This past Saturday night we celebrated our volunteers at the 1st Annual Black Tie Gala: A Walk Down The Red Carpet. If you weren’t able to attend I still wanted to share with you my words to show off what God is doing through our incredible volunteer staff.~Carissa

I wanted so very badly to tell you the stories of changed lives, of young mothers finding hope, of precious little babies born in a safe and secure home. But just like everything else concerning The Sparrow’s Nest God has made it very clear that I want is of no consequence. God has been writing still another powerful story. He has been writing this incredible continuation of the Bible with His ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things. The story that He has been writing for The Sparrow’s Nest continues to be of people serving towards something bigger than themselves. This servant’s heart is in the very DNA of Sparrow. I can’t help but wonder if we needed this part of our story deeply engrained in us to pass on this very crucial trait to the young women that will soon be crossing our doors. I share these volunteers with you not laud them any higher than any other person. I need to share them with you to show you again and again what God is doing through The Sparrow’s Nest already. I want you to see how God is working through each individual person He calls to The Sparrow’s Nest.


We would be here until next week if I named every volunteer who has given so much to the ministry of Sparrow. However, in keeping with our Hollywood theme I would like to share some of the “Best In Brood” with you if I may.


First I would like to introduce my board of directors to you and I do refer to them as mine. Not because I control them but because they are near and dear to my heart. These people are on the wall with you all working hard to make The Sparrow’s Nest values of Christ centeredness, Excellence, Innovation, Life,  and Integrity be our driving force in our mission to empower young mothers to make healthy life decisions for themselves and their babies while providing shelter and education. Many are in attendance tonight. Please stand Kevin Thompson, Cesar Silva, Sandra Wilhite, Teresa Simmons, Kate Thoelke, David Trampe, Jessica Henman, Mark Hollander, Caleb Freeman, and Carla Klaskin,


I would also like to introduce to you the committee who made this event just spectacular. Everything we do at this stage is pretty much for the first time but as yo can tell from this evening we don’t let that hold us back from creating a top notch A-list event. I would like to introduce to you the Committee Chair: Carla Klaskin and the rest of the Gala Planning Committee: Ran Disko, Kirk Kasicki, Kim Liefer, Sara Sherrill, and Shannon Smart.


Our Best in Brood includes our 11 supporting churches that in addition to their financial contributions share the service opportunities with their wider church family and encourage life groups to partner with us. You need to know about the good works going on at First United Methodist St. Charles, Immanuel Lutheran St. Charles, Chapel of the Cross, Harvester Church of the Nazarene, Zion Lutheran Church, Harvester Christian Church, First Baptist Church Harvester, Balanced Life Fellowship, Sunrise United Methodist, Connections Church, Dardenne Prairie Church, and Faith Chapel.


I want to share with you others members of The Flock. Again, none of our volunteers want the applause. People like Joe Falcomata that lend his voice to the 5K and Scramble as our emcee but also to constantly be an advocate for us at his church and in the community. Barb who at 10 a.m. may show up to paint on Monday then after work show up with 2 new toilets because no matter how much elbow grease she put into it she couldn’t get the existing ones clean, Mike Etheridge  a peace maker who has kept me from causing bodily harm to state officials and who has given countless hours and has more than his fair share of dust, mold, and smashed fingers at The Nest.  Shari Hammer, Elisha Niemens a stay at home mom who does a rock star job with our facebook account sending out creative and informative posts. Jen Riley who is spear heading our #justpray Prayer Ministry without missing a week sending out our weekly prayer blasts and organizing our monthly prayer meetings at The Nest. Matthew Seeds who will crank out graphic design elements for me in minutes just with a text of “Hey Matthew I kind of have this picture in my head can you and he sends back what I cannot verbally communicate. Jeremy Walker creating our eStore out of the basement of his house by setting up the website, creating an inventory of our Sparrow items as well as The Little Things Project baby items so we can have another source of income. The special needs adults from CLI and Support Innovations, that for me are the epitome of what it means to be pro-life cleaning The Nest after the work crews have gone through, making cards, making hats, stuffing envelopes for us.  Girl Scout Troop 4140 who started with me as 6th grade girls who have taken it upon themselves to be the voice of Sparrow and what it means to have teens serving teens by their fundraising and working on the bedroom they adopted at The Nest Amber Collier coordinating the design of The Nest so it is a place teens want to come to, a thing of beauty and excellence. She will kill me for doing this but the real head of Sparrow is Shari Hammer who sacrifices hours upon hours for Sparrow and for propping me back up when I crash. Shari is the voice of the Holy Spirit for me mostly of when I need to keep my mouth shut and just put my nose back to the grindstone.  I could go on and on. No one is paid, No one is coerced. Each one bringing what they have to offer as a sacrifice. They all have a million others things needing their attention. They simply have a servant’s heart and they hear the voice of God above all others.


Tonight we will celebrate the recipients of the Good Egg Award. These are Sparrow volunteers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.  It’s actually very difficult to determine who that is among The Flock As I was wrestling through this decision Shari in so many words asked me “if so and so were to die, how would we possibly fill their roles? So , these are among many who we are glad to say are still among the living.  What’s truly ironic is none of these people, like any Sparrow volunteer wants any recognition at all.  They all cringed when they received notification they had been nominated. Many tried to talk me out of it. Members of The Flock don’t wait for the applause of man, They perform for an audience of One.


Our first award goes to someone who was recently declared verifiably credible by our Facilities Team. I can verify this person to be a credible pain in the rear. Kevin Thompson challenges me, questions me, argues with me, but at the same time he is the first person I turn when facing uncharted waters, difficult decisions, and reassurance that perhaps God really has empowered me to do this task. Kevin was absolutely irreplaceable with the search for The Nest, negotiation of the contract, communication with the bank and insurance company. I truly believe we might still be looking for the first location if not for Kevin. Through our entire history he has led the board with sincerity of heart and without personal agenda. I don’t know how many personal days and vacation days he has used to guide and direct The Sparrow’s Nest towards excellence. Kevin Thompson made the invisible house visible. Would you join me in celebrating Kevin Thompson.


Our second award goes to couple that if you look closely they probably still have mulch under their fingernails and Dovetail Grey paint on their elbows because I’m almost certain they came straight here from The Nest. Mark and Amy Atchley came to me last spring and asked me a very crucial question. “Who is going to manage all the renovation projects when you get The Nest?” I didn’t have an answer other than me. I am confident they did not have a clear picture of how much would be required of them when they agreed to head up the Facilities Team. Every Saturday, almost every Sunday, and I don’t want to think about how many days and nights during the week  Mark and Amy have sacrificed. I can confidently tell you The Nest would be no where near ready without their extraordinary efforts.  Would you join me in celebrating Mark and Amy Atchley.


Each year I specifically honor a teen with a Good Egg Award. I can’t think of an idea that more closely focuses in our mission than teens serving teens. This year I have 3 Teen Good Egg Awards to give.  You don’t have to look far past Mark and Amy Atchley without seeing their 3 beautiful daughters. Diana, Becca, and Jenna Acthley These 3 girls can proudly display their guns of steel after chopping down trees and digging up stumps at The Nest. They have spent hours scraping wallpaper, removing brush, and hauling debris. This is all in the middle of their busy social lives, school, music lessons, and sports. Each time I saw them working they greeted with a huge smile despite the huge sacrifice of time and energy their family has given to The Sparrow’s Nest. Would you join me in celebrating Diana, Becca, and Jenna Atchley.


My own family has made incredible sacrifices for this endeavor. My husband and children have been so understanding and supportive of the time away needed to get The Sparrow’s Nest off the ground. But even my extended family are Sparrow’s biggest supporters. Ember Figgins, has co-chaired the RUSH 5K with Bridgeway Behavioral Health for The Sparrow’s Nest for 3 years. She has represented Sparrow with ease and grand organization. Ember has the spiritual gift of bringing people together for a larger cause and somehow convincing them that each meeting and event is not a chore but somehow a party they don’t want to miss. Ember is the only non-board member to chair a major fundraiser for The Sparrow’s Nest . Under her natural leadership she has helped to raise over $6000 with that event.  Would you join me in celebrating Ember Figgins.


I have a knack for pushing deadlines. I also have a knack at procrastinating on things I don’t like to do. The Migrator is our monthly eNewsletter and it sneaks up on me each and every month. It is scheduled to go out the 3rd week of every month and you can find me and some of the other COM TEAM members desperately writing content at 10 p.m on that 3rd Sunday of every stinking month. Adria Gratiot patiently waits for the content, loads up in our beautiful newsletter template she help create, edits, sends back for approval and almost every month this is happening around midnight to one a.m.  She never complains at the late hour. She is always encouraging and supportive and has great ideas for effectively communicating the mission. I don’t have any idea how to do the technical side of what she does. She listens to me moan about the newsletter and then generates the reports that you all really are opening it up and reading it, when you read it, giving me technical, nerdy support to continue in the work. Adria is the definition of a cheerful giver of the talents she has been blessed with. Would you join me in celebrating Adria Gratiot.


When God first made it very clear The Sparrow’s Nest is what He intended I called as many churches as I could including Harvester Christian Church. Can I applaud all church secretaries in the area that protect their senior pastors. But an interesting turn of events happened in the most unlikely of spots, within 20,000 runners at The Color Run Race in downtown St. Louis. Robert and I had finished the race and were making our way back to our car when we “happened” to walk past Pastor Brian Jobe and his wife Marie. Brian told me he wanted to hear how Harvester could partner with The Sparrow’s Nest and could we set up a meeting. What has evolved from that “chance” meeting is something beautiful that could only be of God’s making. Harvester Christian is not only our largest financial contributor in a time when they are increasing support to all their ministries but they have used every possible channel available to them to share the mission of Sparrow through video, website, word of mouth, life group support as well as creating service opportunities like Serve St. Louis, to cover us in constant prayer and encouragement and to be an out spoken voice for the fatherless and the unborn. On behalf of Harvester Christian would you join me in celebrating Pastor Brian Jobe.


It’s very important to me to try as hard as I can to see things through the eyes of God. I believe with all my heart He has already provided all we need to make this ministry successful if we simply look at the blessings He has already given us. Betty Lovell is one of those blessings. I have many many ideas in this head of mine, most of which are not good ideas. It is rare when I throw an idea out at a volunteer and they don’t dunk. Betty Lovell however took The Little Things Project and ran with it and made it something even more incredible. Betty Lovell on top of her full time job and her service to church has single handedly organized our homemade baby item project called The Little Things Project. Betty found yards and yards of donated fabric, mobilized a team of Sweatshop Seamstresses, conducted a focus group of sorts of young mothers, found patterns and with her team have created a whole line of unique handmade baby items to sell to benefit The Sparrow’s Nest. All donated time and materials means complete profit coming from her talent. Would you join me in celebrating Betty Lovell.