July 1, 2014 // 5:21 PM

GSV Residents Make the Most of Volunteer Opportunities

Written by Scott Miller

Sometimes, what seem like small things—things we might take for granted—make the biggest impact. A smile… A game of chess… A shared meal… Someone to listen… Through their selfless service, the people of Garden Spot Village help Cross Connection Ministries, ELANCO Social Services Network (ESSN), churches and other organizations enrich the lives of others. It is part of the culture at Garden Spot Village and a way of life throughout Lancaster County.

“This community is blessed with people who really do care,” says Don Ware, one of several Garden Spot Village residents who volunteer in the community. “I’m excited about working with them. The leaders that these two organizations put in place are special people.”

“It comes from a heart of love and wanting to serve a great God,” says Sharon Smeltz, a medical technician and resident attendant in the Mountain View personal care community who volunteers at Cross Connection.

“I think the Christian atmosphere at Garden Spot Village promotes service. When you see other people doing things, it encourages you,” says Duane Tice, a resident and community volunteer who gives his time in response to Jesus’ love. “He loves me and wants me to love and serve those he loves.”

Reaching for relationships

Tice has volunteered with Cross Connection for two years. He mentors a young man, now 15, whose grandmother wanted him to have a positive male influence in his life. Over the past two years, Tice and his mentee visited Penn’s Cave, Cabela’s, the Kutztown Fair and the Threshermen’s Reunion, an agriculture museum in nearby Kinzers. They’ve gone to movies and played games.

“Sometimes we just go out to eat and talk a little bit,” says Tice. “I think I’ve been successful in getting him to read more. I’ve steered him towards books with a good message.”
Don Ware is also mentoring a teenager, a 13-year-old, through Cross Connection.

“I really enjoy being with him. He’s a pretty sharp kid. He can beat me in chess,” Ware says. Ware tries to expose his mentee to new things and give him someone to talk to with. “Hopefully you make a positive difference in people’s lives, especially when you see so much potential.”

Ware learned about Cross Connection when he and his wife, Ruthann, attended a fundraiser at the Shady Maple. He grew up in Southwest Philadelphia and knew the dangers of hanging out on the streets. Impressed by the organization and what it was doing for the ministry and for the community, Ware decided to get involved. He also helps with Cross Connection Junior, an after-school program for third- to fifth-graders at the Cross Connection Youth Center. Ware sets out food and cleans up; other volunteers are available to play games, help kids with their homework, do crafts or read a story.

“We just give them the space to interact with us, letting them voice what they want to voice,” says Sharon Smeltz, who volunteers at the Youth Center with Cross Connection Junior and with older teens. She and her husband have also housed troubled teenagers. Often, the volunteers are role models just by being present. “You don’t have to be somebody special,” Smeltz says. “You just have to be.”

Many ways and many “whys”

“It is important for people of all ages to come together to see a healthier and more well-rounded community,” says Meredith Dahl, Executive Director at Cross Connection Ministries in New Holland. “Volunteers from Garden Spot Village are a vital and essential piece of our ministry. They are able to build relationships with people in the community and make an impact for eternity. Without their help in our programs, we would not be able to grow or successfully see students and families be supported.”

Cross Connection is just one of the worthy organizations that is getting help from Villagers. Ware has also spent time developing database applications to help ESSN track its contacts and clients, and he serves on a committee that is trying to understand how ESSN can best help those in need of housing. It all feels like the right thing to do.

“To get kids off the street and give them a place to go, to help people with their needs, to help the community… it answers the call of Christ,” Ware says.

Smeltz feels grateful to be a part of what goes on at Cross Connection. “Through these experiences, you get blessed and you bless somebody else—and you’re growing.”

For Tice, it’s a matter of paying it forward. When he and his wife, Sharry, were first married, the next-door neighbors often helped them out.

“When I asked him, ‘How do I repay you?’ he said, ‘You don’t. You do it for somebody else,’” Tice says. Tice does bookkeeping for ESSN and mentors an adult with medical and cognitive challenges. He made several trips to Far Rockaway, N.Y., to help rebuild a house damaged by Hurricane Sandy, and he has even traveled to Honduras to help build a church camp. On campus, he volunteers with Caring Connections.

“There’s a feeling of satisfaction, but that’s not why you do it,” he says. “You hope to make a difference in somebody’s life just by pointing in the right direction. God can intervene miraculously, but mostly He works through people.”

God is clearly working through the people at Garden Spot Village.

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