S.A.G.E. 2013 Award Winners

By M. Diane McCormick

This year’s Savvy, Active, Growing, Enlightened honorees never stop learning. None are afraid to admit what they don’t know, ask questions and seek out the answers. It’s all in pursuit of a greater good – paying forward to others the help and mentoring that has helped them overcome obstacles and find happiness through family and service.

Peggy Grove

In her files, Peggy Grove keeps letters from high school seniors.

“There’s no telling how high my dreams can go, and you have made all those dreams more achievable,” one wrote. “I will continue to work hard and stay persistent, no matter what life throws at me.”

Each student received a scholarship that Grove founded and named after Earl Rosenberg, the guidance counselor who believed in her and helped her find two $150 scholarships that made college possible. The recipients aren’t the star students from Grove’s Reno, Nevada, alma mater. They are “the children of alcoholics. Children of abuse, children that are living on the streets, some of them living in a car.”

Grove says, “They’re kids that, with a little bit of help and a little bit of somebody believing in them, they’ll be able to make way for themselves and take care of their families. My only requirement is that once they’re out of college, and they’re on their feet, they remember and give back.”

Grove was one of those children, with a mentally ill mother and severely abusive stepfather. She worked as a seamstress at age 10 to help educate and care for her younger sisters. Despite her hardships, community service came naturally. As a hospital candy-striper, she convinced officials to pair sick, abandoned babies with Alzheimer’s patients who would hold them, and she acquired rocking chair donations from furniture stores.

Grove has served on countless community boards. Her political posts included the Mechanicsburg School Board, Harrisburg City Council and service

on state commissions and task forces, expanding opportunities for women returning to or breaking into the workforce.

Always, her “heartstrings” were with children and their schooling, “because education is the way out of poverty.”

After college, Grove was a teacher, including the years she taught and wrote grants for programs helping Vietnamese refugees get their GEDs and pursue their dreams. She founded her first business, the Academy of Medical Arts and Business, in 1980 with $500 and a lot of sweat equity poured into a flood-damaged building in Harrisburg. Building owner Ollie Rosenberg, the late founder of Ollie’s Bargain Outlets, co-signed a $13,000 loan, and Grove paid back every penny in three years while also earning dual accreditation and two national awards.

The school, which Grove sold and is now Keystone Technical Institute, targeted displaced women – widows and divorcees who needed skills for entering the workforce. Grove made sure that her graduates found jobs and their employers provided health insurance.

The old saying about teaching a man to fish shapes Grove’s philosophy of giving and involvement.

“I really feel that I’ve been blessed,” she says from the office of Rosewein Realty, where she is corporate president and CEO and works with her two sons. “I came from nothing, in absolute stark poverty as a child. It’s important to help other people so they can help themselves.”

Georganna “Dusty” Knisely

Georganna “Dusty” Knisely believes “there’s joy in the world,” but many people haven’t found it.

“I guess my faith is what carries me,” she says. “I’ve been in hard places, and I’ve gotten through them, and other people can do that, too.”

Knisely’s story begins in internment and, today, includes outreach to the imprisoned. She was born in China, to missionary parents, in 1931. On December 8, 1941, her family was placed under house arrest and later forced to wait in a crowded hotel for an exchange ship that never came. Sent to a Japanese internment camp in 1943, the family waited out the war under extreme hardship.

“I was old enough to remember but young enough to not realize there was a problem,” says Knisely now, in her welcoming Dillsburg home. “Now that I’m older, I know what it must have been like for my parents. I’ve been very blessed.”

Trained as a librarian, Knisely joined her husband, Jay, in mission work and teaching worldwide. Postings included Hong Kong, Nepal, Korea, Indonesia, India, China and the U.S.

“I’d go and train people who had been hired in libraries but didn’t have library training,” she recalls. “I guess I was well trained. I loved my job.”

Today’s cuts to education and libraries show “a blind spot” to the needs of future generations. Knisely herself is constantly learning.

“I’ll be dead when I quit learning. The more you learn, the more you learn you don’t know. And people say, ‘Why do you care?’ I guess because it’s out there.”

Knisely would like to see more compassion for the imprisoned. “We’ve gotten mean and nasty, throw away the key,” she says. For five years, she has visited and corresponded with women in prison, some on death row.

“They amaze me at how smart they are, and they really want to better themselves. They know they have a long term. They were abused as children or lived with abuse or married abuse, but they want to help people, and I think that’s amazing.”

From 2003 to 2008, Knisely traveled to China and Kabul, Afghanistan, establishing libraries. She frequently speaks on her experiences and the importance of mission work. She volunteers for New Hope Ministries, making home visits and delivering leftover grocery-store bread to New Hope sites. She has hosted missionaries at her home, sometimes for weeks at a time.

“People say we’re so hospitable,” she says with a laugh. That’s a natural outgrowth of experiencing so many different cultures, of sending her children to schools with 55 different nationalities.

“There’s no right and wrong,” she says. “Just different understanding.”

Reflecting on her impact across the world and at home, Knisely hopes that each step has made a difference.

“I don’t know that I change people’s lives, but I hope I do, a little bit. One person at a time, or a little bit at a time.”

Ann H. Moffitt, ACFRE     

Ann Moffit grew up in a school where inclusion was the norm, where her classmates “had mental illness and physical disabilities and intellectual disabilities.”

She says, “It wasn’t even a question, because I knew all these people as individuals.”

Today, Moffitt is vice president of community development with Keystone Human Services and CEO of its fundraising arm, Keystone Partnership. She now knows that inclusion is not as universal as she grew up believing.

“I’ve learned about the discrimination that’s out there, and the devaluation that still exists,” she says. She urges business leaders to expand their hiring practices. She is proud of Keystone’s groundbreaking initiative to help adults with autism live independently. She loves a new program helping people with disabilities pursue their passions – the car enthusiast working in an auto-customization shop, the animal lover making dog treats.

“Each individual has their own personal goals, and we support them in those goals,” says the New Cumberland resident. “They’re based on their abilities, not on their disabilities. Dream it, and we’ll try to find it.”

In a field where turnover is high, Moffitt has remained in the same post since 1990 because Keystone Human Services has grown, from a $13 million nonprofit to a $150 million services provider with 3,200 employees operating in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware.

“I really, really like to be involved with an organization where I can not only do what I do as an administrator, but also be able to see the difference it makes in people’s lives,” she says from her downtown Harrisburg office.

Her community involvement has encompassed board membership for a wide range of health and business groups. Through her longtime involvement with the Association of Fundraising Professionals, she has mentored many others in the skills of the well-rounded development officer.

She holds one of only 100 Advanced Certified Fund Raising Executive credentials awarded nationwide and has guided many others seeking the rigorous CFRE credential.

“I’m more of a cheerleader than anything else, helping them think about the broad look of fundraising,” she says.

Moffitt also calls herself a cheerleader for Kiwanis, which she serves as a district lieutenant governor. Kiwanis “is particularly dedicated to the needs of the young child.”

She says, “You meet people from all walks of life. There might be a truck driver or a meat cutter or a professor or a social worker or a person from a nonprofit or a CPA. They are all there because they care about their community.”

Moffitt believes her strength is building partnerships. With her network of contacts, she can recruit the right person or organization for the job at hand.

“I’m really very much of an advocate for bringing people together,” she says. But her quest for growth never ends. “I still have a lot to learn. There are so many things to learn. There are so many things I’m interested in.”

Rev. Dr. Carolyn Seifert

Carolyn Seifert’s father was a Free Methodist minister. She taught music until entering the ministry herself. She has served as a hospital chaplain and, with her husband, taught seminarians training in the Philippines to share the faith worldwide.

“I feel like I’ve always been in ministry,” she says today from her home in Messiah Village.

Much of Seifert’s experience has been in her native Illinois and in Massachusetts, but since moving to Central Pennsylvania in 2010, she and her husband, Charles, have delved fully into community life. She is active in their church, teaching Sunday school and occasionally preaching. She teaches for Pathways Institute for Lifelong Learning.

Since 2011, Seifert has served as part-time chaplain for Paxton Ministries, the Harrisburg-area residence for people challenged with poverty, mental illness and intellectual disabilities. Her attention to their spiritual needs includes Sunday worship, Bible study and individual care and counseling. The bell choir she founded “had residents coming out of the woodwork, wanting to do it.” She leads residents on prayer walks, “walking around the building and stopping to admire God’s creation.”

Seifert strives to help residents “find spirituality where they are, tuning their mindset and thoughts to live in gratitude. They need to bathe themselves in that, and that will help the spirit stay more balanced. You cannot be truly thankful in your heart and depressed at the same time. It’s impossible.”

Since 2001, the Seiferts have been to the Philippines eight times to teach at the Asia Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary. The cross-cultural setting keeps them coming back.

“It’s the challenge, and I think it’s the broadening of our mission in life,” she says. Plus, there is “the sheer joy of doing it. It’s a joy. They’re excited to see us come. That’s kind of nice at this age in my life. It keeps us young – young and active.”

Seifert felt a call toward the ministry in the 1980s and was ordained in 1989. Her pastor and church community supported her all the way.

“Everyone seemed to know this is what I was supposed to be doing,” she says now. “You need that confirmation by community. That’s what ordination is. It’s the whole community recognizing.”

With Pathways Institute, the Seiferts have begun a series called Sing to the Lord. Charles explains the musicology behind beloved hymns. Carolyn explores the meaning of the lyrics.

“They say that when you sing these hymns, you pray twice,” she says. “God has given us that wonderful gift of music. I ask, ‘What is this trying to say about God? About our relationship to God? About how we live our lives?’”

Paxton Ministries is “a good fit for me,” Seifert believes. Staffers there are “worth their weight in gold,” and as she has done at every educational and ministerial posting, she has seen needs and launched initiatives to meet them.

“I feel like I’ve been a pioneer in different ways,” she says. “As you reflect on it, that’s exactly what happens.”

Dr. Paul Wengert

As retirement loomed, Dr. Paul Wengert knew that he wanted to “do a lot of things.” It was 1997, and he was 57 years old. One day, during hospital rounds, the opportunity arrived with a tap on the shoulder.

“Do you want to go to Guatemala?” someone asked.

“Sure,” Wengert responded.

There, in a country torn by civil war, in a neglected hospital where he intensified the lighting by wrapping foil around light bulbs, Wengert treated impoverished Mayans. He removed cataracts and tumors, performed hysterectomies, delivered babies and repaired “hernias galore.”

“It was exciting,” he says. “It was like the first year of residency.”

Since then, the surgeon has returned to Guatemala at least twice a year. He has also been to Haiti, Zambia, Kenya, the Philippines and Thailand – more than 30 trips in all.

Wengert grew up on a farm near Chambersburg, Franklin County. Families there had what they needed but few luxuries. After two years of hospital service as a conscientious objector to fulfill his draft obligation, Wengert spent two years in Greece, providing agricultural assistance to the people of an impoverished village.

He learned to love the Greek people. He learned to speak a bit of Greek.

“They were poor,” he says. “Those kids didn’t have shoes. I knew one family that made a bed from straw.”

He also congregated with international colleagues – Danish, English, Italian, German, Dutch. He always loved learning and reading, and “that group stimulated me.” Six years out of high school, he headed to college, and then to medical school at Temple University.

As a surgeon at Harrisburg’s Polyclinic Hospital for 30 years, Wengert became “intricately involved” in the training of residents. Each new generation introduced him to breakthroughs in medicine – emerging medications, new antibiotics, the advent of trauma care. “It was really a quid pro quo,” he says. “They helped me, and hopefully, I helped them.”

One of the Guatemala team leaders, Don O’Neal, devoted his fortune to developing safe, affordable cookstoves for Guatemala’s rural families. Wengert, who has an aptitude for construction, volunteered to help install the stoves one household at a time because he saw the devastating impact of open, unventilated stoves – toddlers badly burned, and children denied surgery due to bronchial spasms.

“I could have helped in other ways, but I enjoyed that,” he says.

As a Pathways Institute instructor for Messiah Lifeways, Wengert shares his own discoveries of history and nature – John James Audubon’s work and life story, women in medicine, the influential 19th-century naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. He worried about engaging students in his topics, until a friend told him, “If you get excited about it, we’ll get excited.”

His ongoing work provides gratification. He has learned not to try to change cultures, except to alleviate pain and suffering, and to enjoy the people around him.

“Every culture,” he says, “has something to teach us.”

Chuck Wingate

Chuck Wingate keeps a scuffed baseball on his desk. A Bethesda Mission guest gave him the foul ball caught at a Harrisburg Senators game. Wingate once helped that guest admit a theft to a former employer, and the employer let the incident go.

“Now that’s a risk,” Wingate says as he recalls the guest’s confession. “Every time I pick up that ball, I think of that guy and the fact that there’s a whole portfolio of stories that go with every person.”

In 2008, a fellow member of the Christian Businessmen’s Network asked Wingate to help for a month at Bethesda Mission, Harrisburg’s homeless shelter and community services provider. Today, Wingate is executive director.

“It’s been a long month,” he quips. He learned Bethesda Mission’s purpose by listening. “What do you do if you don’t know what to do? You talk to people. You look them in the eye and treat them with respect.”

Bethesda Mission serves “the most inconvenient people in town,” Wingate says. “Homeless people generally are invisible. People see through them.”

At his post, Wingate applies skills honed during 26 years with AMP, Inc. As vice president of sales and marketing, he established AMP’s business presence in India and China. He brings business acumen to running Bethesda Mission’s Network of Compassion – the men’s shelter, women and children’s shelter, transitional living service, youth center, medical and dental clinic and rural outreach that impacts 100,000 people.

Wingate has helped sustain a capital campaign that began just as the economy turned to recession. His outcomes-oriented approach, down to documenting guests’ physical health, measures progress.

“Just because you’re tired at the end of the day doesn’t mean you got anything done,” he says. He once shocked a roomful of business heavies, assessing Bethesda Mission’s application for a $1 million grant, by calling himself “a capitalist pig with a heart.”

“But we got our million,” he adds. “You have to be able to laugh at yourself.”

With Bethesda Mission, “we have such control over the lives of the people entrusted to us. If we say no, a man or woman might not eat tonight. If we say no, a man or woman might be on the street tonight.”

Bethesda Mission staff is stocked with “some really great people,” says Wingate. Staffers have the freedom to “take prudent risks for the glory of God and the people we serve.  …In every business I’ve been in, everyone is empowered to say no. Not many people are empowered to say yes.”

Now nearing age 64, Wingate had “the great realization” that he is probably in his last job.

“One of the greatest things is to know I’m where God wants me to be,” he says. “There’s a lot of peace with that, and when there is a rainy day, I know where I’m meant to be. I can stick my neck out and feel like all of us, whether they’re staff members or guests entrusted to this leadership, are in this together.”