Unveiling the Charity House Model for the Fall Homearama

From left, Richard N. Knapp, president of St. Mary’s Board of Trustees; Janette Crumley of Crumley Group, Inc.;and William C. Giermak, CEO of St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children; with the model of the Charity House.

Norfolk’s East Beach along the Chesapeake Bay is a neighborhood patterned after classic southeastern seaboard coastal villages. The Charity House at the fall Homearama will fit right in among the beautiful homes in East Beach, but, with its Spanish colonial design, it also promises to stand out.

The family-owned Crumley Group, Inc., is building the Charity House, which will be on display at the showcase of homes set for Oct. 2-17. When the house is sold, proceeds will go to support the programs and services of St. Mary’s Home, which has been caring for Virginia children for 65 years.

Janette Crumley, wife of company president Scott Crumley, spoke today at the annual meeting and luncheon of St. Mary’s Auxiliary Board. She brought with her a model that her husband built of the Charity House. At her invitation, Richard N. Knapp, president of St. Mary’s Board of Trustees, and William C. Giermak, St. Mary’s CEO, unveiled the model. Here’s a closer look:

Crumley Group, Inc., of Virginia Beach, designs and builds award-winning custom homes and is participating in Homearama for the first time. Scott Crumley has said he was inspired to build the Charity House as a way to give back.

“It’s such a blessing to put our family and your Home together,” Janette Crumley said today. “We hope the sale is a big success and helps you have 65 more years of comfort and caring.”

"New" St. Mary’s Home Turns 5 Today

While St. Mary’s Home is celebrating its 65th anniversary throughout this year, we’re celebrating another milestone today: The five-year anniversary of the move into our current building. Our dream Home, if you will.

St. Mary’s Home had been in downtown Norfolk for 60 years, first opening in a century-old building in December of 1944 and then moving into a new building in the 1960s. By 2005, a new Home was sorely needed.

“What a blessing the new Home has been to our children, their families and our staff,” said CEO William C. Giermak. At 88,000 square feet, the new Home offers twice the room of the previous building. Since moving to the new Home, the children have spent 25 percent fewer days out at the hospital. The excellent care and caring they receive at St. Mary’s is key, but the bright and beautiful building with more space and the latest systems also contributes to that care, Giermak said.

Preparations for the move into the state-of-the-art building near Sentara Leigh Hospital began months before the big day. Staff talked with the children and young adults of St. Mary’s, sharing photos, reading stories about moving and involving the children in packing their belongings.

On Feb. 11, 2005, the first children were ready to move at 6 a.m. Two paramedic crews from Norfolk moved 10 of the children, while other children moved in vans and school buses. A welcoming committe cheered, clapped and called each child by name as he or she entered the new Home.

The new Home was formally dedicated on March 18, 2005, with then-Gov. Mark R. Warner giving the keynote speech.

NATO Officers Donate to St. Mary’s Home

Allied Command Chief of Staff Royal Navy Vice Adm. Robert Cooling, Wayne Buck and Dan Berry present a donation check to William C. Giermak and Mary Helen Hilton from St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children. (From left – Buck, Giermak, Hilton, Cooling, Berry). Photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Chris Steffen.

CEO William C. Giermak and Director of Annual Giving Mary Helen Hilton recently attended the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation’s officers’ staff mess on Norfolk Naval Base. Chief of Staff Royal Navy Vice Adm. Robert Cooling presented St. Mary’s Home with $1,000 on behalf of officers from NATO.

You can read more about this generous contribution, as well as donations the officers made to other charities, here.

Celebrating the Mermaid Book and the Year of the Mermaid

Five years ago, Lisa Suhay told the story of Norfolk’s mermaid statues in her children’s book, “There Goes a Mermaid! A NorFolktale.” But the story didn’t end there, as Norfolk’s mermaid population has continued to grow right up until this officially proclaimed “Year of the Mermaid” — which began Sunday with an event at St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children.
About 60 residents, family members, staff and friends of the Home gathered in the Atrium to celebrate the release of a special revised edition of Suhay’s book, which includes some of the “new girls in town” and a page all about SMHDC. The special printing honors the fifth anniversary of the original book, the 10th anniversary of the mermaid as Norfolk’s symbol and the upcoming 65th anniversary of St. Mary’s Home.
Suhay read — actually, gave a wonderful performance of — her book and signed copies of it. She is donating part of the book’s proceeds to SMHDC and The Virginian-Pilot’s Joy Fund. “Lisa has been a real friend to St. Mary’s,” CEO William C. Giermak said of Suhay, who also spoke at the Home’s graduation ceremony in May.
Bob Batcher, public relations manager for the City of Norfolk, read a proclamation issued by Norfolk Mayor Paul D. Fraim. The proclamation honors St. Mary’s Home and declares July 2009-2010 to be the “Year of the Mermaid” in Norfolk.
St. Mary’s Home, which cares for children with severe disabilities from Norfolk as well as from throughout Virginia, exemplifies the city’s slogan of “Life. Celebrated Daily,” Batcher said. “Every day there is something here to celebrate,” he said.
Special guest former Miss Norfolk Amanda Batcher, Batcher’s daughter, sang “God Bless America” to open the program and closed out the event with a touching rendition of “Over the Rainbow.”
Also on hand for the event were Debbie Bellucci from The Joy Fund and “Mermaid Mama” Georgia Mason, who has created many of Norfolk’s mermaids and now is working on one for the children of St. Mary’s Home.

Making Music for St. Mary’s Children

When contemporary jazz musician Marcus Johnson was in Norfolk recently for a concert, he had problems with his keyboard. So he bought one to use just for the show while his regular keyboard was being fixed.
During the performance, Johnson asked if anyone in the audience had a charity. Cpl. Rickey Smith, a Norfolk sheriff’s deputy who was sitting in the second row, spoke up at his wife’s urging. He told Johnson that he works in security for St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children, which cares for children with severe disabilities from all around Virginia.
Johnson gave Smith the new keyboard to donate to the Home. “What better organization to give it to?” Smith recalled Johnson saying. Johnson autographed the keyboard, inscribing it “To the children of St. Mary’s.”
Smith donated the keyboard to the Home on behalf of the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office. That’s Smith in the photo wearing his uniform, with St. Mary’s CFO Wayne Jones, left, and CEO William C. Giermak, right. Giermak said the generous gift will be perfect for entertaining residents.

Saying Goodbye After 43 Years

She was the guest of honor, yet Gladys Jones kept getting up from her seat, asking others if they needed anything. “Forty-three years of serving children, and at her own luncheon, she’s still serving others,” said William C. Giermak, CEO of St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children. 
Gladys joined St. Mary’s Home as a certified nursing assistant on June 2, 1966, soon after graduating from high school. Today, exactly 43 years later, staff — and many of her family members — gathered to honor Gladys as she retires. 
Gladys is known for her kindness, cheerfulness and determination. She “set the tone with her love and care and devotion for all the children,” said Hazel Lane, St. Mary’s purchasing manager. “She made me understand what St. Mary’s does.” 
Gladys came to St. Mary’s Home because she loved children and always wanted to be around them. She saw SMHDC’s population evolve from children with mild disabilities to the children and young adults with severe disabilities who live here today. 
“I’m going to miss every one of you all, especially the children,” Gladys said during her luncheon.
And everyone at St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children is going to miss Gladys. 

The Year of Sister Mary June Keeps Going Strong

William C. Giermak, CEO of St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children, likes to joke that 2009 is the “Year of Sister Mary June.” She’s been getting some — very well-deserved — attention since celebrating the start of her 50th year with St. Mary’s Home back in February.

An article about Sister Mary June Morin that appeared that month in The Virginian-Pilot has led to a half-hour program about Sister that is expected to air on WHRO, Hampton Roads’ public television station, later this month. Elsie Duval, a member of a women’s group from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Newport News also read that article with interest. She invited Sister to speak to the group and share lunch with them, and Sister did so on Monday.

Sister told the group that she knew in the sixth grade that she had a calling to become a nun. She joined the Daughters of Wisdom right out of high school and spent seven years working at a children’s clinic in Brooklyn before being sent to Norfolk. “If help was needed, that’s where you went,” she said. Decades later, Sister is still dedicated to helping the children and young adults who call St. Mary’s “home.” You can read more about Sister in the spring issue of St. Mary’s newsletter, The Guardian, on our website.

Thank you to the St. Andrew’s women’s group (shown here with Sister, who is seated second from the left) for your hospitality and your gift to St. Mary’s Home in Sister’s honor.

A Bit of the Virginia Arts Festival at SMHDC

It was a busy weekend at St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children. On Saturday, CEO William C. Giermak led the ninth Family Forum, which was followed by a tropical-themed Family Night program put on by the Recreational Therapy Department. 

On Sunday afternoon, our Atrium was filled with the joyous sounds of steel drum music. The Rhythm Project All Stars performed a free public concert sponsored by Claire and David Benjack and the Auxiliary Board of St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children. The group is the premier performing ensemble of The Rhythm Project world percussion and dance ensemble founded by The Virginia Arts Festival.