November 2013

Adopted youth makes sure other children don’t have to ‘trash’ belongings

Angel Gring-Vazquez displays some of the many bags and luggage he collected for youths in foster care. This photograph is from his first collection effort on his 16th birthday.

As a child, Angel Gring-Vazquez moved seven times—from one foster home to another—toting all of his possessions in large green garbage bags. And he wasn’t the only child to move this way; like Gring-Vazquez, many children in foster care don’t own luggage.

That memory haunted him, even after he was adopted by a loving family in 2005, until his 16th birthday in 2010. That’s when he asked guests at his birthday party to donate a duffel bag or backpack instead of buying him a gift. He received more than 150 bags that he graciously and generously donated to Diakon Adoption & Foster Care.

“The way he cares for others is so admirable.”

The experience was so positive that the young man recently decided to repeat the gesture for his senior graduation project. “I went door to door at school asking the students if they had extra luggage or backpacks they would donate,” he says. “By the last day of school, there were a lot of bags.” In fact, Gring-Vazquez ended up collecting and donating four boxes of bags to Diakon Adoption & Foster Care.

Kathy Roach, director of permanency services for the Diakon Adoption & Foster Care office in Topton, Pa., appreciates Gring-Vazquez’s spirit and kindness. “We are so grateful for Angel’s donation,” she says. “For a young man who was in foster care to remember and care about others in the same situation is so admirable.”

Angel poses on graduation day with his adoptive father, Ted Vazquez. Angel's graduation was the occasion for his second collection of luggage for youths in foster care.

Without his adoptive family, Gring-Vazquez’s future had been uncertain. Now, he is working and looking forward to a future in the military. He is not only excited to travel, but also feels as if he is indebted to this nation. “I feel like I owe my country and the world something,” says Angel, shown above with his adoptive father, Ted.

If you would like to donate new or unused bags that youths in foster care can use, please contact Diakon Adoption & Foster Care at (610) 682-1504 (Topton office), (717) 795-0320 (Mechanicsburg office), or (717) 845-9113 (York office).

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Luther Crest resident celebrates 107 years

Luther Crest Activities Assistants Kaitlyn Scheirer and Nadine Sevrain present her birthday cake to 107-year-old resident Eleanor Bechtel.

Some centenarians joke they have lived long, healthy lives despite “doing everything wrong.” Eleanor Bechtel, a Luther Crest resident who recently celebrated her 107th birthday, says she never exercised and enjoys wine and chocolate.

“It’s all natural,” she says. “God made me this way.”

Luther Crest staff members agree on the chocolate part. “Eleanor loves anything chocolate!” says Jennifer Laury, activities director at the Diakon senior living community in Allentown, Pa.

Mrs. Bechtel, an accomplished pianist, award-winning gardener, and excellent bridge player, also has given of herself in service: An active member for more than 50 years at Christ United Presbyterian Church in Drexel Hill, Pa., her home in Drexel Hill was, she says, “a home away from home” for many international students attending Philadelphia-area universities …

In fact, the Bechtels became a “second family” to many students from around the world. That connection was particularly evident in the case of Sydney.

Sydney came from British Honduras but was originally from mainland China. He stayed with the Bechtels while studying pre-med at the University of Pennsylvania. His parents came to the area for graduation and stayed with the Bechtels as well as they all attended Sydney’s graduation.

No matter where students came from around the world, Mrs. Bechtel has fond memories of these life-enriching experiences.

He then attended medical school and, at graduation, his parents again stayed with the Bechtels. When Sydney married, both families attended the wedding. He continued to stay in touch with the family as he had children and, later, grandchildren. Although Mrs. Bechtel can longer keep in touch with him, Sydney still does with her.

Other students that come to Mrs. Bechtel’s mind are a young woman from India and a student from Saudi Arabia, but no matter what part of the world the students came from, she has fond memories of these life-enriching experiences.  

And that cake had better be chocolate!

Eleanor Scheffey Bechtel was born Oct. 26, 1906, in Pottstown, Pa.; her two brothers are now deceased. After having been graduated from Pottstown High School, she attended Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa.

Married in 1936, Mrs. Bechtel and her husband, Jesse Bertolet Bechtel, had one daughter, Susan Bechtel Parker, who now lives in Lower Macungie Township. She has three grandchildren, Sara Parker Henderson of Madison, N.J., Rebecca Parker Abbott of Hockessin, Del., and Thomas Bechtel Parker of Mendham, N.J., and eight great-grandchildren.

Eleanor and her husband, an engineer with the DuPont Corp., traveled the world in retirement.

Currently a member of First Presbyterian Church of Allentown, she had worked before her marriage for the Insurance Company of North America in Philadelphia, where she was an administrative assistant to the executive vice president. Later in life, she worked as secretary to the superintendent of schools in Upper Darby, Pa.

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Resident’s musical contributions honored with original score

Janet Clark, far right in back row, for whom a march was written, takes part in the Cumberland Crossings Ukulele Club. Front, l-r, are Marianne Essl, Don Bletz, John Nystrom, and Ann Whitesel; back, l-r, are Dr. Craig Jurgensen, who teaches the class; Tom Wilborn; Jan Bigelow, village executive director; and Clark.

The residents of Cumberland Crossings, a Diakon Senior Living Community in Carlisle, Pa., have long enjoyed the musical contributions of their own Janet Clark, so when the opportunity to honor her presented itself, one resident jumped at the chance.

“When it was rumored that a member of the Greater Harrisburg Concert Band was looking for a commission for an ‘upbeat, toe-tapper American-style march with flowing, nostalgic melodies over traditional march rhythms,’ it fairly shouted the name Janet Clark,” says the resident, who wishes to remain anonymous.

“Those of us who have enjoyed her efforts over a period of years feel inadequate to thank her for all she has done for us.  It seemed to me that the most fitting thank-you would be in the form of something she truly loves—music!”

'This will be a gift that will keep on giving!'

Therefore, in late summer, the concert band debuted the “Cumberland Crossing March” during its annual performance on the senior living campus. The composer presented Clark with a copy of the music following the show.

In this photograph that appeared in the August 2013 eDiakonnect, Janet Clark, left, receives the commission for the march, given by an anonymous donor in her honor, from composer Dr. Michael A. Harcrow, second from left. Dr. William Stowman, conductor, and Jan Bigelow, Cumberland Crossings executive director, look on.

The honor is not only appropriate, but also well-deserved, says Jan Bigelow, Cumberland Crossings’ executive director. “Since Janet created the College of the Arts at Cumberland Crossings a few years ago, she has produced a resident choir, a resident bell choir, and numerous plays, as well as performances at memorial services and holiday concerts.”

With that in mind, Bigelow has encouraged Clark to adapt the selection for the hand bell and resident choirs and put lyrics to the music—a request the resident donor wholeheartedly endorses.

“It appears that this will be a gift that keeps on giving—to everyone at Cumberland Crossings” and the wider community, she says.

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