“Cut the wheat in front of you,” says one 2016 SAGE winner.
The phrase can mean many things to many people, but to this year’s Savvy, Active, Growing, Enlightened honorees, it means seeing a need and addressing it. They seek peace in their own communities, striving to build bridges that help others emerge from hardship, get healthy, express their creativity and understand the world around them and its people.
Terry Barley, Community Services Provider
Terry Barley left teaching after 12 years and went to work for Cumberland County as a grant writer. In those years, the Reagan administration began awarding federal dollars for recipients to use as they determined, and Barley found himself winning funds for unique needs that didn’t fall under existing county departments.
“When you were successful in writing a grant proposal, then you got a program that somebody had to actually operate, so I began administering these programs,” he recalls.
That was the beginning of Barley’s distinguished career in human services and aging. After 35 years with Cumberland County, culminating in his role as Aging & Community Services Director, he could have gone into full retirement mode. Instead, in 2016, he accepted the post of Deputy Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.
In Cumberland County, Barley focused on identifying and meeting needs in his diverse region. Building partnerships and coalitions, his impact showed in a variety of initiatives – linking underserved residents with social services, delivering hot meals to the home-bound elderly, supporting Messiah Lifeways’ sponsorship of two senior centers.
“I like to think that we were developing new programs that were able to provide effective and better services for folks, regardless of what the target population was,” he says.
When the Wolf administration approached him, “that was an honor, to be asked to take a position like this, with the belief that the person who’s asking you thinks you can make a difference, and so it was a challenge that I was willing to accept.”
He had a working familiarity with statewide issues, but in a state that’s home to the nation’s fourth-highest rate of elderly citizens, he had a large learning curve to tackle.
“If you’re not learning new ideas, you’re not improving,” he says. “You’re stagnant. You may be doing things very well, but times do change, and priorities change.”
Barley has seen retired colleagues who become bored after completing the bucket-list items, and “they’re looking for other challenges. I skipped that step and went right to the other challenge. I have hobbies and plenty of chores, but the reality is, I get more satisfaction from the work I do than not doing anything else at all.”
Barley remains active with the United Way of the Capital Region, and the Tri-County Housing Development Corporation, which he helped found. For 34 years, he has also served on the board of the Community Action Commission, an agency celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2016.
Barley’s wife, Julie, is “the ship’s captain. She is my inspiration.” Coincidentally, her office moved to downtown Harrisburg the week Barley started working at the state, so they carpool and “once in a while go to lunch.”
Looking back, Barley notes a favorite program he helped create to connect low-income Cumberland County residents with health care providers, without overwhelming the providers themselves. Today, nearly 20 years later, the program remains active.
“That’s a legacy I’m very proud of, but it wasn’t just me,” says Barley. “I just brought people together, and other folks did the work.”
The Rev. Larry Coleman, Prison Ministry
Even in college, Larry Coleman felt the calling to prison ministry. He resisted, knowing nothing about prison work, but the isolated farm boy from Nebraska could relate to the loneliness of “those who were rejected and imprisoned.”
“That part had power over me,” he says. “I needed to learn to detach from that and not get caught up in it and just minister to it.”
Today, Coleman is widely respected for his work with Dauphin and Cumberland County inmates and those re-entering society. He has ministered one-on-one in prisons, coordinated church services that inmates and families can attend in the community and led organizations devoted to coordinating and filling gaps in services.
Coleman was already feeling the pull toward prison ministries when he entered Drew Theological Seminary in New Jersey. One of the first people he met was Judy, who would become his wife, and “she was committed from the get-go to prison chaplaincy.”
“That’s a God thing, in my mind,” he says now. Still, it took 22 years of supporting her work before he felt it was time to “meander my way through that maze.” He pursued clinical pastoral education and found work as chaplain at the Dauphin County Prison. He stayed there for 20 years.
“God had my back,” he says. “My passion is for persons who are incarcerated. I had met them and knew their potential. For some reason, God placed in me a belief in their future.”
When he retired at age 65, Coleman felt that pastors needed to give back for all the gifts they’ve been given, so he became involved with the Prison Action Committee of Christian Churches United of the Tri-County Area. The group helps communities address the needs of re-entering prisoners, helping them make good decisions and “earn the right to be an ex-offender.”
Coleman applauds efforts to develop alternatives to imprisonment, and he hopes to continue his part in trimming recidivism rates. “Think about the difference that would make in our communities, and the family, and the children’s lives that these men and women have parented. This could be dramatic. We cannot afford as a country to incarcerate more persons per capita than any other civilized country in the world. That’s not a free nation, in my estimation, and it’s not necessary.”
Judy Coleman died from a sudden heart attack on April 11, 2005. In the months following, Coleman found “no hope or joy in anything because she had been my party.” He served as interim executive director for her ministry, Daystar Center for Spiritual Recovery. He found some relief from grief through Beginning Experience, a retreat for spouses experiencing loss, and he added that organization to those for which he provides leadership and guidance.
Today, Judy’s presence “lives inside of me,” he says. He hopes to finally write a book that tells the stories of ex-offenders, to help others find hope.
“People sometimes get by without any help,” Coleman says. “We find we need to help the persons who probably aren’t going to make it.”
Norma Gotwalt, Community Leader
Looking back on a lifetime of promoting learning and women’s progress, Norma Gotwalt has faith that “we certainly move toward a more peaceful world.”
“Peace today is such a lost quantity,” she says. “Take a look at Washington and the Congress. We have to learn to get along.”
In a way, Gotwalt has pursued three careers, having an impact in each. As a teacher who rose to become superintendent of Harrisburg School District, she “liked looking at the total picture and attempting to resolve issues and find answers and solutions to problems.”
She laughs at the memory of reprimanding a student who constantly chewed gum, knowing that teachers today would love to have that as their biggest problem. Still, she anticipated today’s move toward individualized learning in the classroom, shifting curriculum to find new ways to help each child understand according to his or her learning style.
Gotwalt was tapped by Gov. Tom Ridge to chair the Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission. Applying her skill at assessing a situation and putting the pieces together to create a solution, she helped clear up a backlog of administrative hearings. When Ridge left to become the nation’s first Homeland Security director, Gov. Mark Schweiker appointed her to chair the Pennsylvania Commission for Women.
Though she only had two years in that role before a new administration appointed a new chair, Gotwalt took advantage of the time to “listen to women around the state to see what their concerns were.”
Finally, the lifelong Anglophile learned about a part-time opening for a receptionist at the Margaret Thatcher Foundation in Washington, D.C. She fielded calls from global leaders and met Thatcher – Gotwalt calls the late British prime minister “a ‘she-ro’ of mine” – three times.
“We know she was a woman of conviction and courage and had many battles to fight,” says Gotwalt. “She fought them and didn’t always win but soldiered on.”
Gotwalt has served on the boards of the Pennsylvania Council on Aging, the Hemlock Girl Scout Council and the Art Association of Harrisburg, and she has mentored young women studying at local colleges.
“Young people today don’t always receive support from home,” she notes.
She has funded scholarship endowments and sits on the HACC Foundation Board, which awards scholarships.
“The thank-you letters that one receives from these scholarship students tell it all,” she says. “They’re so grateful. You and I perhaps don’t consider $500 or $1,000 that much money, but to them it’s like giving $5,000.”
Gotwalt enjoys Harrisburg Symphony concerts and cultural events in New York City. She tries to adhere to something she once read: “Surrender the past, let go of the present and have faith in the future.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do, to continue to have faith in the future,” she says. “That’s what we all have to do. We have to forget about the past and loss of opportunity and experience, and even the present, and we have to look ahead. At any age, that’s very, very important.”
Jim Mader, Fitness Advocate
Jim Mader learned a phrase in his military days. “Cut the wheat in front of you.”
“Don’t worry four years down the road,” he says. “Do what you’re doing. We can all worry about world peace, but we all live in a community.”
In his case, that means making his adopted hometown of Carlisle and the surrounding region a haven for walking, bicycling and outdoors enjoyment.
“A community grows, and a community changes,” Mader says. When you’re part of it, “you just meet the nicest people.”
Mader, a native of Elizabethtown, is a retired U.S. Navy officer who served all over the world. Retiring after 30 years, he and his wife, Sandy, sought a place to live that offered access to fishing, hiking, bicycling and all the outdoor activities they love. Carlisle fit the bill, and once there, he took a yoga class that led to his role as yoga instructor and personal trainer at the Carlisle YMCA. He serves on the Carlisle Parks and Recreation Board. He facilitates the Partnership for Better Health’s workplace wellness program.
“It’s all about keeping Carlisle as inviting a place as we can,” he says.
The avid bicyclist is easily spotted around town, wearing a yellow jacket while biking to all those meetings and classes. Mader has been instrumental in developing Carlisle’s bicycle route and the beautiful Cumberland Valley Rail-Trail. On a recent Sunday bicycling the rail-trail, he encountered Dickinson College cross country runners.
“A safe trail like that in the middle of such a scenic place is a tremendous draw, and it’s 365 days a year,” he says. “I have walked, I have hiked, I have skied on that trail, and so have many other people.”
Around 2012, Mader bicycled the Lewis and Clark trail from Oregon to St. Louis. Riding 60 miles a day, he carried the necessities for the six-week journey, including a hammock that he sometimes slung between trees for sleeping.
“I learned that I don’t mind being alone,” he says. “I do like wide-open spaces and scenery. I was amazed that the physical challenge wasn’t that much of a challenge. I met some wonderful people on the trip, people who will help you every chance they get.”
The teacher in him emerged during his Navy flight instructor days, two tours he now considers among his most fulfilling.
“It was wonderful to be able to impart knowledge in the cockpit and in the air,” he says. “They’re still out there doing their thing in the world.”
He thinks it’s too much to say he’s made a measurable difference in his community, but he has made many friends and encouraged healthful lifestyles. Today, his yoga instruction includes one class of students averaging in age from 65 to 70 – “active, healthy people, and we’re trying to keep everybody that way.”
“They’re doing fantastic yoga, and I don’t know if they would be doing it if I weren’t offering the class, and that’s rewarding.”
Samia Malik, Justice Activist
In a recent climate of anti-Muslim rhetoric, Samia Malik helped organize a symposium convening Muslims to share and discuss their beliefs. Organizers expected 50 attendees.
“There were about 120,” she says. “It was standing room only. There was a need.”
Malik calls herself “a social-racial justice activist who happens to be a Muslim.” She is known for her range of activities – consulting with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, training police in cultural awareness, co-chairing the Community Responders Network, volunteering for community services and answering calls from organizations seeking help understanding varied cultures and faiths, including Islam.
She and her dentist husband, Dr. Saleh Malik, came to the U.S. from their native India in the early 1970s. Visiting a friend, they discovered the Harrisburg area and moved to Mechanicsburg for its friendly feel.
Malik dove into community involvement, volunteering at the Bethesda Mission and a Carlisle women’s shelter, “always the room mother or the team mother” at her children’s schools.
She was embodying the character traits instilled by her grandparents, parents and faith.
“It’s your deeds and how you treat humanity, whether it’s human beings or the environment or animals,” she says.
Then 9/11 happened, and “someone needed to speak up” for the Muslim community. Understanding other cultures is the key to sparking dialogue and change, she believes. She understands fear and hate, but “hate is not going to solve things, and violence only begets violence.”
“If you have a problem, talk to the right people, work with them and make them understand,” she says. “This is a beautiful country that has all these systems that you can work with. Some of the other countries don’t, so take advantage of that, work with that and try to get to a solution. Yes, you have to compromise on all sides, but that is the way of life.”
Malik thought she knew all about injustice, with forebears in India who suffered persecution by the British government, but she learns more all the time. A cultural-awareness exercise with the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, where she serves on the board, opened her eyes to institutionalized racism, when participants were asked to step forward or backward based on questions of home ownership or college-educated parents.
“All of us were in the front of the room while the African-Americans didn’t have room at the back,” she recalls. “They had to go out of the room.” Understanding such disparities and their root causes is the way to “make things right.”
Sometimes, Malik wonders if she’s preaching to the choir, until she realizes she can’t be disheartened “because the choir will go and preach to another choir. We need to keep hoping and looking for the best and keep going.”
She is certain that God is with her, helping her choose the words that open channels of understanding.
When she meets with colleagues doing the same work, “I really feel like God is hugging us.”
“He’s saying, ‘You’re doing good. You’re doing good toward all of my creation.’”
Jay Young, Community Revitalizer
When Jay Young’s church moved to a new space, he sat on the steps of its old, Colonial-era church in downtown Dillsburg and thought, “This can’t be the end of it.”
“It’s the oldest Presbyterian church west of the Susquehanna River,” he says. “It was founded in the late 1700s. I looked at the cemetery. There were people there who fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, protecting Baltimore.”
Long story short, he says, he founded the nonprofit Dillsburg Arts and Revitalization Council, “and we bought the church.” There, in the historic Monaghan Presbyterian Church building, the council hosts events and classes for children and adults in the visual, performing and literary arts. When the annual Colonial Candlelight Service concludes with a walk to nearby Dill’s Tavern, Young is heartened to see “something good happening in this small town.”
“I see families together,” he says. “If that doesn’t make you feel good, there’s something wrong. When people come out, they say two words that mean more to me than anything else on this earth. They say thank you, and that’s all I need.”
In a career as a Northern York County School District educator and in the construction industry, Young has focused on keeping his word, “probably the most important thing you have in life.” Build partnerships, he believes, and “it doubles your chances of success. You have no losers.”
The council represents just one piece of Young’s devotion to his beloved Dillsburg. He has written proposals that won $300,000 in grants to beautify downtown and bring heritage programs to students. Many council events are held in conjunction with the Northern York County Historical and Preservation Society, restorer of Dill’s Tavern. Through the council, and with funding from the Cultural Alliance of York County, Young helped bring an artist in residence to Northern York School District who teaches self-discipline and respect through dance.
“There are people in life who have objectives and goals, and I’m not one of those,” Young says. “I’m a person who has visions, and visions are much more wide-reaching than a goal. A goal is short-term, and visions are long-term.”
The lifelong educator once hit on the idea of symbolizing the idea of the Holy Trinity for children at his church by riding a tricycle up the aisle. He and his wife, Anne, travel with their children and grandchildren. The kids eagerly anticipate the historical sites he builds into the itinerary.
“Our history is the foundation for everything that’s built upon it,” he says. “You can visibly see the light go on in the children’s faces, and there is no experience better than that.”
He knows he will never complete all the things he wants to do, “and for a while that frustrated me, but you know what? I don’t think that’s all a bad thing. When I do pass from this earth, I’ll still have burning within me that fire to do something to make a difference, and hopefully that fire and passion will never go out.”