When was the last time you spent quality time in a relatively small community and got to know some of the people? On Monday July 23rd I was Blessed to spend a good portion of the evening with Caregivers from Phoenixville, PA. Have you ever heard of Phoenixville? I certainly hadn’t heard of this Borough of 20,000 people before making the trek there after work in the intermittent rain and traffic followed by steep hills and windy roads. The drive there was amazing, with miles and miles of fields of nothing but grass, corn and cows, and then suddenly I was in a quaint town of row houses, churches and schools and a pretty cool town (Borough) hall. As I drove up the final steep hill to attend the 2018 Caregiver Awards sponsored by Miss Kitty’s Care, LLC, Bethel Baptist Church appeared on my left. Looking out over the church parking lot, you could see forever down into the valley. It was breathtaking.
When I entered the fellowship hall, I was greeted by a beautifully decorated room filled with purple and white balloons, table settings and gift bags for award recipients. This did not feel like a small town event. It was big time, attended by a representative from the State Senator’s office and the Mayor of Phoenixville with whom I shared a table! Peter Urscheler is an incredible individual who was a caregiver to both of his parents before their deaths and is the youngest mayor elected in the Borough of Phoenixville, and the second youngest mayor ever elected in Pennsylvania.
Miss Kitty’s Care was started by Theresa Thornton who was her Mom’s caregiver for many years until her death in November of last year. Theresa is a force of nature, focused totally on supporting caregivers and even makes greeting cards specifically to help inspire caregivers. She works tirelessly to put on this event each year, calling on her friends and sponsors to help make the event a night everyone will remember. The nominees for the Caregiver Awards were nominated by family, friends or co-workers and were all so deserving. The winners included a father and son duo who are caring for their mother / wife who has a variety of health challenges. The son then took over caring for his mother while his dad battled cancer. They accepted their award together and were a dynamic duo! A mother who was nominated by her daughter won for continuing to love and care for her mother who was verbally abusive all the way until her death. The woman had remained joyful being the caregiver for her mom even though the verbal abuse and actions included being cut out of her mom’s will. The winner who inspired me the most was a mother who was her daughter’s caregiver from the time her daughter was diagnosed with cancer until her death. She had understandably lost her joy when her daughter died, but told me that she was starting to get her joy back. After my speech, she and I had an amazing moment! We hugged for what seemed like forever and she told me that my inspiring words had confirmed for her that she’s going in the right direction in reclaiming her joy. She plans to continue helping others as she believes that this is the work that God has intended for her to do. I shared with her that feel exactly the same. I don’t believe that my calling is to be a minister which I’ve been told many times including that night, instead I believe my calling is to help caregivers as we all encounter different challenges along our journeys.
Throughout the awards there were amazing musical selections that brought tears to everyone’s eyes. The songs included Hero, You are My Friend, and Rise Up all that inspire caregivers to keep going!! There was also a dance to Rise Up by a young girl that was simply captivating!! Theresa Thornton is one of the best Event Planners I’ve ever met. The production of the Caregiver Awards was amazing, from the sponsors, to the prayers, to the nominees and their supporters and of course to the winners and the gifts baskets and awards they received.
As the night ended, I was so sad even though I had to drive three hours back home and was going to get very little sleep. I was sad because I had spent an evening in a church fellowship hall with a group of people who genuinely love and care for each other and all that they contribute to caregiving in their community. The audience was diverse in ALL ways, YET all that was felt in that room was JOY. People cheered for each other as portions of the nominations were read, they held each other when they cried, and they swayed and hummed along during each song. I may have been the speaker, and I received a rousing standing ovation at the end of my presentation, BUT I came away from that night with a level of joy that I didn’t know was possible! The mayor invited me to come back to the city to hang out. People invited me to their homes and churches and exchanged business cards with me. It was authentic love and joy that you don’t often see and feel. I hate the fact that my Mom has dementia, YET because of it I’ve been privileged to travel to so many amazing small towns and big cities and met people I never would have come in contact with otherwise. My journeys to Pennsylvania this month to Waynesboro on July 11th and Phoenixville have been life-changing. The ten hours that it took me to travel to and from Phoenixville and participate in Miss Kitty’s Care 2018 Caregiver Awards allowed me to feel and really embrace the joy that was in my soul without rushing off to the next thing. I allowed it to really sink in and I pray that I’ll be basking in this joy for a long time.