Fostering love and guidance for youth

Local foster-care providers were recognized for making a difference in the lives of children

Local foster-care providers were recognized for making a difference in the lives of children

May 07, 2006|By MARIE GILBERT


Denise and Jack Pinnell believe life can't be scripted.

As young people, they both dreamed of getting married and having a big family.

But as newlyweds, they soon learned that they would be unable to have children.

"Things don't always turn out the way you think they will," Denise Pinnell said. "Sometimes, you're meant to take a different path."

That path still involved children - but not their own.

The Pinnells are foster parents.

The Hagerstown couple were among a group of foster-care providers honored Thursday night at an appreciation banquet at the Grand Venice Hotel in Hagerstown.


Individuals recognized during the event are part of the Treatment Foster Care Program at San Mar Children's Home Inc.

Ellen Savoy, director of San Mar Treatment Foster Care, said this was the first year for the appreciation banquet.

"It's a way to thank our foster parents for the incredible job they do," Savoy said. "They make such a difference in a child's life, and sometimes they might not feel validated for the amount of work they do. We want each and every person to know we appreciate all that they accomplish on a daily basis."

Savoy said she understands the work and the rewards of being a foster parent.

"In addition to being an adoptive mom, in 1990, I became a foster parent to a young girl from San Mar, who still refers to me as 'mom,'" she said.

Savoy said she has been with the program since its inception in 1992, and considers it the perfect job.

"I love matching hurting kids with families who can meet their needs and provide them with love and guidance," she said.

Savoy said she wishes more people would consider becoming foster parents.

"It's one of the most rewarding experiences I can think of," Savoy said. "When a child can't be with their own family, they need to be with a safe family. They need to be in a place where they'll feel loved and protected."

Savoy said San Mar has about 18 children placed in Treatment Foster Care homes within a 30-mile radius of San Mar. Nineteen families currently are certified families.

Since 1992, San Mar has assisted in the completion of six adoptions, Savoy said. Two additional adoptions will be completed within the next few months.

"We have a lot of success stories," Savoy said. "We have so many stories of children who have turned their lives around because of foster parents who have given them a positive environment. Many of these children, though eventually reunited with their biological families, never lose touch with their foster parents."

The Pinnells are an example of foster-care providers who have made a difference in a child's life, Savoy said.

Since they became a part of the Treatment Foster Care Program several years ago, they have been foster parents to 13 children.

Today, they have four children in their home - ages 18, 10, 4 and 2.

"It was a calling," Jack Pinnell said. "Since we can't have children of our own, this was something we wanted to do. San Mar has been a wonderful fit for us."

"It's very rewarding to have touched so many children's lives for as long as we have them," Denise Pinnell said.

With four children in the house, Denise Pinnell admitted things can get hectic.

"But it's enjoyable," she said. "I love watching the children grow, learn and mature."

And she receives a great deal of help from her oldest foster child, she said.

Also part of the foster-care program is Charles Burkett, who was a resident of San Mar for 12 years.

"I went to San Mar when I was 5, and stayed until I was 17," Burkett said. "San Mar made a real impact on my life."

Burkett, 39, said he was on a bad path for many years, but when he turned his life around, he decided he wanted to do something positive.

"So my wife and I became foster parents," he said.

Burkett said he can relate to what most children are going through in foster care.

"The foster-care program didn't exist when I was there," the Hagerstown resident said. "But I still understand the emotions these children are feeling."

Burkett said he and his wife have four children of their own, but always will find room for a foster child.

"Our society today is full of so many children who need a good home," Burkett said. "It's sad that there aren't more foster families for these children to become a part of."

Among the foster-care providers recognized during the banquet were Mitch and Mitzi Rose; Dale and Raye Cosden; Joe and Deb McCarney; Russell and Jamie Boback; Alex and Wanda McIntyre; Toby and Margie Stickley; Jack and Denise Pinnell; Ronnie and Helen Paul; Linda Love; Mike and Theresa Brechbill; Charles and Wendy Burkett; Denise Gundy; Crystal Lockner and Ian Beckett; Sol and Lia Keston; Carol Keckler; Loretta Barthlow; Lisa Deighton; and Kerwin and Leslie Morgan.

For more information on the Treatment Foster Care Program and other San Mar Children's Home programs, go to

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