Monthly Archives: October 2016

What about Amelia?

At times, that question—continually and casually posed by family and friends—threatened to overwhelm me. If I had been pregnant with another child, it would have been celebrated. Instead, the prospect of adding to our family through adoption from foster care was met with raised eyebrows and concern.

Our biological daughter, Amelia, was 4 years old when we began the foster-to-adopt process. There were so many fears surrounding the uncertain world of foster care. In the hopes of offering love and safety to another child, would we destroy our own child’s sense of security?

For some families, the fear that their own biological children might be hurt physically or emotionally is enough to make them steer clear of foster care altogether.

As a parent, you want to protect your own children from the harm and hurts of this world. But what if we are called to something greater?

In Pennsylvania, there are approximately 15,000 children in foster care. For many of those kids, a forever family will never come because, among other reasons, fear keeps parents away.

Instead of giving in to the worries of everything that could go wrong, my husband and I remained faithful and quietly continued to take the next steps until we were certified by Diakon as resource parents.

In October 2014, we received the call for an emergency placement for six-year-old twins. The workers had little information to go on. After several calls and emails back and forth to gather what information we could, we stepped out in faith and said “yes.”

That evening, Kaitlyn and Davien arrived at our doorstep. They were physically thin and emotionally fragile and came to us with nothing but the clothes on their backs. We had little time to prepare our daughter, and we worried that her whole world was about to be turned upside down.

Instead of complaining about sharing her clothes, she happily helped pick out a pretty nightgown for Kaitlyn. As the weeks went on, our daughter’s bedroom was fitted with bunkbeds and a dresser for Kaitlyn. Her playroom was turned into a boy’s bedroom for Davien. The twins were calling us “mom” and “dad” and still there were no signs of jealously, no fights, no harsh words. Amelia was even calling them her brother and sister long before we dared.

My husband and I were amazed by our daughter. Instead of being emotionally scarred by the changes, she has been enriched. This January, we finalized the twins’ adoption in court. For Amelia, it was just another day. After all, they had been her brother and sister from the beginning.

~ Amanda Merrell
Diakon Adoption & Foster Care parent

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How to recruit volunteers (and then keep them)

We still need help Saturday in the concession stand …

The play is only two weeks away and we still need parents to sew costumes …

Our May Day committee needs a chairperson and you did such a great job the last two years …

The list can go on and on. On a weekly basis, our email inboxes, kids’ backpacks and Facebook newsfeeds are filled with multiple opportunities to volunteer.

These are great opportunities to make a difference … yet we receive so many that we typically can respond only to a few. That can make the task for finding and organizing volunteers overwhelming.

In fact, most people seem to fall into one of two types of categories—those who avoid any type of all volunteer activity and those who volunteer for everything. Unfortunately, members of that second group can eventually burn out and become part of the first group.

So why doesn’t everyone just do their part so the same people don’t burn out?

A common response when people are asked to volunteer is “I just don’t have time.” This may be true for a few people, but if you were to provide a flexible, organized and productive opportunity to volunteer, some of those people who say they are too busy might be willing to give you time within those specific parameters.

At the same time, it can be tiresome if you are part of the group that constantly volunteers for everything. In fact, I’ve found that situation can actually create an issue for some potential volunteers.

When the same people are always in charge and recruit their own friends or family first, the group can seem as if it’s a clique or otherwise be intimidating to those outside their circle.

So, when recruiting new volunteers, ask those you’ve contacted if they know someone who would like to join them. Determine what they enjoy doing and their availability and then try to match those characteristics with the position you need filled—before you ask your best friend to do it (who most likely would do it anyway!).


When I was asked to fill the role of vice-president of a booster club, I also was asked with whom I would like to do the job. I appreciated having that input because I would be spending a lot of time planning and executing plans with that person.

Some people don’t volunteer because of bad past experiences.

To be honest, if you ask me to volunteer and then rudely boss me and others around, chances are the next time I am asked to help with that activity, I’m going to pass.

Therefore, be sure if you are leading volunteers that you don’t make anyone feel like “just” a volunteer. Managing volunteers is not much different from supervising employees—be organized, respectful, flexible and a good communicator.

If you have to correct someone or hold him or her accountable, be sure your communication is kind and straightforward. Ask volunteers for feedback. Be thankful for their help because, let’s face it, without them you could not complete your objectives.

People also may avoid volunteering if they feel they are not really contributing. Have you ever signed up to help somewhere only to discover there were too many volunteers and you just stood around doing nothing while thinking of all the things you could be doing at home?

If you plan activities that require volunteers, be sure you have a position for everyone. Remember that the reason so many people volunteer is because they want to contribute to help a person, group or a cause. If there is no “job” for them to do, they will most likely feel their time was wasted.

Equally important is not to take advantage of those who do volunteer by asking them often to stay late. Consult with others involved in your activity to determine reasonable expectations. You may be the type of person who sets up, oversees and cleans up an entire event, but breaking that into shorter intervals for others who may not have the same availability or energy level will produce better results.

Sometimes “life” happens and regular volunteers just need a break for a variety of reasons. My family and I volunteer in our church nursery once a month but there are a few times throughout the year we travel on the weekends for club sports. I’m grateful that the nursery leaders understand and work with us by scheduling replacements without making us feel guilty! That flexibility keeps us fresh and we are able to give our best during the months we can be there.

Keep in mind people will invest their time, resources and best efforts in events and causes they believe are important.

When leading—or recruiting—volunteers, you can never go wrong using thoughtfulness, empathy and commitment to guide your requests.

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