Category: volunteers

Cathy Gets New Furniture

Cathy Gets New Furniture

It all started when I began shopping for antiques on Facebook’s section called Marketplace. I don’t normally “do” Facebook but, much to my husband’s disappointment, I “do” online shopping as a hobby. And Marketplace is a treasure trove.

Well, one day Cathy saw me shopping during my lunch hour. I was looking at hutches & she said she wished she had a desk hutch in her room but, she said, what she really wanted was a bedroom set where all the pieces matched. Well, that was a challenge to a shopper like myself.

After looking for a week or 2, I came across a beautiful matching set of white furniture. I messaged the seller to find out if it was available. It was. I asked Cathy if she could go halves on the cost with her Mom & she thought she could, so she asked her Mom. Mom, generously agreed to pay 3/4 ths of the cost.

I contacted the seller again & she gave me her husband’s number. I put it in Mike’s hands to arrange where & when. They decided on the 4th weekend in February. We would have to pick it up in Walkersville, Maryland, close to Baltimore. We made it a family outing, packing up our 2 dogs in the backseat of the truck. The drive wasn’t too bad. We stopped at Merica House first to drop off a “new” office desk chair for me. Mine had dropped to the lowest setting the Friday before & wouldn’t raise back up. The “new” chair was my first actual Facebook Marketplace purchase.

After we dropped off my chair, we went to Maryland. The husband was very nice. He and a friend of his helped Mike load the furniture onto our truck & Mike tied it down like a pro while I took the dogs out of the truck for some exercise.

At Merica House our only male aide, Eligi, brought the dolly to us. Eligi was extremely helpful & fast in getting the furniture into Cathy’s room. We left a mess as the female aides began emptying Cathy’s items from her old furniture to her new furniture. Cathy was very excited & anxious to redecorate her room.

In addition to her furniture, Cathy got to hold our Sadie-Lu puppy for a few minutes. They were sweet together.

Cathy, Mike Burkhart & Eligi

Outing to the Bible Museum

Outing to the Bible Museum

In January one of our great Volunteers, Martin Tillett, took 3 residents to the newly-opened Bible Museum in D.C.  Martin rode on MetroAccess with one of the residents while the other 2 residents took a 2nd MetroAccess van.

One of the highlights was a “live exhibit” in which they were shown how the first newspapers were printed.  They walked through a set of sculptures showing different stages in Jesus’ life.  Alvin said the reenactment of Christ’s crucifixion was very realistic.









Pictures include a photo of Dee with the Capital behind her.  This was the first outing she’s had with Martin & Alvin.

Diane Constantine

Diane Constantine

Diane Constantine

Diane is our web master. She first got interested in Merica House through our former president, Don Jahn. Don always talked so enthusiastically about The Alliance for the Physically Disabled and Merica House that Diane wanted to see what was so exciting. After visiting a few times, she offered to put her web building skills to work so more people could learn about us.

Diane has not been able to spend much time at Merica House because she and her husband live most of the year in Malaysia in southeast Asia. They serve the churches there in teaching, counseling, and mentoring. But with the mysteries of the internet, she is as close as an email away.

Mike and Diane married in 1970. They have two married sons. Their oldest son, Michael and his wife Bridget, have a son and daughter. Matt and his wife Natala, travel around the US as Matt telecommutes to his job.

Art Shields

Art Shields

Art Shields

“In 1963,” Art says, “I was a ski bum that joined the Marine Corps and it was all down hill from there.”

Art has been very successful in his life. He’s been married for 35 years and has three daughters and a son. After working for IBM for 32 years, Art retired, only to do contract work for them for another five years. He also owns the local EcoQuest International franchise.

At Merica House, Art wears many hats. He helps coordinate construction projects. And yearly he analyzes and fills out mountains of forms required by the Virginia Agriculture Department to maintain the non-profit status for the Alliance for the Physically Disabled and Merica House. His other big job is ensuring proper paper work for the United Way for necessary funding.

When asked what he hates to do, Art quips, “Fill out forms!”

But when asked what he most likes about working with the APD and Merica House, he answered, “My work effort is actually helping to secure the future of APD/Merica House.” The hard work he does is worth so much!

When Art has free time, he enjoys golf, photography and skiing.

Don Jahn

Don Jahn

Don JahnDon Jahn, past president of the APD, has moved to Georgia along with his wife Becky. Don has retired from the board of APD but will always be a friend to Merica House and our residents.

Don and Becky, enjoy your retirement and we will miss you.

Don married his lovely wife, Becky, in 1957. They have 3 daughters and 2 sons (1 deceased) and 2 grandchildren. It appears that his time in the Navy influenced his family to locate across the paths they traced in change of station orders with their current set of locations being Savannah, GA, Fort Worth, TX, and Los Gatos, CA. It is clear from his history growing up and into adult life he enjoys working with other people towards a common goal whether it is a sport activity, community or personal project.

Don has retired twice already. He is a retired Naval Officer and a retired Information Technology Manager and Executive. Currently he is an elder in his church. Don also enjoys Tennis(singles) especially and sports in general having coached various types of sports teams (football, basketball, lacrosse).

Don was the President for the Alliance for the Physically Disabled(APD) from 1998, and recently stepped down as President on 1 January 2007 but continues on the board. He frequently visits the Merica House residents, besides fulfilling his responsibilities with the APD. He says what he likes best about working with Merica House is that it “provides an opportunity to help my neighbor and touch other peoples’ lives in the MH family and community in general.” He also serves on the board of Coalition for Housing in the Community for Everyone which advocates for accessibility standards being implemented in housing plus educating real estate people and consumers on home buying/selling to the disabled community.

“I grew up in California and went to college on the East Coast (Naval Academy) where I played football and lacrosse. Big band music really resonates with me having played in a swing band in high school (tenor sax and clarinet).” And I find the local area a good base to enjoy the opportunity to be involved in community work as well as visit family across the country and visa versa.

Kathy Shields

Kathy Shields

Kathy ShieldsKathy Shields has been on the board of The Alliance for the Physically Disabled since 2001. Currently, she is serving her second term as Vice President of the APD.

She is a regular visitor to Merica House where her two daughters, Maureen and Deirdre are residents. Both daughters enjoy living together and are delighted to “be on their own.”

When asked about what she likes most about helping at Merica House, Kathy said, “I have enjoyed meeting the many wonderful people that support and encourage the residents to live independently. Watching and interacting in the daily events that occur at Merica House has made me appreciate the countless hours the many volunteers and staff have dedicated to enable Merica House to exist.”

She has been married to Art for 39 years and they have two other children. Jennifer and her husband, Mark, live in Atlanta and with their 2 sons, Ellis and Major. Andrew is a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army and linguist. He is completing his second tour of duty in Iraq and hopes to be home by March 2009.

Kathy, an RN, is taking some time off from nursing and currently works part time in a local boutique shop, a definite change of pace from nursing. Previously she was a board member for the United Methodist Church Respite Day Program, a program Maureen attended while living at home in Williamsburg. They live in Ford’s Colony in Williamsburg, VA where they have met many wonderful people and enjoy socializing with them in the various activities offered in the community. Her hobbies include tennis and golf and she is active both in the golf and community associations.

Sonja (Sunny) Parr

Sonja (Sunny) Parr

Sonja (Sunny) Parr

Sonja (Sunny) Parr is Cathy’s mom, one of our residents. She also has a son, Sean, who is 29. Sunny is an occupational therapist, currently working in skilled nursing facilities with geriatric patients.

Currently, Sunny is secretary for the Board of Directors. Ironically she doesn’t really like to type and do secretarial duties, saying she is not a desk person. But like so many others who help Merica House, she agreed because there was a need for someone to do the job.

Merica House would not be the same without Sunny. She volunteers time at Merica House usually one or two times each week. She says, “I truly enjoy being with the residents, and feel they are my good friends. Some are like extended family to me.” Sunny says that Cathy and Sharita have been friends and shared many experiences since the first grade.

She enjoys reading, traveling, running, walking and needlework projects. She says she is “very mechanical and will try to fix anything. I’m usually pretty good at it, too, and many times I succeed, surprising myself.”

Betty Wawrzaszek

Betty Wawrzaszek

Betty WawrzasekBetty and her late husband have been involved with Merica House since its founding. Their son, Sean, in one of the original residents. She now serves as a board member and part time fund raiser for Merica House.

Betty spends a lot of time around Merica House because she enjoys helping people. She is particularly involved with her son since he has cerebral palsy and is non-verbal.

Betty says what she likes best about Merica House is that it provides physically disabled adults, especially those coming out of high school, the opportunity to live in a home versus a nursing home. The perpetuity of The Alliance for the Physically Disabled and Merica house is what is most important to Betty. She is eager to see the creation of another similar home.

Betty was born in County Cork, Ireland. She left there at the age of 21 to study and work in Heidelberg, Germany. She met her husband there while he was employed at the U.S Army Headquarters. He was then transfered to the U.S. where their son, Sean, and their daugther, Siobhan, were born in Illinois.

Betty says, “As for myself I take great pleasure in helping other people. I like to read , garden, and socilalze.”

Our Volunteers

Our Volunteers

Many people work together to make Merica House succeed. On this page you’ll meet our Board members and Volunteers.

Frederick J. Day – Board President

Mitch Opalski – Board Treasurer

Sonja (Sunny) Jarvis- Secretary to the Board

Christine Metz – Board Co-Secretary

Board Members :

John Renfro

Art Shields

Deirdre Shields

Annette Porter

Anita Dosik

Pamela (Pam) Sanchez

Rev. Matthew DeForest

Debra J. Johnson

Chuck Sickles – Attorney Consultant to the Board

Barbara Fulton – Accountant

Diane Constantine- Web Master

Martin Tillett – Volunteer