the Broome County Council of Churches prepares for its 23rd Lives of Commitment Breakfast. Two individuals and a group of teenagers who volunteer their time to help others in the community will be honored on May 5th.
“It’s a feel-good event. People feel more inspired to be more civic and to volunteer for something,” said Sue Spencer, director of the council’s Faith in Action Volunteers program.
“I don’t think people realize what good is going on in the community,” she said.
“I sincerely believe that those of us who are advantaged have an obligation to help those who are not,” said “Council Laureate” Gene Banick.
“We who are capable have a moral commitment to those who are disabled,” he said.
The 83-year-old retired CPA has transitioned from serving on the Council of Churches board of trustees to “hands-on” activities like driving people to medical appointments and helping with groceries.
Why does he do it?
“Satisfaction,” Banick said, “not only mine, but to be satisfied with the knowledge of the satisfaction and good feelings that come from those we serve.
“Love is at the heart of our faith,” said Banick, a parishioner at St. John and Andrew Roman Catholic Church in Binghamton. “The love is in what FIA (Faith in Action) does.”
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Banick’s wife Nancy died in 2018. They had been married for 55 years and had two children, daughter Laura Ellis (Charles) and son John. They also have two grandchildren, Joel and Justin Banick, and great-granddaughter Eva Renee Banick.
The Conklin resident urges others to serve the community.
“Simply because there is a need,” he says. “I would like to see more volunteering among able-bodied retirees – they have the time.”
‘Community winner’ Jenn Small said her parents were ‘fully involved in their community’ with the church, various councils and the Rotary Club.
Small recalled that in the 1970s his family helped in the aftermath of Hurricane Agnes. They also helped bring Vietnamese refugee families to the area. Thanks to Rotary, they welcomed exchange students and built parks.
Small carried this ideal to the next generation.
“My daughter Maggie’s first volunteer service was helping out at the Shepherd’s Dinner at Central United Methodist,” she said.
Small has worked for the Broome County Urban League and AVRE, but she also volunteers. This includes time spent with the Crime Victims Assistance Center crisis hotline. She continues to serve on the advisory board of the Women’s Fund of SCNY.
“Women’s issues are very important to me as a woman, a parent and a grandparent,” Small said.
After their son Max died of an overdose three years ago, her husband, Glenn, joined her with a new goal: to help drug addicts.
“We gutted and restored the Maxwell House on the east side of Binghamton and donated it to Fairview Recovery Services to be used for transitional sober housing,” Small said.
“We live in an amazing community. My goal is to rehabilitate more housing for sober living. Our region desperately needs it,” she said.
“My faith is personal, but I have long held the question, ‘What would Jesus do?’ It’s a simple question, but so powerful in action.”
The Faith in Action winner is a youth group from Endwell United Methodist Church. Teens Walking in God’s Spirit, known as TWIGS, is credited with building wheelchair ramps through the Council’s “Ramp-It-Up” program.
“I don’t think they realize what an honor it is,” said Lynne Kimpland, children and youth ministries director at Endwell UMC. Three members and their parents will attend the breakfast.
“Like any parent would be, I am proud that our young people are being recognized for their good and fruitful labors as they turn away from themselves and selflessly concern themselves with the needs of others,” Kimpland said. .
In April, the Faith column will focus on the TWIGS program. Although membership changes over the years, the group has been active in the Council of Churches for a dozen years.
For more information
The Lives of Commitment Breakfast will be held Thursday, May 5 at 7:15 a.m. at the Doubletree in Binghamton. Individual tickets are $35. Table sponsorships are also available.
The deadline for reservations is April 8. More details are available by calling Sue Spencer at the Council of Churches at 607-724-9130, ext. 304.