What Is A Freedom Bag?

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Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.

Mother Teresa

As a mother, I cannot quit thinking about the issue of human sex trafficking and I know, I just know, that there is something we can do to have a direct impact on this horrific issue. That is just how I roll these days. Each one, reach one, one day at a time. Learn, then listen for ways one can make a difference.Tea by the lake

After attending the Justice Conference in Atlanta on January 31, 2015, I decided one way we could positively encourage and help some victims of this crime is to put together Freedom Bags that are being collected by Operation Liberate. This is a huge undertaking, but my Mama taught me to dream big, so I am asking for as many of you as possible to come on board to join me in this huge project. more about Operation Liberate: “Doing What Is Required”, click here.

Since it may cost an estimated $150.00 to buy the bag and all O.L. is expecting to have included in each bag, this could be a great joint project between 2-4 girlfriends, mothers & daughters, a small group Bible Study, a Book Club, a Tennis Team, the ideas of ways to achieve this goal are limitless!!!!

Operation Liberate helps rescue women and girls with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They want to be able to bless each of these precious ones with a unique bag created with love and prayers to encourage these victims on their first step to recovery. Because of an upcoming large-scale rescue, Operation Liberate is trying to collect as many Freedom Bags as possible by March 15th.

If you are “IN,” please let me know, so that I can count you as a “YES.” Do not hesitate to contact me with your questions.

We are on a tight schedule as these bags need to be pulled together between now and my goal date of Thursday, March 5th.

The deadline for Operation Liberate is March 15th.

PLEASE SEE BELOW THE INFORMATION THAT WAS SENT OUT BY OPERATION LIBERATE:

“Thank you for your interest in helping Operation Liberate serve the many women and girls that the Lord is going to free in 2015!”  To give each girl a special, one-of-a-kind Freedom Bag, please only fill your bag with NEW, unused items. If you are unable to pack an entire back yourself, consider partnering with your small group or church.

As you assemble your bag, please pray over the girl who will receive it – she’ll be so encouraged to know that she was prayed for. If you have questions or would like to get others involved, email Rachel at operationliberate7@gmail.com. Thank you for sharing Jesus’ love with these precious ones!

Instructions for Packing a Freedom Bag – PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

Please select a NEW feminine tote, duffel bag, or backpack that is sturdy and roomy enough to serve as an overnight/weekend bag. Heavier items should go in the bottom. Clothing and blankets should be neatly folded. For smaller bags, clothing and blankets may fit better rolled. Toiletries that might leak should be packed in Ziploc bags. Utilize any pockets for smaller items, like lip balm or travel-size deodorant. Pack anything breakable, like sunglasses, last.

Print the following information on an index card and pin to the outside of the bag:

Woman (17+), teen (13-17), or child (under 13) & clothing size (XS, S, M, L, not numeric sizes)

If you’d like, sign the card “Hand-packed with love by [your first name]” or “With love from [church or ministry]”

Once your bag is assembled, please contact Rachel at operationliberate7@gmail.com to arrange a time for it to be dropped at Midtown Church BY MARCH 15th.

Fill your bag with the following NEW items

Toiletries:

Remember this is a gift intended to show the love of Christ, so treat it like you would a care package for your own child or best friend in their first semester away at college. PLEASE ONLY PACK FULL-SIZE TOILETRIES to guarantee that each survivor receives similar items.

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, & floss
  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Gentle face wash
  • Body wash
  • Deodorant
  • Chapstick
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hair brush or comb
  • Feminine pads & tampons
  • Travel pack of Kleenex
  • Hard candy or gum

Clothing:

Please ensure that all items in your bag are the same size (small, size 2/4, etc. While we need mostly xs, s and medium, there is also a need for Large.)

  • Sweatpants
  • Sweatshirt or thermal tee
  • 1-2 pairs of socks
  • 1 pack of panties

Special touches:

PLEASE PLACE YOUR NOTE IN AN OUTSIDE POCKET OF THE BAG, as each note must be reviewed before being given to a survivor.

Every bag will include the Life Recovery Bible, which we believe is the most important element of the Freedom Bag. If you would like to cover the cost of the Bible for your bag, PLEASE INCLUDE A CHECK FOR $10 MADE OUT TO MIDTOWN CHURCH. YOUR CHECK SHOULD BE PLACED IN THE SAME POCKET AS YOUR NOTE.

  • Handwritten letter or prayer
  • Journal
  • Pens

Fun items:

Please include three or more of the following so each girl feels special and loved:

  • Nail polish
  • Lip gloss
  • Cross necklace
  • Small stuffed animal
  • Lightweight scarf
  • Sunglasses
  • Hair ties, clips, etc.
  • Colored pencils & sketchbook
  • Coloring book & crayons (can be great therapy even for adult women)
  • Slippers
  • Small, soft blanket or throw
  • Travel-size pillow
Click this link for a printable list for Freedom Bag Instructions.
If you have made it to the end of this long list of needs, I hope that means you have decided to make a difference in just one young hurting woman’s life.
Contact me today, and remember, this can be accomplished with a group if just one person will step up agreeing to be in charge of each bag, delegating needs to the rest of the group.
I can meet you anywhere in Metro Atlanta to pick up your Freedom Bag.

 Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”Starfish on the beach

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said,

“It made a difference to that one!”

adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

Birthdays A Special Time For Girlfriends

IMG_1789This past Saturday, a group of girlfriends got together in the North Georgia Mountains to celebrate one of our special friend’s upcoming birthday. There was a yummy lunch followed by a five-mile hike on part of the Benton McKaye Trail. It was a beautiful day to walk, to visit, to simply be under a Carolina blue sky, and to celebrate our friend, Tracy.

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“Birthdays need to be celebrated. I think it is more important to celebrate a birthday than an important exam, a promotion, or a victory. Because to celebrate a birthday means to say to someone: ‘Thank you for being you.’ On a birthday, we do not say: ‘Thanks for what you did or said or accomplished.’ No, we say: ‘Thank you for being born and being among us.'”

~Henri Nouwen~

After the hike, we found ourselves guzzling water as we gazed over a magnificent landscape of mountains. Soon, snacks of all kind, wine and cold drinks were brought out as we gathered around a picnic table. Tracy and I built a blazing outdoor fire, and for that moment, all was right and well with the world.

It is good to take time out to celebrate life and girlfriends that we love!

“Any time women come together with a collective intention, it’s a powerful thing. Whether it’s sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens.”

Philicia Rashad
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Leave a Notation Little Notes Can Help Us Remember and Bring A Smile

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As I recently thumbed through Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul, I came upon a notation made by my Mama. Recognizing her penmanship, I knew it was her note, marked with a P.W. for Polly Walker, dated 12/9/97, and furthermore, she jotted that she had read this page to Leah and me. Knowing Mama held my book and read this aloud to the two of us back in 1997 warms my heart! My Mama was really good about having a pen in hand whenever she opened a book, whether it was her Bible, a favorite cookbook, or an inspirational read. I love finding a notation in her own unique handwriting. Often, along with her note would be a date as well as her initials, indicating that “I was here, in this book, on this day and here you will read my very thoughts about what I was reading.”
The written remarks are mostly brief…”delicious! perfect for a crowd” or ” I want to do this more,” she might have written next to a devotion that spoke to her heart on a particular day. Mama loved sharing things she thought were important and meaningful and the memories of her passing on wisdom to me and our children comes back to me again and again. Funny, I told a friend recently that I think of my Mama every single day, even though she passed away in October 2006, now over eight years ago. “That’s a good thing, Joan.” my friend quickly responded. “Because that means she’s with you every day, too!” I believe this is true.

This reminds me that I want to make notations in cookbooks, in my Bible, in books I read, in devotions I meditate over. Dated notations which may be seen by generations to come.  I am developing this same habit and I love it! I enjoy using a dictionary (or dictionary.com!) to look up words that I might run across in a devotion, not because I have no idea what they mean, but because I want to have a greater understanding of how the writer intended to use that particular word to get his/her message across. I nearly ALWAYS date and name the event that I took the time to prepare a special recipe for. It is fun to look back, and remember those times when we sat around the table laughing, loving and yes, enjoying that favorite recipe!
And, my Bible is full of dates and thoughts and notes that I have dashed off through the years. These, too, bring back fond memories of days gone by…a baby dedication, a particularly inspiring message from the pulpit, a date for my reading of one chapter of PROVERBS each day. These notes remind me that I am on the right and best path for me at this time.
Just as my mother took the time to make her notations along her life journey, I want to give this gift to my children and grandchildren, as well. I want them to read a jotted note by me, smile, and say : “That was important to my MOM on that day!”

As I read over this advice Mama shared with us 18 years ago, I believe it bears repeating, especially now with two married kids:

Marriage Advice from 1886

Let your love be stronger than your hate or anger.

Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break.

Believe the best rather than the worst.

People have a way of living up or

down to your opinion of them.

Remember that true friendship is the basis for any lasting relationship. The person you choose to marry is deserving of the courtesies and kindnesses you bestow on your friends.

Please hand this down to your children

and your children’s children:

The more things change the more they are the same.

Jane Wells (1886) Submitted by Carol Abbs

Since Mama’s notation was about marriage, of course my memories flew to the 2014 weddings our family had last year. Even though my parents were together in heaven when both our children married their best friends, I believe they were with us in spirit and I trust that their legacy of true love will live on in our children and in generations to come.

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The Andrews on March 29, 2014
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The Pages on June 21, 2014

How about you?

  What notation will you make today?

Young female is writing notes and planning her schedule.

What Can One Do? Start By Learning More

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END IT is a coalition of the leading organizations in the world in the fight for FREEDOM. END IT with a symbol of a red X, is shining a light on human sex trafficking. When people see this red X on my hand and ask me about it, I can tell them what I have learned about this issue, building awareness, one beating heart at a time.

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What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
Saint Augustine

Just one month ago, as we started this new year, I put up a post entitled From Broken to Beautiful, about a very tough subject: Human Sex Trafficking. You can read my post by clicking here.

Since attending the 2015 Atlanta Justice Conference this past Saturday at Perimeter Church, in Johns Creek, with my friend, Debby, I feel compelled to write a follow-up post about this horrific subject. Let me start out by saying there is hope in ending this violent crime towards minor women and men because I believe that awareness is a great first step to solving the problems in our world. Awareness and then asking ourselves: “What can I do?” As you become more aware of this issue, I trust you and I will take a step of action towards changing this.

Mr. Vernon Keenan, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation shared a few facts with us :

  • In the past year, 200 officers were added and trained to make up a Task Force that deals specifically with this issue in Georgia.
  • In 2013, human sex trafficking was found to profit more than $290 million, 3 times more than the 2013 Atlanta Falcons budget.
  • The GBI’s experience is that these cases involve GA kids, not out-of-state kids, and not international kids.
  • 1/3 of those involved were first homeless because of abuse in the home, and within 2-3 days of being homeless, the child was approached by someone who would then pull them into human sex trafficking.
  • The average age for children who are led into this is 11-14, middle school age.
  • 70-90% of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) victims report theywere abused at home (or near their home) where they should feel safe and protected.
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    Current GBI Director, Mr. Keenan enlightens the audience about the crime of human sex trafficking in our communities.

In a recent study specifically in Atlanta, Georgia, 42% of the cases were found in North Atlanta, north of The Perimeter, and a high correlation was found between young girls being sexually exploited by those with a disposable income.

What can one do?

First and foremost, we can pray for the victims of human sex trafficking and learn more about this issue. This costs us nothing and can have an enormous impact on the despair in the hearts of these young women. Second, get involved either financially, by volunteering, or simply sharing what you learn and starting a dialogue in our communities. There are many organizations we can connect with that are standing firm against this crime, such as Wellspring Living, Operation Liberate, End It Now, Street Grace, City of Refuge, Out of Darkness,  and Haven ATL. Third, you can go to the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, February 12, 2015 and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others who want to take a positive stand against this crime. For more information about the DMST Lobby Day 2015, go to Street Grace.

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Operation Liberate rescues minor girls and then needs supplies to help take care of the girls. Thus, they came up with the idea of Packing a Freedom Bag. In the near future, I plan to have a party and pull together a bunch of Freedom Bags. If you live near me and want to be a part of this project, let me know.
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Donny and I used this series to teach our two children about sex before (hopefully, before!) they learned about it from sources outside our homes. We must “immunize” our kids about sex before they see it online or hear about it from their peers. (another one of those challenging parts of parenting!)

Many of you, like me, may be wondering how we can protect our future generations, our children, our grandchildren? Sadly, we know that along with many positive benefits, the cyber world has also brought some hazards into our homes. For example, if someone in a home has been looking at something pornographic privately in their own homes, and then a child in that same home goes to the p.c. to work on homework, that child is one click away from being exposed to graphic porn at a young age.

The answer is to “immunize” our kids about sex through teaching and conversation BEFORE they ever have the chance to see it or be exposed to it on the web.

IMG_1734I will close with something for the precious men in our lives. I am learning that the availability of internet pornography is the starting point for many men who then find their way into the evils of human sex trafficking. We cannot stop that availability of internet porn, but men can make the choice to stop looking at it and participating in it. This is a supply and demand issue. Street Grace has begun a digital campaign to aid men in making this intentional choice. It is called F.A.C.E. and stands for Fathers Against Child Exploitation.  By simply going to Street Grace men are asked to consider coming on board and making a difference in their sphere of influence by agreeing to 3 statements in a pledge:

  • WALK IN INTEGRITY by not purchasing sex.
  • EXHIBIT COURAGE by raising awareness, speaking out against DMST and reversing today’s distorted perception of sex.
  • LEAVE A LEGACY by mentoring the next generation to walk in integrity and exhibit the courage to eradicate DMST entirely.

What will we do now that we know?

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Blaze Your Own Trail Dolly Parton: Dream More

I first posted these thoughts on January 26, 2015, and I am updating them here, because there has been some big news in the region where Dolly Parton was raised. Did you happen to catch NBC’s special about her life this past week? The title is Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love. DID YOU KNOW? Dolly Parton, who turned 70 on her last birthday, January 19, 1946, was raised in an unimaginably poor household. One of 12 children, yes, the home was filled with love abounding, but many times her big family found themselves both cold and hungry as they grew up in the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee area in the stunning Great Smoky Mountains. As Donny and I watched the show I mentioned above, I was once again reminded of how Dolly (along with the help of her Uncle Billy) never, ever gave up on her dreams to one day be a star. Dolly Parton, as we now all know, reached her dreams even more than could be imagined! As we also know, thousands in and around the cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge had to be evacuated on Monday night, November 28, 2016, due to horrific and rapid spreading fires throughout the Great Smoky Mountains. Parton agreed to directly aid each family who has been impacted by these wild fires and she is calling her response: “My People Fund.” What dreams do you and I want to carry out in the new year that is ahead of us? Let’s never give up on our dreams to leave the kind of legacy we would like to leave behind.

So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”
Christopher Reeve

As a fifty-something woman, I am always looking for fresh ideas and new energy. That is why I checked out a book on CD from Cracker Barrel for my recent five-hour drive to Abingdon, Virginia. I decided on Dolly Parton’s DREAM MORE: Celebrate the Dreamer in You, and I am glad I did.

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Did you know that Dolly Parton’s Daddy, a tobacco farmer, could not read or write? He paid the doctor who delivered Dolly with a sack of oatmeal.  Did you know that Dolly, the fourth of twelve children, announced “I’m  goin’ to Nashville and I’m gonna be a star!” to all who would listen when she graduated from Sevierville High School in 1964?  Not only did Dolly go and accomplish this huge dream of hers, but in 1995, she also developed The Imagination Library. Dolly wanted every preschool child in her native Sevier County, Tennessee to have his/her own collection of books. Imagination Library currently serves children in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., providing more that 560,000 children with a book each month!  It was really fun listening to Dolly read and sing her way through this book on CD, as the miles from GA to VA clicked by. Dolly Parton highlighted four areas that I want to emphasize as I celebrate the dreamer inside myself and hope you will do the same:

Dream More

Don’t let the weeds grow around your dreams! Keep dreamin’ ’til you take your last breath.

Learn More

Keep reading, researching and learning as much as you possibly can.

Care More

There is always going to be someone less fortunate who shows up in your path. Care for them!

Be More

Follow the Golden Rule! BE the best YOU you can be.

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While in Abingdon, VA, we visited the local Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and got to meet a creative,  young woman who is going after her dreams: Artist, Jenny Nichols, owner of Mountain Primadonna. Jenny designs unique jewelry and she had many things on display at the market. I purchased this “Blaze Your Own Trail” necklace from Jenny as I reflected on the message Dolly Parton had shared with “me” on my drive north. You can also meet Jenny on her blog Freedom to be.

As I go forward I want to keep my dreams alive and blaze my trail that is uniquely prepared for me.

A tiny spark can start the flame glowing for that dream you may have left in the dust long ago.

What is that aspiration that has nearly been forgotten that you want to resurrect in your life today?

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A necklace designed by Jenny, artist and owner of Mountain Primadonna
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…let’s follow the Light that is shining on our path…
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We will encounter rocks and roots in our path, even so, let’s keep moving forward towards our dreams.

We’ve Got Your Back A 40-Year Friendship

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Our first gathering following The Brown Wedding in 1978, Tullahoma, Tennessee.
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Kay Green marries Joe Brown on December 9, 1978

Some women pray for their daughters to marry good husbands. I pray that my girls will find girlfriends half as loyal and true as the Ya-Yas.
― Rebecca Wells, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

It all began in the mid-late 1970’s when 9 girls, Becky, Kay, Susan, Delores, Leslie, JoAnn, Debby, Kelly and Joan moved themselves and their belongings to Cookeville, Tennessee to attend Tennessee Tech University. Each girl was far from home and began a search for friends who could make the years spent at Tech more fun, rewarding and meaningful. All 9 girls chose to join Alpha Delta Pi Sorority and that was the beginning of what would become life-long friendships. They certainly did not realize at the time that their common beliefs and love for one another would continue to bring them together in celebration of their friendships for decades to come.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (Life Application Bible)

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Taylor’s baptismal shell, a note from Meg’s confirmation class, and a bar of soap with the verse: Philippians 4:13 etched on it. These items were found in the rubbish, surviving the house fire.
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Though this is a new storage box, all of the silver utensils that were wedding gifts back in 1982 came through the fire, along with pieces of fabric found folded together and made into a small (new) baby quilt.

On January 4, 2014, we 9 were together for our annual weekend sleepover when our friend, Kelly received a call from her husband telling her that their home in Abingdon, Virginia was burning to the ground. It was too late to make the 3 hour drive to Virginia, so we hunkered down with our dear friend and held onto each other. This scene, 9 of us in PJs, was symbolic of what our friendships had come to mean to each of us in the past 36 years. Much of our time spent together would be doing the usual things that girls do: share recipes, talk about everything under the sun, eat and then eat some more, showing family/travel pictures. But that night, it became more apparent to me than ever before how unique this group of girlfriends is. Everyone in this circle relies on their faith daily and we have come to depend on each other’s prayer support, too, as we have listed out specific requests year after year.  We’ve been through marriages, births, and deaths side-by-side, and we’ve always had each other’s back.

The next day, we drove Kelly to her hometown to join her husband and to survey the damage. From what we saw, we assumed all was lost, and mostly everything was lost. However, with the help of many friends, family members, and neighbors, a few things were recovered.

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Kelly and Paul’s home on Valley Street

Though their sweet dog, Belle perished in the house fire, all other LIFE was spared. There was much to be thankful for, even amidst such tragic circumstances. In the past year, Kelly and Paul have been a picture of grit and tenacity as they have moved forward and renovated an Abingdon, Virginia home that was built in the 1930’s. This past weekend, their home was the spot for our 37th reunion and as usual, we had a wondrous time together! The location of their new home has allowed them to enjoy this beautiful and historical community more than ever before. They are just a few steps from The Barter Theatre and a couple of blocks from The Virginia Creeper Trail, Whitetop Yoga, and the weekly Farmer’s Market!

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Dalton, Georgia gathering in 1985
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The Virginia Creeper Trail
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The Virginia Creeper Trail
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Abingdon, Virginia gathering in 2015
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after a yoga class at Whitetop Yoga in Abingdon, Virginia, January 2015

“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”
― Maya Angelou

These strong friendships have seen us through countless life experiences: job losses, deaths of parents, births/marriages of our children, and currently, the births of grandchildren. We often agree as we sing our ADPi prayer:

“Hear us sing in one accord,

Praises for thy gifts, O Lord, For thy gifts of daily bread,

For thy paths in which we’re led, From thy throne of Love on High,

List to Alpha Delta Pi, AMEN”,  

 the unity that the 9 of us share has made our lives so very rich!

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Kay and Joan in our matching pjs
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a quilt given to Kelly and Paul following their house fire