunity to serve in a small way that makes a big impact. When I nervously walked into my first classroom to volunteer to read last fall, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I read to my own kids all the time – but I am by no means a teacher. They did provide books, but I brought a couple of my kids favorites from home too. As I introduced myself and pulled out the first book – I looked out at a sea of kindergartners and they were all staring back at me… they were intent and excited and so full of energy. They laughed and raised their hands to ask questions and the 30 minutes was over before I knew it! I had time for a 2nd classroom and I was escorted to a 1st grade room. As I walked in, I was amazed at the teacher’s control of the classroom (something I was honestly not able to maintain, but she helped me out). Here is how she invited them to join me: “you may sit at your desk or move to the carpet, the choice is yours to make, you are in control of your actions, do what’s best for you, not what your friend is doing.” A few kids hesitated in deciding what to do as she was talking, but this was obviously the way she always spoke to them, and with her caring tone I teared up. In this Title 1 school full of low-income children, the respect for self she was instilling in them touched deep down inside me – how lucky these kids are to have teachers that care not just about what their grades are, but who they are. And how lucky I was to spend 30 minutes reading to these kids and soaking up their energy and being inspired by the future leaders of our community.
Read Across America Week Feb 25- Mar 1 is another opportunity to volunteer 30 minutes or more of your time to read to a classroom. You can arrange anytime between 8:30 am – 2:00 pm to come in and read to a class any day of the week that works for you. This week was picked to coincide with Dr Seuss’ birthday, so I will definitely be picking a couple of those books this time! Contact Lisa McCoy firstname.lastname@example.org
Mission Spotlight: Laurie Johnson-Brown
- WHO can go: Adults & Youth who have completed 9th grade. A team of experienced leaders, including Pastor Mark Parker, of Breath of God Lutheran Church, are working to bring together to help in the rebuilding effort following Hurricane Maria. We will be working with Lutheran Disaster Response, a program of Lutheran Social Services in Puerto Rico.
- WHAT are we doing: The hope is for half of the group to have solid construction experience, while half of the group should be physically capable of construction work and willing to learn from and assist others. There may also be an opportunity for follow-up home visits with people who are in the case management process or who have been already served by Lutheran Disaster Response.
- When – Dates are July 21st – August 3rd. You may choose one week or stay for both. The general timeline is fly in on Sunday morning/afternoon, fly back on Saturday evening. Monday through Friday we worked construction doing rebuilding in the morning and the afternoon, with time in the late afternoon/evening for the beach/pool, relaxing and exploring the area. We may have the opportunity to take a half day to head across the island and visit El Yunque, an amazing tropical rainforest or exploring in Old San Juan.
- Where we are staying: We will be staying in the Lutheran camp in Maguayo, near Dorado. About 45 minutes west of San Juan. The camp has room for up to sixty volunteers at a time. Volunteers sleep in bunkrooms with twin-sized bunkbeds and communal showers–comfortable enough, but nothing fancy. The camp also includes a very nice pool, a chapel, office and storage areas, and a main hall for dining/meeting/organizing/relaxing. It’s a good home for groups like ours.
- Why Puerto Rico– in 2017 a Category 5 Hurricane, Maria, devastated Puerto Rico. Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record to affect Dominica and Puerto Rico, and is also the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since Jeanne in 2004, and the most intense tropical cyclone worldwide in 2017. The hurricane caused catastrophic damage and numerous fatalities across the northeastern Caribbean, with total losses from the hurricane estimated at upwards of $91.61 billion (2017 USD), mostly in Puerto Rico, ranking it as the third-costliest tropical cyclone on record. The rebuilding efforts are far from over, and the church
- How do we get there: Registration opens in January with a deadline of April 1. The first deposit will be due at the close of registration, the second payment will be due May 1 and the final payment July 1. The expected cost is anticipated to be less than $600 for one week and less than $900 for two weeks. Airfare is Included. We will be planning fundraising efforts as a group.
Please contact Kelly Thurber if you are interested email@example.com
Registration Deadline April 1st – but spots are limited
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as a native among you, you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
In a modern world of hotels, motels, and time shares, practicing hospitality by inviting strangers to stay in our homes appears as an exception rather than the norm of Biblical times. Now days, we hide inside our cell phones and behind legal waivers fearing new people, food allergies and law suits. So, to open one’s home to strangers, especially foreign teenagers, seems radical and unnerving. In truth, it is a great blessing and creates lasting friendships which span an ocean and make the world a smaller more welcoming place.
For the last four years our family has participated in the St. Mary’s Youth Cultural Exchange founded by Karen Antonacio Oliver, the Academic Dean at Chesapeake Public Charter School. The SMYCE is a non-profit organization that promotes citizen diplomacy through an exchange program with the Collegio San Carlo in Milan, Italy. Each October, some fifty 8th graders from Milan come to St. Mary’s County for ten days where they stay with volunteer host families and attend classes at Chesapeake Public Charter School located on Great Mills Road. Then, in February, a group of American 7th graders from St. Mary’s County have the opportunity to stay with host families in Milan and attend Collegio San Carlo.
The Rau family and the Slade family of Good Samaritan have experienced both sides of the exchange. My daughter Katie went to Milan in 2017 and Maddie Slade traveled abroad in 2018. Then, October 23rd to November 1st of this year the Slades hosted an Italian student named Isobel, the Rau family hosted Claudia, and the Thurbers fearlessly welcomed two teenage boys, Pietro and Tomaso.
Strangely enough, we were not going to host a student this year. After three years of hosting, I felt like a break, but Kelly Thurber mentioned she was hosting, some families from my daughter Holly’s soccer team were planning to host, and Ms. Antonacio kept sending out emails searching for families. Then one Sunday at church, the message spoke of “Radical Hospitality” and I thought, “Okay God, real subtle!” I remembered how much we’d enjoyed Italian students in past years and how we still keep in touch with our first student, Francesca. I remembered how that time with the Italians actually brought our own family and school community closer together as we made time for each other and planned activities.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Claudia Bertoluzzo was not planning to come to America this year. Collegio San Carlo has 2,000 students and 8th graders get to come here through a lottery. Claudia was not picked and her name ranked several slots down on the waitlist. Miraculously two people declined their spots and the opportunity opened for Claudia. She was placed with our family and sent me an email. She has three sisters and the eldest hosted one of Katie’s classmates in 2017. We soon discovered that Katie actually slept at Claudia’s apartment the last night she stayed in Milan. We had a great time talking about the coincidence of it all on FaceTime and I knew then that it was meant to be. God had friendship planned for our two families.
Our time with Claudia flew by. She and our daughters became fast friends. We shared stories and learned about her family and her life in Milan and she learned about us. We took her shopping, laughed about why Christmas items were out in stores before Halloween, toured historic Annapolis, carved pumpkins, and trick-or-treated. While the girls attended school, Claudia went on field trips to D.C. and St. Mary’s Manor and students attended a picnic and a Halloween Dance. I thought to myself, if I had taken that break I’d planned this year, I would have missed all of this.
We hope to see Claudia again as her mom even offered to host Holly and/or Noelle if they go to Milan in a few years. The girls and I cried when she left us—a great deal of love is wrapped up in hospitality. Thanks to the St. Mary’s Youth Culture Exchange, a group of American and Italian youth has a better understanding of one another and in many cases, lasting friendships that will positively shape their world views throughout their lives.
And also wrapped up in that hospitality is the shared experience the three host families from Good Sam now have in common. The conversations, shared stories and group support have sparked a sense of neighborly or community hospitality—a feeling of closeness fostered by “the Italians.”
For the Thurbers, it was a little glimpse of their future—life with teenage boys. Kelly says, “Running her two Italian teenage boys all over the county, hearing about crushes, navigating the differences and diets, making sure there was enough food and water in the house, getting them to bathe and making sure they put their phones away at night so they actually get slept were challenges she’s hasn’t yet experienced. But along with those revelations, her two boys helped with the gardens at church during Wednesday’s Family Eat & Play, made some Italian dishes from scratch for the family and went to Sunday School with the high schoolers—along with the Slade’s visiting student.
For all, hosting these great Italian students revealed much about our own lives, how we interact with strangers and what it truly feels like to understand and engage in hospitality. Undoubtedly, we are all richer for the experience.
by Martha Rau (with input from Kelly Thurber)