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Shepherd’s Haven

The Rev. Diane Riley
“Haven” has a different meaning from “home” or “house.” Broader than the simple sense of place, it includes the connotation of protection. A haven, like the word “sanctuary,” means a place of safety. Even more than safety, according to Webster, a haven can also be a place offering favorable opportunities. Four years ago, the congregation of Christ Church in Pompton Lakes began examining their surrounding community to see what the needs were, and to ponder how God might be calling them to meet those needs. One need that had become apparent was how difficult it was becoming for some members of the congregation to care for both their own children and for aging parents. The term “sandwich generation” was becoming a label that fit them all too well. The phenomenon was not unique to Christ Church or even Pompton Lakes, and because of the increasing longevity of older people, it was also not likely to go away. When the house next door to the parish came up for sale, the idea for Shepherd’s Haven began to take shape. What families needed was a place their parents or elderly relatives could go where they could be safe, where they could meet other people and could enjoy activities together. There was child day care but nowhere an adult could go that provided the same attention and the opportunity for socialization and companionship. Caregivers were forced to stay home, sometimes forgoing employment or important activities that required their attention, or leave their parents home alone. Neither option was a good alternative. Today, Shepherd’s Haven invites seniors or disabled adults to spend a day or two or three a week in the company of other adults in stimulating activities. Their main mission is not to provide nursing care, but to help encourage and remind older people of the resources they possess – to promote the psychosocial health and spiritual well-being of senior citizens in a way that respects and appreciates the wisdom that comes with age. Through interaction, movement, and cognitive stimulation, clients maintain their sense of identity and dignity. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, meals are shared and the company is lively. Clients leave with a sense of a really good visit with their community away from home and they take their stories from the day to share with their family. “When I hear the clients having a really good laugh, when I hear from family members just how important the respite care we provide means to their own well-being, I know that we are providing something vital and important and it makes it all worthwhile” says Leigh Abbott Leaman, President of the Management Group at Christ Church which oversees the ministry. For the parish, which provides meals, visiting time and other support services, there is nourishment as well. “There is an incredible sense of being proud of the good work begun by our worshiping community” Abbott explains. Over sixty percent of the volunteers at Shepherd’s Haven are members of the parish, but the other volunteers come from the community at large. The ministry has not only helped the congregation find their mission identity in the very hands-on service they provide the community, but also invites others to walk with them as partners in ministry. The award of Alleluia funds has allowed Shepherd’s Haven to provide fee support to families who would not be able to afford care. Without the financial support of the Alleluia Fund, those faced with the greatest financial strains would have no respite from the emotional strains and difficulty of providing daily caretaker care for their loved ones. To learn more about Shepherd’s Haven contact Leigh Brower, the center manager, at 973-835-4747 or visit “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.” - Psalm 23 1-3a