Teach a Person to Fish & They Eat for a Lifetime

I heard about Saint John’s from a couple at my church, Fair Oaks Presbyterian, who have been helping prepare and serve dinner at Saint John’s for 10+ years. They bring various family and friends with them to serve the monthly taco night at Saint John’s, which I have heard is one of the clients’ favorite dinners! My husband and I knew we wanted to serve people and we like to cook, so this sounded like a good fit. We started helping serve the monthly taco night dinners in March 2017. My husband and I fell in love with all the ladies and their precious children. A little boy named Nate would always have a big smile on his face and run into my husband’s arms when we arrived! I wanted to do all I could to encourage these ladies, who are working so hard to turn their lives around. I started bringing what I called “Table Notes,” encouraging words to place at the dinner tables each month. My favorite part of serving dinner is hugging the ladies, their kids and sitting with them to learn more about their lives. My husband, Bob says serving at taco night is the highlight of his month! I feel the same way! I love getting to know all the ladies and their families. We also enjoy dining at Plates in the Old Army Depot and seeing all the ladies’ smiling faces. I like the song lyrics from a song by Tim McGraw, Humble and Kind

“When you get where you’re goin’, don’t forget to turn back around, Help the next one in line. Always stay humble and kind!”

When someone is truly working hard to change their life for the better, I am all in. When I see someone begging by holding a cardboard sign, I feel they aren’t trying to change; they only want a handout to keep them in the sad life they are living.

Saint John’s, represents how I feel about life: “Give a person a fish and they eat for the day; teach a person to fish and they eat for a lifetime.” I believe in giving a person a HAND UP not a HAMMOCK to rest in! The model Saint John’s offers turns these ladies lives around by covering all the aspects needed: mental health, child care, job skills, budgeting classes, education, etc. I am so proud to support a program like Saint John’s that prepares these women in every way to become successful, self-supporting women, who can be role models for their families and others.

I love spending time with my family, especially my eight grandkids, my friends, cooking. I’m also a pet-lover! It’s also a joy to join my neighbors riding around in the evenings on my three-wheel-bike. We decorate our bikes with lights on the wheels and wear light-flashing tennis shoes, so we can shine brightly and bring joy to our neighborhood. My husband, Bob, and I have been married for 47 years. We both come from divorced families, so we never look to divorce as an option, since we knew how tough divorce was on our families growing up. Our first child, our only son, passed away at 16 days after he was born. I truly believe that in order to have a sympathetic heart, we must suffer ourselves. We were then blessed with two wonderful daughters. I have realized that persevering through some of the most difficult times in our lives, we become better and stronger people. I’ve also learned that by sharing your story, you can help others, so I am very open with my life.

I helped my husband run a small business for over 30 years. I was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer over two years ago. Because of this, we closed our business to enjoy what life I had left on earth. I just want to spend time loving my family, enjoying friends, making quilts for my eight grandkids, saying “I love you,” and making a 110-page online scrapbook for my grandkids to share memories, and family history. For two years, it was like I was riding a rollercoaster, trying various treatments, for my cancer, including chemotherapy. Praying to God, I said, “If you decide to give me my quality of life back, I just want to shine for you and be like Jesus for the rest of my life.” I praise the Lord for the quality of life I now have. Like my oncologist told me, “Your cancer is treatable; it’s under control, but not curable, so live life to the fullest!” I started wearing cowboy boots once I started my cancer journey, as a sign of KICKING THE CANCER OUT WITH THE POWER OF PRAYER!

So now I am known as “the lady in cowboy boots.”

I love sharing and caring with the Saint John’s ladies and look forward to continuing to help in any way I can, as long at the good Lord gives me the health and strength to do so. I am now a walking advertisement for Saint John’s! I tell everyone I meet about the good work they are doing! I adore all the ladies and their kids!

Blog by Guest Writer Valerie Penrod

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