I've worked in Sussex County since 1983. I remember when WSUS had their own awards dinner in the early 80's. One of the first people we honored with Sister Thomasina Gebhard. She came to Sussex County in 1977 and founded the Samaratin Inn. Today the Samaratin Inn is thought of as a shelter for the homeless. Sister knew the problem of homelessness was much more complicated than putting a roof over someones head. People struggling also needed strong guidance and emotional support.
Although I knew who Sister Thomasina was, I didn't actually meet and get to know her until about 20 years ago. When I was struggling with a crisis in my own family. When I was on the WSUS Morning Show back then listeners did not know I was struggling with depression and anxiety in my own life. I was on medication and seeing a therapist. Each hour of every day was a struggle. The only motivation I had was the the four kids who were counting on me. Some days it was barely enough.
Sister also founded the Partnership for Social Services which at the time ran a food pantry and support groups for people in our community. I went to the support group for newly divorced parents. Greta who ran the group was wonderful. All that was asked of those in the group was a 5 dollar donation. If you could afford it. I started to feel better and got stronger after only a few visits. Giving back to the Partnership for Social Services became very important to me.
I think I met Sister for the first time at the Christmas Party the Partnership had every year for needy families. I borrowed some speakers and Christmas CD's from WSUS so there was music at the party. Each child got to meet Santa and get a present. The rooms where the party took place was furnished like a living room and dining room in the average home. A few years later Sister asked me to host and promote her annual golf outing on my show. I was happy to do it.
For many years I helped at The Partnership's golf outings and Christmas Parties. Then about 10 years ago there was another family crisis. I struggled for several months because I was too embarrassed to ask for help. Finally, I talked to Sister Thomasina. I knew everything I said to her would not leave the office. Once a week she made the time to counsel me. She was strong in her faith and beliefs about what was right and wrong. Her loving support and reassurance got me through. I will forever be grateful God brought her into my life. Thank You Sister Thomasina.
Tomorrow night at 7 there will be a Memorial Service for Sister Thomasina Gebhard at St. Jude's Church in Hamburg.
Photo by Steve Andrews