“Making a difference in the life of someone else really is part of the purpose of living.”
So says SAGE winner Roger Sider, and the rest of Harrisburg Magazine’s 2017 SAGE winners would agree. All are devoted to service, contributing time and talent to causes dear to their hearts. They heal bodies and minds, stand against injustice, bring the past to life, build homes, and build community.
None commit to service for the recognition, but if the spotlight illuminates their causes or inspires others to fill a need, they are pleased to embody the Savvy, Active, Growing, Enlightened spirit that earned them the SAGE designation.
Carl Ginder, Mount Joy
Alaska, says Carl Ginder, “can be a dark place.” Abuse of women and children runs rampant. Drug use takes even the most promising young people. But bright spots shine through, like a genuine reverence for the elderly. Designate some coffee and cookies for them at an event, and no one else touches the treats.
He has seen it during trips there to build homes and to staff the annual World Eskimo and Indian Olympics. Learning from and serving others is second nature to Ginder.
“You don’t go and you don’t do in order to get something out of it,” he says. “You want to help other people, but it doesn’t work that way. The arrow points both ways. You give, you get.”
Ginder spent most of his professional life overseeing development projects for Central Pennsylvania retirement communities. Just before retiring, he was part of the team that transformed the former Messiah Village into the thriving Messiah Lifeways, joining conversations about looking at aging as “not something to be dreaded, but something to be welcomed and embraced.”
Growing up on a farm, Ginder honed what he calls “a fair mechanical aptitude.” His construction skills are on call for anyone who needs help. At his church, Manheim Brethren in Christ, he belongs to a group called “Manheim Male Mechanical Mob.” They might perform light renovations, or help a family move.
“I like putting a smile on people’s faces, letting them know they’re loved by just helping them with something in the same way I’ve been helped by other people when I needed help,” he says.
As board secretary for Paxton Ministries, he pitches in with his handiwork and his project oversight expertise. Interacting with residents at the home for adults challenged by poverty, mental illness, or mental disability, he enjoys “hearing their stories and encouraging them along the way. To the extent that they want to share, we lend an ear.”
Ginder lives out his love for the outdoors through hunting, hiking and camping with his grandchildren, and pursuing the new hobby of beekeeping with his daughter. Finding his way to Alaska, he discovered that he enjoyed service trips more than simply visiting as a tourist. He sees the beauty of Alaska, but “working in depth, you see the other side of it. There are a lot of needs up there.”
His wife, Eunice, joins him, even when they were housed in camps with pit toilets and without showers. “She and I had to sleep in an old boat that was sitting up on blocks on a piece of plywood. She’s been a real trouper.”
No matter where he’s volunteering, the pieces of his life “all flow together. You can’t compartmentalize your life totally. The compassion I feel for people in Alaska can’t help but bleed over to compassion for residents of Paxton Homes or people in the community who need some help.”
It all stems from being “a person of faith,” he says.
“My primary motivation is that God loves us, and we’re supposed to love other people. It’s not a matter of duty. When you love someone, you want to do something for them or for someone else. You want to share the love.”
Ed Kapp, Mechanicsburg
Eugene “Ed” Kapp has always liked working with his hands and working with people. He loved church-related service trips, perhaps building homes in Kentucky or rebuilding places devastated by Hurricane Hugo in Charleston.
The trips taught him “the most remarkable thing” about time management.
“You have something to do at home but you cannot get it done because you don’t have the time, but if you go somewhere with a group, your time is spent on that project and you get it done. You’re focused.”
The key to service is “using skills you have and being able to work with them, or showing people how to do them.” Sometimes, when people suffer a sudden blow, they don’t know where to go or what to do next.
“The people in the Carolinas, the devastation was such that they were bewildered,” he notes. “You give direction and then it becomes a work in progress.”
Kapp learned all the construction trades from his father, a cabinet maker and carpenter. Together, they built a cabin on the river — one of the few that survived Tropical Storm Agnes, “not because it was built better, but because it got hung up in the trees before it left the island.”
The retired field engineer for Bell Telephone and his wife, Karen, have lived at Messiah Lifeways at Messiah Village since 2002. When he sees a need, he steps in to fill it, especially if it involves getting people together to socialize or serve a purpose.
Kapp, a Navy veteran, oversees Messiah Lifeway’s annual clothing sale to benefit the benevolent fund that helps residents who have run out of resources continue to call Messiah Lifeways at Messiah Village home. He drives the shuttle taking residents and staff wherever they need to go within the sprawling campus.
Karen works at Messiah Lifeways Katie’s Corner gift shop, and he helps by running to buy the sodas and bagels sold there. Sometimes, he’ll man the desk when needed.
“I like the idea of being on call,” he says. “If I’m not doing something else, I’ll be able to fill in. It’s people contact. You meet the residents and get a chance to talk to them.”
On Thursday mornings, he drives his own minivan to pick up a group of men who share breakfast at a different place every week. At one restaurant, a companion was so excited to see chicken pot pie on the list of daily specials that he promised to return with his wife that afternoon.
Kapp started a bowling group, and what he calls a Friday-morning men’s Bible study group, “but if you ever try to do a Bible study with men, you’ll get more conversation than Bible study.” He plays bocce ball in the Messiah Lifeways community room. When someone wanted more things to do on weekends, Kapp began showing DVDs about the Civil War – a passion of his – one Saturday a month.
“You make friends here and find things to do,” he says. “There’s plenty of volunteer activities. You try to get people interested and try to support them.”
Joanne and Larry Klase, Dillsburg
Community involvement was “a constant theme” in Larry Klase’s childhood home.
“If you’re going to live someplace,” his mother would say, “try to make it the best place possible.”
Larry and Joanne Klase have done just that, playing vital roles in the transformation of Dillsburg into a vibrant town that values literacy and cherishes its heritage.
Larry grew up in the Upper Dauphin area of Clark’s Valley. Joanne grew up in Harrisburg. They moved to Dillsburg in 1972. He joined the Lion’s Club right away, starting a string of executive leadership for local service groups. For the popular Dillsburg Farmer’s Fair, he was president and the editor of its newspaper, the Dill Pickle. As a board member for the Dillsburg Library, he pushed for the vote to buy a building — which was so successful that the library is now moving into an even larger facility.
“I thought it was important that the library have a real home,” he says.
In the meantime, Joanne dove into Girl Scouting. Her daughter’s Brownie troop leader had resigned due to illness. At a meeting of mothers figuring out what to do next, “two of us looked at each other and said, ‘I guess we have to do this, or there won’t be any Brownie troop.’”
Joanne was a teacher for 12 years. Larry worked for the Social Security Administration. But the bibliophiles also opened the Book Nook, a 40-year-old Dillsburg institution. They started by selling new and remainder books, but it became a lot more fun when they switched to used and collectible books, “hooking people with books they remember from their childhoods,” says Joanne. “Now we have grandchildren of our first customers coming in. People always came and we got to know them, and they grew up, and the next ones grew up.”
Larry was also in the forefront when the Northern York County Historical and Preservation Society, which he helped create and currently serves as president, acquired and restored Dill’s Tavern. Today, the community has rallied around the tavern where reenactors and craftspeople bring the past to life.
“It’s a place to reflect on the history of the community,” says Larry. “The kids love it. People are getting more interested in the hand skills that were dropping away. People are canning. People are learning to make things with wood and tin.”
“We have fabulous, enthusiastic volunteers who are in the trenches with the kids and teaching them,” says Joanne, whose own time in the trenches has included archaeological digs. “We’re sharing the history of our town and this area through the families and the names that lived here.”
The Klase’s daughter is “the acorn who doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Joanne says — a lifetime Girl Scout, a master gardener, and an award-winning science fiction costumer.
Like athletes on a championship team, the Klases appreciate each other’s strengths. Larry is “the one out front,” says Joanne. “Nobody’s a stranger to him.”
Joanne “keeps me in check,” says Larry. “If I think or see or hear something, I tend to want to grab the ball and go for the touchdown. She’s the one who says, ‘Wait a second. Let’s at least call a play here.’”
They aren’t inclined to pat themselves on the back for their contributions. “We just feel that we’ve gotten down there and worked and helped where help was needed,” says Joanne. “People could count on us to do things.”
“And made the town a better place to live,” adds Larry. To which Joanne says, “We hope that, anyway.”
As Margee Kooistra knows, one person with one idea can make a difference. She once met three young Muslim women and, to learn more about their lives and religion, invited them to meet her admittedly white-haired neighbors.
One of the Muslim women said it was her first invitation into a non-Muslim home, despite her extensive involvement in the community. In turn, as the group continued to meet, some of the non-Muslim members experienced “the joyful privilege” of sharing iftar, the Muslim meal to break the daily fast during Ramadan, with their new friends.
“As the Muslims have continued to be targeted, they know they have a group of non-Muslim friends who care deeply about what they’re suffering, and they know they can talk openly with us,” says Kooistra. “We’re all feeling one to the core by this friendship that goes beyond the usual boundaries.”
Breaking boundaries and sharing respect “across borders and across faiths” is Kooistra’s passion. As a nurse, she collaborated with others to help Head Start mothers in Harrisburg found a community check-up center. She most loved her service with hospice, experiencing the privilege “of being taken in by a family at a time that is stressful and painful for them.
It’s such a holistic kind of nursing by addressing not only the physical and medical needs, but the emotional and social.”
In retirement, she continues striving for understanding. She realizes that growing up white and mainstream has afforded privileges denied to those deemed “other.” Many people share that view, she believes, but there are those who take their privileges for granted and feel threatened by society’s increasing diversity.
She helped found the grassroots Community Responders Network to show solidarity against prejudice. “I do believe we are all in this life together,” she says. “We are all brothers and sisters, regardless of what our backgrounds are.”
She has traveled to Palestine to meet people and “hear their stories and their hopes and dreams.” It’s all about “understanding the human dimensions of the conflict there. I want people to understand that most of the Palestinian people, just as the Israelis, are wonderful, loving people,” she says.
Her faith drives her to live an environmentally friendly life and support the ecological justice efforts of her beloved church, Market Square Presbyterian in Harrisburg.
“This earth, which is such a unique little planet, is an extraordinary gift, the gift of creation,” she says. “I do believe we were put on this earth to be good stewards, to love it, to care for it, and to leave it better than what we found it, which is a tough job at this point.”
She and her late husband, Pieter, once lived in his native Denmark, and she remains close to his family. Their two children have children of their own. She has had “a very, very blessed life,” but she still feels overwhelmed at the extent of need in the world.
“I pray for the wisdom, the strength to do what I need to do, especially as I get older. But then I think, gosh, I’ve got this one life to live. I’m lucky to be healthy and energetic, and I’ll do what I can.”
Dr. Roger Sider, Lewisberry
At a rural hospital in Zimbabwe, where malnourished children often died from disease, Dr. Roger Sider was once called on to perform a funeral service. In a small clearing with a few graves, he was struck by the intimacy of sharing the grief of the mother and family.
“I’ve been to many funerals in the U.S., but this was devoid of all of the pomp and circumstance,” he says. “There were no musical instruments. There were no soloists. There was no preacher. It was a funeral service bared down to the very essentials.”
That service mission in a poorly resourced Zimbabwean hospital was the first stop in a career devoted to the health of mind and body. Sider pursued psychiatry to satisfy “a very deep sense of curiosity about people and human motivation and human suffering and what it was that made people tick. How could I bring my skills to bear in helping them with their difficulties?” In his career, he served as teacher, hospital administrator, and clinician.
In retirement, Sider gravitated toward teaching, something he has always enjoyed. His courses for Messiah Lifeways’ Pathways Institute have covered everything from gun violence in the U.S. to the history and environment of his native Canada. Americans know little about Canada, so he shares “comparisons on a number of measures between Canada and the U.S. Of course, I made sure that Canada came out on top.”
It’s always gratifying, he says, “when people feel they learned something, and it helped them stop and think in a new way about a topic they hadn’t heard before. The positive feedback makes it worthwhile.”
He also commits to service as a church deacon, author for Brethren in Christ publications, and spiritual and professional mentoring, among other things. As member of Brethren Housing Association’s program committee, he brings awareness of mental health issues to the planning and practices of the Harrisburg-based organization devoted to helping homeless families achieve their full potential.
“We’re always working on continuous improvement,” he says. “How do we learn from what we’re doing so we can do it better the next time around?”
Sider and Joann, his wife of 53 years, are a team. They performed their service in Africa together. She was a lab tech while he was a hospital physician. They volunteer at church as a couple. She raises monarch butterflies and has taught him a love for nature.
“She’s always a friendly critic and advisor whose input I value a great deal,” he says.
Sider hopes to continue teaching and volunteering, reading and learning. Retirement has created time for the “coffee ministry” he always wanted, regularly convening men to chat and socialize.
“You plant a seed and you don’t know which ones will flourish and which ones won’t, but I hope we have been able to be of help to people and be friends and be supportive. I guess that making a difference in the life of someone else really is part of the purpose of living.”