Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Posted on January 8, 2021

As Manager of Volunteer Engagement, Tina Chan Sweenie is tasked with finding corporations looking for meaningful employee service projects or specific program donation opportunities. Hired in January 2020 to formalize the organization’s volunteer effort, she was only two months into the job when the pandemic hit. All of the spring volunteer efforts were abruptly cancelled and these supports eventually transitioned to virtual.

In the midst of regrouping, Matthew Muench, Associate Director of Development on her Advancement Team, forwarded a donation request that would soon be suggested to a local business looking to connect with people in a COVID world by building a relationship with Penn-Mar and the neighboring community.

“I happened to be on the phone with Dan Calloway, a financial advisor with Edward Jones in Loganville, PA, who was chatting with me about additional creative ways to partner with us,” said Chan Sweenie. “Previously he had sent pizzas to our Maryland Line, Far Hills, and Penn-Mar North locations.”

It was during this conversation that she mentioned one of Penn-Mar’s community homes was looking for a donor to underwrite the installation of a fence on its property.

Michelle Delozier, the Residential Program Manager, explained that they supported a resident who was extremely tactile and loved to explore the many textures found out in the yard. There were dangers, however, as she did not have injury awareness and the house was near to the road and alongside a neighbor’s yard and landscaping. Without a fence, this person would need a harness restraint and her Direct Support Professional (DSP) constantly hovering over her. The fence would afford this person the freedom she craved and allow her DSP to supervise unobtrusively, something for which the home’s Residential Supervisor, Debbie Wagner, staunchly advocated. Calloway was very excited about the project and promised to reach out to a few people.

That’s when the power of community took on a whole new meaning.

It just so happened that Calloway’s Branch Office Administrator, Michelle Dickmyer, had once worked with Kollyne Wetzel, Special Assistant to the CEO at Penn-Mar, and their sons were longtime friends. Cathy Herbert, Senior Branch Office Administrator, and her husband Doug own Herbert Brothers Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning in Parkton. Their company services the Penn-Mar community homes.

“It was a wonderful convergence of little connections,” said Chan Sweenie. “And it kept getting better.”

It wasn’t long before Calloway called to say he found the $2500 funding for the 24-ft. x 24-ft. vinyl fence materials and installation. Donors included Dan Calloway and his wife, Michelle; Herbert Brothers; and Glen’s Auto in Shrewsbury, PA, the company that maintains all of Penn-Mar’s vehicles.

Finally, Fill’Er-Up, a gas station and local restaurant favorite of Penn-Mar employees just down the road, gladly stepped up. Every month the business donates 1 cent to a charity for every gallon of gas purchased. The owner, Ayda Swartz, who is also a relative of the Herbert’s, donated $1465 to Penn-Mar from their November proceeds, far exceeding the original request for a $300-$500 contribution.

“This is a great story about neighbors helping neighbors,” said Calloway. “In the end it was just some friends getting together and saying, ‘We can do this!’ For me it involved  a couple of phone calls and I got to deliver the good news. I can’t think of a better thing we could have done for Christmas. At Edward Jones we’re hoping this is just the beginning of something where we can make a huge impact.”