For many years now, St. Luke has been providing care for children with special needs. While parents often express what a blessing it is to leave their children with caregivers they know and trust, the volunteers who work with these wonderful children would argue the blessing is theirs.

Many of our volunteers come from the ranks of local university students. Whenever they are on break, we need more volunteers from our congregation to make Parents Night Out possible. Friday, March 7 is another one of those dates where we will need extra volunteers.

If you haven’t ever considered serving in this way, you don’t know what you are missing! We recently asked our own Kent and Kellie Felgner about their experience volunteering at Parents Night Out. Check out what they have to say about how much this service has benefited their whole family. Then contact our Parents Night Out coordinator, Pam Kamrath (specialneeds@stlukeaa.org), to volunteer on the March 7 date.

How would you describe what happens at Parents Night Out?

We show up at St Luke to hang out and be embraced by a group of kids with the biggest smiles, biggest hugs, and biggest energy and a group of volunteers with the biggest hearts. We join in playing, dancing, singing, drawing, painting, talking, laughing, and eating, with an occasional meltdown in the mix to keep things real.

How long have you been doing this now? Who in your family volunteers?

 We all join–parents and teenagers–and have been for about 5 years. Kellie and Eliana enjoy the nursery with the younger children–no arm twisting required there! Camden pitches in where needed, often being paired as a child’s awesome buddy for the night. The older kids and siblings put up with Kent.

What do the parents think about Parents Night Out?

 Be prepared, the parents will not leave without showering thanks! For many families, caregivers are hard to come by and relatives are not in the local area. Parents Night Out might be one of the few opportunities for Mom or Dad to have an evening to relax and recharge.

What do you get out of the experience? Why do you keep doing it?

 The gospel writer tells the story of Jesus healing the man born blind. Jesus answers the “Why” question about the man’s special need by saying  “… this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3). It’s a pretty awesome blessing to come alongside the kids and to see God at work.

Were you nervous the first time you volunteered? How did you decide to take the plunge?

Absolutely. My childhood memories include going to my great grandma’s house with fear and trembling. My mom’s special needs cousin lived there and she pulled hair hard! So I didn’t hear very clearly when Deaconess Sara announced in church that volunteers were needed to help with special needs ministry.
Kellie signed us up–it is sometimes tough when your wife is an instrument of the Holy Spirit. After that first time, we were hooked.

Do you have to have special training to care for special needs children?

 Special training is offered once a year. However, there is an entire spectrum of need. Some of the kids are siblings. Some are high functioning. Some are in wheelchairs. So while training is certainly helpful, it is not required. There are enough slots to serve so you won’t be in over your head or past your comfort level.

What’s your favorite part?

Being next to the kids (special needs kids and college student volunteers), doing whatever , when they are involved in the moment and happy to be there. Joy is contagious!

Has this service affected your relationships as a family? Your relationship with Jesus?

People serve for many reasons. For us, it is an opportunity to share the love that we’ve received: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). However simple or small, investing time and talent to God’s glory is part of our kingdom work.

How do I get involved?

Contact Pam Kamrath, the program’s amazing and faithful coordinator <specialneeds@stlukeaa.org>