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19 minutes | a year ago
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Brooke Carlock Miller Story Sponsor: ALL THINGS BUSINESS, LLC 2148 Embassy Drive Lancaster, PA 17603 (717) 392-9635 • allthingsbusiness.biz October 31, 1986 is a date that is permanently etched in Kevin Eberle’s mind. The day before, he had picked up the train tickets he and his best friend Connie would use to travel to Florida over Thanksgiving, and he and Connie had talked excitedly on the phone about their upcoming trip. So, it didn’t make sense that now, just one day later, he stood with the phone in his hand, listening to someone tell him that Connie was dead. It made even less sense when he heard she had taken her own life. He immediately drove to her house and saw the ambulances, paramedics and Connie’s body, covered by a sheet, and yet he still couldn’t believe his best friend was gone. “I had a lot of guilt for a long time, because I kept playing that last conversation over and over again in my mind, thinking that there might’ve been a word or something that I missed,” Kevin shakes his head. “I just never could come up with anything. I was angry, because you think you’re friends—I mean, we confided everything. I knew everything about her and she knew everything about me. It was just a lot of anger and a lot of guilt.” Kevin continues,“Suicide is a loss like no other. I lost my grandmother to cancer. I lost two uncles to cancer. I lost my father, whom I was very close to, to dementia, and that was horrible—but a suicide loss is just different.” Kevin found that when he tried to talk to people about Connie’s death, the subject was taboo. He couldn’t find any support systems for people affected by the suicide of a loved one. So he started researching the topic of suicide on his own, reading books and attending conferences held by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Two years after Connie’s death, Kevin ran into someone whose father had committed suicide, and when that friend mentioned her frustration at having nowhere to turn for support, Kevin resolved to help others by beginning a support group in Lancaster for survivors of suicide. The group, which meets at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on the corner of Delp Road and Lititz Pike in Lancaster, has now been helping those whom suicide leaves behind for over 30 years. “After all these years,” Kevin notes, “the biggest feedback I get from people is that they’re so grateful to be somewhere where everybody else knows how they feel, because suicide’s a very different loss.” In his time as the group founder and facilitator, Kevin has helped countless survivors deal with their grief by providing understanding, acceptance and education. Throughout his years of running the support group, called Survivors of Suicide, Kevin has also worked full-time jobs—first as a bridge welder, followed by six years in behavioral health and nine years at his current job working with patients of traumatic brain injuries. But his devotion to helping others cope with the difficult topic of suicide has remained a part-time calling close to his heart. He understands all too well the “firsts” that his group members go through: “Believe it or not, it usually takes at least two or three years to get acclimated to your new life,” he explains, “because once that person dies, your life is no longer the same. You’re going to have a ‘first’ of everything—their first birthday, anniversary, Christmas—and if it’s a child, it’s graduations and proms.” Kevin notes that group members often attend meetings for years to get through these difficult milestones. When asked if running the group keeps his own pain fresh in his mind, Kevin admits he can still close his eyes and recall the paramedics and the white sheet covering Connie’s body. “I can close my eyes and I can still see that day like it was yesterday. That doesn’t really change. But it’s not all-consuming anymore. It doesn’t haunt me.” But sharing his story with others and building a community of survivors brings him the most peace. As an example, he recalls a story of being on a plane flying to Colorado several years ago, where a woman admired Kevin’s zebra tattoo on his leg. Kevin thanked her and mentioned that the tattoo represents a poem about suicide survivors being like zebras among horses, their stripes a constant reminder that the pain of losing someone to suicide never truly goes away. “I mean, here we are at 30,000 feet in the air, and the next thing you know there are five people in the aisle and we’re all talking about suicide. It was amazing. You just never know who you might touch or connect with.”
16 minutes | a year ago
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Brooke Carlock Miller Story Sponsor: ATKINS DECK TREATMENT SERVICE, INC. 10 Trinity Drive Leola, PA 17540 (717) 656-8928 • atkinsdeck.com Kathy Morgan says she always knew she would get cancer. “My father was diagnosed with cancer, and his mother, my grandmother, died of cancer. A number of my dad’s brothers and sisters did, too. I never saw anyone survive a diagnosis. I always knew that that was going to be it, because there was so much of it in our family—a ton, just a ton—and you always went to funerals. It was just in the back of my mind,” she explains. In 1998, eight years after her father passed away from bladder cancer, Kathy received the diagnosis she always knew was coming—she had invasive ductal carcinoma in her breast. The news came immediately before a planned three-week trip to Hawaii with her husband for their 25th wedding anniversary. “And the one thing that helped me through it so much,” Kathy says, “was the fact that I had gone to a Tony Robbins seminar right before I was leaving. He was talking about when you are somewhere, BE THERE. You become what you focus on. And I thought, ‘I don’t want to focus on this cancer… I want to enjoy Hawaii.’ So we went and had a fabulous time.” While on the trip, Kathy saw a display of the culture of different Polynesian islands, and mentioned to her husband that she would love to visit Tahiti. “The outfits were gorgeous, the music was awesome, and I said, ‘Oh, I’d love to go,’ she says, tearing up. “My husband said, ‘When you turn 50,’ which was going to be like six years later, ‘I’ll take you to Tahiti.’ “So I was determined to survive it… to break the family legacy,” Kathy continues. She returned home and had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor, followed by six months of chemotherapy, 35 radiation treatments, five years of Tamoxifen, and five years of Femara. It was during her first year of treatment, not knowing what her outcome would be or if she would survive, that Kathy experienced her first Relay for Life. The event would change the course of her future forever. The first thing she noticed at the event was the luminary bags lit up in the middle of the track field. “There were a couple thousand of them,” she says, “and I thought it was for all the dead people, because I had never seen anybody survive. But when I walked up, I saw that there were more that said ‘In honor of…’ than ‘In memory of….’ That was such a gift that was given to me.” She continues, “You know, what chemo does to people… I don’t think anyone can understand that the fatigue is just indescribable. And I kept seeing the word ‘hope’ written everywhere, and I thought, ‘What does hope mean? Like, hope you live? Hope you don’t suffer? Hope you go quick?’ And I remember getting in a survivor lap, where they get all the survivors together, and there were hundreds of them… and everybody had a sign with how many years they survived. Mine was 9 months, but I turned around, and I saw children with five-year signs, and teenagers with 10-year signs, and adults with 20 and 30 years. And that’s when I knew what hope was.” From that point on, Susan knew she had to give back to the organization that had given her hope. In 2001, she helped form and became team captain of Captain Morgan’s Cancer Crusaders. The group’s original goal was to raise $5,000 their first year. Instead, they raised $7,500. Six years later, in 2007, the Crusaders became the top-grossing fundraising team at the Relay for Life. “It’s incredible,” Kathy muses. The group raises their money mainly through throwing parties, dances, and organizing trips. “We don’t cook. We don’t bake. I’m sure there’s a lot of talent on our team, but we’re pretty good at that party part of it,” she laughs. To date, Captain Morgan’s Crusaders has raised an astonishing 1.2 million dollars for Relay for Life. Kathy herself has served as co-chair of Lancaster’s Relay event, as division chair for Pennsylvania, and as a member of the national advisory team. She is a Reach to Recovery volunteer, mentoring women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2011, she was presented with the American Cancer Society’s Sword of Hope Award. When she turned 50, Kathy’s husband made good on his promise to take her to Tahiti. And now, 21 years after her initial diagnosis, Kathy continues to relish the opportunity to give hope to those who receive the grim diagnosis of cancer. “It’s such a difference between my dad’s generation and mine,” she says, “they didn’t have the opportunity to survive. Somebody raised funds in order to do the research that allowed me to live. So, it’s an honor and a duty for me to pay that forward for the next generation—for people I’ll never meet— because someone did it for me.” Join Captain Morgan’s Crusaders on Facebook or Relay for Life at www.cancer.org.
39 minutes | a year ago
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Michael C. Upton Story Sponsor: LANCO FEDERAL CREDIT UNION 349 West Roseville Road Lancaster, PA 17601 (717) 569-7180 • lancofcu.com EXT. METRO STREET – AFTERNOON At a red light, a green van pulls in front of a vehicle occupied by three males. Uniformed officers spring from the van. The driver throws the car into reverse in a failed attempt to flee as nearly 10 police cars converge on and surround the vehicle. A uniformed OFFICER instructs the passenger in the back seat to put his hands outside the vehicle. The passenger complies. OFFICER cuffs the passenger, opens the door, and looks right into the passenger’s eyes. OFFICER: “Mr. Vega, your life is never going to be the same after today.” FADE OUT “And from that day on, I didn’t see the streets for eight years,” says Johnny Vega. This is no script. This is real life. Johnny’s family moved to Lancaster from the Bronx in 1984 when he was 5-years old. He was amazed by the sound of crickets. “We have rats and roaches in New York,” says Johnny, and breaks out in a hearty laugh. “And then my mom said something I’ll never forget: ‘Go and play.’” Johnny was a good student. In fourth grade, he joined a college prep program run in coordination with Millersville University. But he started following some poor role models and experimented with drugs. “By the time I was 15 or 16, I started selling weed to support my habit,” says Johnny, now an adult. Part of the problem that manifested in his life was the need to be beyond average. He couldn’t just be a street level seller; he had to be bigger. “I basically started treating it like a business. Eventually, by the time I was 18 I thought I was Scarface. They used to call me the ‘one-stop shop.’ If I could make a profit, I was snatching it up— heroin, coke, crack, pills—at one point I was even selling guns.” Meanwhile, Johnny the model student was getting good grades, participating in sports, joining after-school programs. He even managed to get a scholarship to Millersville, but while in college he started seeing friends get busted for drugs, some facing multiple-year sentences. Also, at this time, ecstasy hit the scene and by the age of 20, he opened a pair of nightclubs. “And one day, I’m sittin’ in the club thinkin’ I’m on top of the world,” remembers Johnny, who was selling over 1,500 pills a week at the time. “And all of a sudden, boom! The doors get kicked in and the windows get broken out. In the blink of an eye I went from college student to on the run from the federal government.” The FBI had Johnny’s number. Everybody knew what he was doing. He was flamboyant—the club was always packed—he was large. Now he was at large. “I was on the run for six months,” says Johnny. Remember the scene from the intro? That happened in York while Johnny was going to get a haircut and some new clothes for the weekend. He wound up sitting in York County Prison for 11 months until the U.S. Government charged him with conspiracy to distribute 10,000 ecstasy pills. His choices were to roll over on his gang connections, go to trial and face a 25-year sentence, or plead guilty and do 100 months in jail. “This is all before I changed to the nice guy you know now,” says Johnny, returning with that laugh. Then it’s back to seriousness. “You make choices in life. And you have to deal with those choices. And you have to deal with the consequences of those choices. I had gotten away with so much… When I decided to plead guilty, I prayed and made a deal with God. I gave myself as a living sacrifice to God.” He ended up serving eight years, most in Allenwood Federal Correctional Institution where he got his associate degree in business. In 2008, he returned to Lancaster and opened a restaurant, got involved with the youth ministry at church, and began working with Teen Haven, a youth program based out of the Water Street Mission. Next came his own non profit called Fight for Lancaster and HoodRISE, a specialized curriculum of mentorship in Harrisburg and York. He also serves as a motivational speaker. He wants to make sure no kid makes the mistakes he made. It seems with Johnny, the sequel is turning out much better. “You can be the cool guy and not be part of that lifestyle. That lifestyle is only going to lead you to jail or an early death,” says Johnny. He would know. Connect with Johnny Vega on his Instagram Accounts > Dr. Johnny Vega • Red Lamb 316
11 minutes | a year ago
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Michael C. Upton Story Sponsor: KEGEL’S PRODUCE 2851 Old Tree Drive Lancaster, PA 17603 (717) 392-6612 • kegels.com How fast is Angela Myers? Fast enough to place eighth in the 400-meter dash at the World Masters Athletics Championships held in Málaga, Spain in 2018. She wasn’t always that fast. Or athletic. She was cut from her high school soccer team and never really got into sports growing up in rural Lancaster County. But at some point, after the birth of her third child, something clicked. The click led to a report from a starting gun. She was off and running and a new hobby led to a new endeavor in life. “Just as part of staying in shape I started to run,” says Angela, seated on bleachers overlooking her oval office. That’s what runners nicknamed a track, the oval office. The sun is out, and she is in her element having grown up a few miles from Lampeter-Strasburg High School. Staying in shape led to participating in the Red Rose Run, which she ran pushing a double stroller. “I did fairly well, and it put the thought in my mind, ‘What if I started to train?’ So, I got a coach and did 5ks for two or three years, but I really hated it. By mile two I would think, ‘Why am I doing this?’” She started doing mile races. Part of her training included running 800-meter races. “Then I realized the shorter the distance, the more I was enjoying it,” says Angela. “I discovered by default I was a sprinter.” She soon found USA Track and Field Masters, which is organized for athletes over the age of 35 years old. In the USATF Masters, men and women compete separately in five-year age groups (35-39, 40-44, etc.) The local and regional meets can include a variety of track and field events, like sprints, distance running, hurdles, and relays. There’s even competition in throwing events with shot, discus, hammer, and javelin. She immediately excelled at the 400-meter sprint and qualified for the team representing the USA. At the 2018 international event, Myers joined three other runners to post a bronze medal winning 50.41 in the 4×100 meter relay and win gold in the 4×400 meter relay with a time of 3:58.45. “Worlds happens every two years… and it brings the best people from all over the world,” explains Angela. “It was such an amazing experience.” The experience of becoming a world-class athlete as a seasoned adult empowered her to pursue a career as a life coach and publish her first book, Living Younger. Subtitled “Discover the secrets to enjoying a young body, spirit, and mind at any age!”, the book was published in May, 2019 and is available in paperback and digital formats. “The main point of the book is to empower people to really take control of their life,” says Angela. “There are specific, easy things people can do preventatively to take charge of their health and their fitness.” The self-empowering book involves the reader, encouraging them to reflect and self-assess. The book leads to an eight-week Living Younger Program designed to “make the changes you’ve been desiring” with the support of a coach and an organized game plan. The result is feeling more energy and vitality, body improvement, and younger looks, says Angela. As a life coach, Angela understands human beings operate on feelings. If somebody doesn’t feel like doing something in particular, like working out, it often does not happen. “When you want something, you sometimes have to put your feelings aside for the higher goal. With track, if I know what I have to do is going to be really uncomfortable I can’t just feel it; I have to put my head down and put the work in. We need to honor the feeling for a minute and then let it go. You can’t sit in it or it will stop you from taking action,” says Angela. “Helping people achieve their goals, that is what really gives me joy. That’s been part of who I am since I was a kid.” That helping nature led her to majoring in the field of social work and attain a degree from Eastern Mennonite University. “Running is just one segment of who I am, but it gives me so much back in turn,” says Angela, and she offers a bit of advice for kids wanting to run competitively. “If it feels good and it is something you enjoy, go out and do it. Running is something people sometimes think you just go out and do, but it is actually a skill. You have to develop form and mind-body coordination. It takes practice just like any other sport.” Living Younger is available for purchase on Amazon or visit Angela’s website at elevationenterprise.org.
18 minutes | a year ago
Leo & Nick DiSanto
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Brooke Carlock Miller Story Sponsor: TELLUS360 24 East King Street Lancaster, PA 17602 (717) 393-1660 • tellus360.com “A lot of people don’t really think about the existence of working-class musicians,” muses Leo DiSanto, as he sits next to his brother Nick, a fellow musician. “It’s either you’re famous or you’re a hobbyist. But there’s actually a middle ground that we occupy where we’re very busy, but just as working-class entertainers doing all different sorts of gigs at all different sorts of venues. It’s really fun to see where you’ll wind up,” he grins. “Like, how weird is it going to get? Because you’ll show up at some gig, and it’s like—‘Just set up over there behind that alpaca.’—and that’s a true story.” The DiSanto brothers didn’t grow up in a particularly musical household, but both ended up centering their lives around music in the most inspiringly free-spirited ways. They started playing in bands together while they were growing up without much formal training. “It was pretty much the same band that went through a number of metamorphoses with most of the same guys, but we’d change from punk to psychedelic to whatever it was,” Leo notes. As they got older, they studied different genres and instruments more formally, and ventured into the world on different unconventional paths. For Nick, who went to school to study sculpture, music became an extension of his love of art. “I was equal parts interested in putting things together and building things and playing music, so it was that combination that led to what I do.” Nick has probably one of the coolest job descriptions anyone could hope to acquire—he’s a professional one-man band. His instruments are all worn on his body and played with ropes and levers. “I remember putting one single bass drum on my back and thinking I was going to stop there,” he says, “deciding that I wasn’t going to be one of those gaudy one-man bands that has all kinds of horns and whistles attached to them, but I guess you sort of lose sight of that goal post once you start doing it for a living,” he laughs. “I’m on my fifth contraption that I’ve built. It’s basically a drum set worn on my back and then I play guitar, harmonicas, and some horns and lung-power percussion and whistles and things.” He calls his invention the DiSantomophone, and with each version it becomes lighter, more comfortable, with more instruments and able to play more sounds that capture what he calls his “garage vaudeville” sound, which harkens back to a 1920s variety show. Leo, in contrast, utilized music as a way to explore the world. “Travel really ties in with playing music for me, because I’m kind of in it for the stories—the storytelling songs, and the doors that playing music can open,” explains Leo. He continues, “I’ve actually done busking tours where I’d play on the street to try to get my next train ticket and my next meal. I’ve crossed Europe and most of the States many a time.” Once, he even found himself in Transylvania, playing music on the street with a band of gypsies. How does that even happen? “I think it involves a profound lack of planning,” he admits, “and just kind of letting things unfold and being open to suggestions about where to go and how to go. The more of an itinerary you have… the less room there is for fate to put its hand in the door and make things happen.” Along with being a solo artist, now working on his second rock album, Leo is also the singer, songwriter, and guitarist for the well-known Lancaster roots band Vinegar Creek Constituency. While the DiSanto brothers have each carved their own individual niche in the Lancaster music scene, occasionally they’ll play together and both are quick to help each other out and offer advice on a certain song or gig if needed. And both feel fortunate to make a living doing what they love. In the future, Leo plans to appease his wanderlust by documenting his travels and storytelling music via digital video. Nick will keep fine-tuning his DiSantomophone and entertaining audiences of all ages. “The best advice I ever got was to carve out a very specific niche for yourself. Streamline your interests,” Nick says. “I had to turn down other work so that I could be a one-man band—go figure. But I really love doing it. I’m committed to it. I feel like I’ve made a serious study of it. And as long as my joints hold up, it’s what I want to do.” Find Leo online at leodisanto.com • Find Nick online at nickdisanto.com.
41 minutes | a year ago
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Brooke Carlock Miller Story Sponsor: HINKLE INSURANCE AGENCY INC. 600 Olde Hickory Road, Suite 200 Lancaster, PA 17601 (717) 560-9733 • hinkleinsurance.com Many Lancaster County residents first encountered Esther Schmucker gracing their television screens from 2012-2015 on the Discovery Channel’s controversial show “Amish Mafia.” The show received backlash from many in the area due to its lack of authenticity, and Esther’s time in the media spotlight as the matriarch of a gang of fringe “peacekeepers” in the Amish community was short-lived, the press typically negative. A horrifying domestic abuse incident, in which Esther was beaten by her then-boyfriend so badly that he fractured facial bones and broke her nose and several teeth, was written into Amish Mafia’s storyline. That time in Esther’s life was a culmination of years of struggle and abuse that no one bothered to dig deep enough to find out about, and that she has only in the past few years found a way to overcome. The real story of Esther Schmucker starts in a tiny Amish community in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where she was born and raised. “We didn’t have any running water or indoor bathrooms, no refrigerators, no freezers,” she remembers. Her father died when she was three years old, and her mother adhered to the strict Old Order Amish lifestyle. “The way I grew up was if you question the rules of the culture, you’re disobedient,” Esther explains, “I always had questions; I was very curious, and I got reprimanded for it… spanked for it… I was taught that not being content with what you have is the devil.” She was also taught from a young age that, as a woman, if she attracted a man’s attention in unwanted ways, it was her fault. As an example, she recounts a story of when, as a fifth grade girl, her male school teacher chased her down a deserted lane and exposed himself to her. She ran home, frightened, and told her mother what had happened. “She told me, ‘What’s something you were doing that was leading him on?’” Esther says. “She gave me lessons on how to walk, you know? Make sure you’re not wiggling your hips.” Just a few years after that incident, when she was 13 and 14 years old, Esther was repeatedly sexually abused by an older Amish member of the community, and again told that “if a man lusts after you, or if a man comes after you or molests you, it’s something that you did that enticed the man.” Esther escaped her abuser when her mother remarried and her family moved to her new stepfather’s home in Lancaster. It was here that her world turned upside down. In her community, “You never talk about sex, you never talk about men, you never talk about how babies are born. It’s all very hush-hush, and if you do, you’re punished,” Esther says. At age 15, Esther went into labor and gave birth to her abuser’s baby, having no idea that she was ever pregnant. “I didn’t know what was happening to me,” she recalls. “I was sure I was dying. I just started praying, and I was like, ‘God, what is happening to me?’” Her sister found her curled up in bed crying and ran to get Esther’s mother, who then found an Amish midwife in the community to deliver the baby—a healthy boy. Esther suspects her mother knew she was pregnant, but didn’t tell her or take her to the doctor. “I felt numb,” she continues. “I was in shock, and I was just looking at my baby like, ‘What do I do?’ It was the craziest time of my life. But I stepped up and was like, ‘Okay, now I’m a mom,’ and I took care of my baby, and I fell in love with my baby, and I did what I needed to do.” Not long after the birth, however, elder members of the church arrived at Esther’s house urging her to give her son up for adoption. They didn’t want to explain to others why a 15 year-old unwed girl had a baby. When Esther refused, they banned her from caring for her son in public. The pressure became so intense that Esther decided to leave home: “I was this lost little girl. I had no idea what to do, I had no plan, but I just knew I wasn’t giving up my kid.” She remained Amish, but joined a New Order church that welcomed her son and helped her find an apartment and a job. The next several years were a whirlwind as Esther took part in Rumspringa, started partying and meeting new people, connected with the producers of the Discovery Channel, starred on a television show, and suffered through a physically abusive relationship. When the show ended, Esther took time to look inward and ask herself tough questions about who she wanted to be and what kind of people she wanted to surround herself with. Now living a happy, quiet life in Lancaster, Esther has found her calling by helping others through Voices of Hope, an organization where she speaks to women who have faced abuse or domestic violence, as well as writing a book titled “Healing in Heels,” in which she shares her own personal story. She is especially interested in helping Amish women, many of whom Esther says remain silent or have their abuses “swept under the rug” or minimized. In sharing her past, “What I’ve learned is that when you step out in bravery, you’re giving other women the freedom to be brave, too, and to open their hearts and to speak their truth. It’s been incredible.” Connect with Esther at Facebook & Instagram
25 minutes | a year ago
Osmyn J. Oree
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Brooke Carlock Miller Story Sponsor: RED ROSE FILM FESTIVAL 1653 Lititz Pike #501 Lancaster, PA 17601 (717) 356-0070 • redrosefilmfestival.com Growing up in downtown Lancaster, Osmyn Oree struggled with his identity as a member of the black community. It’s common to hear stories about racism between differing cultures, however Osmyn faced it from not only other cultures, but also his own. He was the only black member of his soccer team. He liked to skateboard, but “I couldn’t find other black kids to skate with,” he says. He wore his hair in a mohawk and listened to heavy metal music, “and people from my culture would be like, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t listen to that music. That’s not black people music. That’s white people music,’” he continues. The worst of the “internal stereotypes” he experienced was other black students making fun of him for getting good grades and doing well in school. “It blows my mind that people would be like that,” he laughs. “I was like, ‘I’m just trying to get out of high school. I don’t want to be stuck here!’” Osmyn managed to surround himself with supportive friends and family, and learned to both ignore and sometimes argue and enlighten people who questioned his authenticity as a black man. As a junior in high school, he discovered the photography department at McCaskey, and a love of the genre was born, again trending away from cultural stereotypes. After graduation, he went on to earn a degree from Pennsylvania College of Art and Design. To Osmyn, photography was a way to reflect on his own thoughts and insecurities and search for his identity. His first project, titled “Honesty,” focused on female nudity. “I started noticing a certain way women were being portrayed, and I didn’t like how they were being shown,” he explains. “I felt that if I were to use my friends instead of models, the pictures would come across as more real and less sexualized and objectified.” His next project, titled “Exposed,” also dealt with nudity, but from a different perspective: “There is this whole masculine stereotype of how the media portrays men—how they’re supposed to be. And I wanted to challenge that,” says Osmyn. He photographed nude males in a similar vein as his female subjects—in their own homes, in unstylized positions, without filters, looking raw and real. To Osmyn, the photographs show that, as a male, “We can be different, vulnerable and show ourselves,” he says. His current project, however, is his deepest search into his own identity. Titled “I’m Still Black,” the project began as a way to explore his own blackness and sense of belonging in his culture. Through the photos in his series, Osmyn seeks to celebrate the many different ways that African-Americans express themselves. At first he started walking around Lancaster with friends and family, catching photographs with a 35-millimeter camera and writing down their thoughts about being black. “But then,” he laughs, “I ditched the whole journalism-type aspect of it because I wanted to make the pictures speak for themselves. I ended up using a large format camera.” Osmyn explains, “I limit myself to eight pictures per subject. So the biggest thing is that I have to think about every single aspect of the photograph when I shoot. It helps me create the photographs I want. The composition, the lighting … I have to think about every little part, every little detail.” The portraits are also in black and white, because, “internally it’s like a black and white issue with me,” Osmyn admits. “Like on a whole different scale coming from high school all the way up until now, I still deal with that stuff.” As for his subjects, the only direction Osmyn gives them is to be “unapologetically black.” Many of the pictures, which he prints on large 4 x 4.5 foot canvases, face the viewer directly. I like to focus on the people, and that’s why a lot of eye contact is a huge part of my portraits. I definitely want the people in the photos to confront whoever’s looking at them.” Osmyn loves the positive reactions he gets when displaying his larger-than-life portraits at shows and galleries, and plans to continue building the project. “As long as people are willing and people understand what I’m trying to do, I’m going to keep doing it.” And his advice for people of any race trying to figure out where they belong, he adds, is, “Just be you, honestly. Don’t let anyone else tell you how you should be, and live your best life.” View Osmyn’s work online at osmynjoree.com.
11 minutes | a year ago
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Brooke Carlock Miller Story Sponsor: SPA LA VIE 3031 Columbia Avenue Lancaster, PA 17603 (717) 295-4523 • spalavielancaster.com Leiana Smathers sits on a sofa next to her mom, Jennifer. She is bright, bubbly, and fun, with a quick wit that makes everyone in the room smile. Her thick glasses hint at the struggles she’s had to face in the 11 years since she was born. “I was born with cataracts,” Leiana explains, “but Mom thought that there was cream in my eyes. We went to multiple doctors, and they just said, ‘It will go away when you grow older,’ but it never went away. So then we went to another doctor, and they diagnosed me with cataracts. They had to do surgery to get them out.” Leiana goes on to describe that the surgery wasn’t completely successful—she ended up getting very sick, and was on a ventilator for two weeks—and when she recovered she had 100% vision in one eye, but only 5% in the other. For Jennifer, the stress of Leiana’s first few months was unimaginable: “When I had her, I was 18, so I was still kind of trying to find my place in the world and it was very overwhelming. It was up and down at first, like ‘Is she going to live, or is she going to die?’ “The surgeries are very difficult,” Jennifer continues. “They’re long, and she was very tiny, so it was definitely an overwhelming feeling, but you’ve kind of got to figure it out and just be strong,” she says. Due to the rare nature of infant cataracts, as well as some abnormal features that Leiana displayed when she was born, a geneticist diagnosed her with Hallermann-Streiff Syndrome, or HSS. HSS is caused by a genetic mutation, and typical symptoms include facial deformations, hair loss, dental defects, and eye problems. Hallermann-Streiff Syndrome is so rare, Leiana exclaims that, “In the whole entire universe, only 200 people have it!” With her trademark positivity, she adds, “I think that I have it pretty minor compared to most people, so I’m really glad.” When asked how her disability affects her daily life, she responds, “Well, I don’t have very good peripheral vision. I can’t really see around very well, because, you know, this side doesn’t really work. But yeah, there’s not really anything I can’t do. The only thing that I can’t do is be a pilot, and I don’t want to be that anyways, so I’m okay.” Leiana started working with VisionCorps in Lancaster at three months old, learning over time to overcome obstacles that her lack of vision presents. Now, at 11, she has gained an amazing amount of independence, and nothing seems to stand in her way or dampen her spirits. She has taken cooking and art classes, kayaked, and learned to play the ukulele. She’s played Lady Macbeth in a theater production, rock climbed, and been featured on billboards and television news programs. “I like playing percussion,” Leiana says, ticking her favorite activities off on her fingers. “I like playing keyboard. I like singing. I did gymnastics. This year I want to do karate, and I like to dance a little,” she says. “I also like to write, and I like to bake, and I like video games.” To her mother, Leiana is an unstoppable force that doesn’t let her disability get in her way, despite the occasional surgery that is necessary for her condition. “I mean honestly,” Jennifer admits, “we never know what’s going to happen with her vision. So we just try to do the best we can to let her live and enjoy her life.” Leiana has a lot of life to live and is excited about her future. “I want to be a video game designer because I love video games and coding and stuff. And I want to be a baker because I love sweets, and I like mixing the ingredients and putting on the icing. I want to be a singer because I love to sing, and I want to be an author because I love to write books and stories,” Leiana laughs. To Leiana and Jennifer, attitude is everything. When it comes to having a disability, Leiana offers sage advice: “Don’t let anything stop you. Keep going, and if anybody says that you can’t, just ignore them.”
24 minutes | a year ago
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Michael C. Upton Story Sponsor: ZIG’S BAKERY & CAFE 800 East Newport Road Lititz, PA 17543 (717) 626-7981 • zigsbakery.com The city of Mosul sits on the west bank of the Tigris River in Iraq at the northern tip of the “Sunni Triangle.” As the second largest city in Iraq, Mosul is roughly the area of Newport News, Virginia, but in 2004 had a population greater than Philadelphia. Much had changed in Mosul by the time Joe Post first set foot in the city in 2007. “The craziest thing I saw was on my first mission. We were constantly targeted, especially during the first six months,” says Joe, and spares most of the details of how an occupied bus exploded before his eyes. “The smell makes it real. You’ve never smelled such a God-awful smell. Just thinking about it makes me want to gag.” The recall of the sounds, sights, and smells of war are something Joe lives with every day. “I grew up in a family where most of the men served. That had a lot to do with why I joined the military,” says Joe, who spent four years in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer. But he wasn’t that kid who went straight from high school graduation to boot camp. It took him a while to enlist. The construction-minded Joe went to Pennsylvania College of Technology after high school and then to Millersville to obtain a management degree. But the call of the armed forces was too strong and in 2005, at age 25, he joined the Army. “For me, being older was a big benefit. I had seen things. I had a lot of the kid stuff out of my system at that point,” says Joe. “It was a good opportunity, too. I got a pretty good signing bonus. They paid my student loans.” As a college graduate, he was immediately advanced to the rate of E4, giving him a little more credibility than other boots. He went to Fort Leonard Wood for basic training and his first duty station was Fort Hood, Texas, where he arrived in 2006. “Basically, we were training up to go to Iraq,” recalls Joe. He was part of the 20,000 plus troops sent to Iraq as part of President George W. Bush’s surge strategy. “At the time when I was in Mosul, that was the hot spot. We had no idea where we were going and where we were going was by far the worst spot in the war. It was pretty nasty.” Joe was part of a route clearance team sent in to clear IEDs (improvised explosive devices, a term made household during the War in Afghanistan) and its evolution, the EFP (explosively formed penetrator). EFPs explode and form an armorpiercing projectile and often kill the attacked vehicle’s crew with the blast’s heat. “We would find IEDs and sometimes they were taken for intel and other times they were blown in place. That was the lion’s share of my mission set when I was over there,” says Joe, whose missions discovered an average of four IEDs. “Most of the time (devices) were finding you. In an urban area, whenever everyone starts leaving, that’s a good indication something is going to happen… the shops start closing their windows and their doors. “War is one of those things where you don’t really know unless you’ve done it. And I hate saying that because it minimizes things that other people go through. You don’t really know when you go through it. It’s when you come back.” Once Joe was back home, he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which manifests in panic attacks and hypervigilance. He still doesn’t do well with fireworks, but he is making progress with his PTSD. Talking about his experience and empathizing with others is helpful. He drives for a living, so a lot of his working day and free time involves listening to podcasts. It was only a matter of time until he turned to one to tell his story. He recorded an episode of “This is War” in which he bares the ugliness of his experience and recounts the lives he’s seen lost. “It was really cathartic. I felt like I was being self-serving… but with going through what I went through and my PTSD I knew it would be beneficial for other people,” says Joe. “It’s tough, because PTSD is not like having a broken arm or a wound that someone can physically see.” Approximately 15 of every 100 Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom veterans suffer from a PTSD episode each year. Help can be found by calling the Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273- 8255, speaking with a fellow combat vet at (877) 927-8387, or by using the PTSD Program Locator at www.va.gov.
28 minutes | a year ago
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Michael C. Upton Story Sponsor: CORK FACTORY HOTEL 480 New Holland Avenue Lancaster, PA 17602 (717) 735-2075 • corkfactoryhotel.com Flowers and dreams fill Jenny Mercandetti’s days. Her full-time job is Director of Wedding Sales and Coordination at the Cork Factory Hotel, but she has a larger role in the lives of many Lancastrians. This is no princess meets prince fairy tale. Happily ever after is a concept deferred. The magic of her love story lies in its tragedy. “I’d been dumped by somebody and that really ended badly. I was heartbroken,” recalls Jenny. Today she is upbeat, a wide and welcoming smile appearing while remembering how she first met the man who would change her life forever. Seeing her heartbreak, her friends encouraged her to try online dating and she listened to their advice, reluctantly. It was a good thing. “I met Shaun in March 2016. We met for coffee after vetting each other out. I knew early on he was somebody I was meant to meet, and we connected on so many levels.” Jenny and Shaun had the same tastes in music and movies. They shared the same values. Their relationship bloomed quickly, but like autumn which takes away the flowers of summer, life took Shaun from Jenny. The morning of Sunday, February 5, 2017 was cold and overcast. Jenny found Shaun suffering from cardiac arrest in the bathroom of his Millersville home. Shortly afterwards he was pronounced dead, the result of a multiple drug toxicity overdose—cocaine and fentanyl. His death was one of the first in the area from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 80 times stronger than morphine. With her heart breaking again, Jenny was stunned. She knew Shaun wrestled with addiction. On one of their first dates, he explained he was an alcoholic active in the recovery community of Lancaster. “I thought drinking was his only vice, but he alluded to a past he was not proud of. It was not till later on that I realized he was battling drug addiction and that alcohol was the gateway,” says Jenny. You see, Shaun was clean and sober for two and a half years, but on his 34th birthday, December 27th, 2016, he decided to have a drink to celebrate. She was worried, but their lives seemed stable and he reassured her he was in control. “As the days went on, he started to drink a little more often,” says Jenny, who had no real experience being around someone with substance issues. “It took about five weeks from his birthday until the day he passed away… if I knew then what I know now…” What Jenny knows now is what addiction can look like. She knows the pain of self blame. What has helped is not being afraid to share her and Shaun’s story and continue to keep his most positive aspects alive through a foundation created in his memory, the Mighty Mehal Foundation. “It was only after Shaun passed away when I realized how much of an impact he had on other people in recovery. When Shaun died not only did it shake me to my core, but it shook the Lancaster recovery community to its core,” says Jenny. “In recovery Shaun developed this nickname; they called him ‘Mighty’ Mehal.” The Mighty Mehal Foundation provides financial assistance to men and women who have successfully completed a detox program and are seeking residency in a recovery or sober-living house. The aid goes towards housing fees and rent. The foundation aids those who really have no other financial means and reach out to the foundation with an application. (To raise money, the foundation holds an alcohol-free, charity casino night every February and other events throughout the year.) “These are folks who do not qualify for funding, who do not have family or friends who can provide support to them,” explains Jenny, who admits to being stunned by the amount of people struggling with addiction—something she noticed only after Shaun passed away. “Lancaster has a tremendous recovery community. Unfortunately, like many people who are battling addiction he fell off the wagon at one point and he didn’t make it… There are still days when I go through a lot of beating myself up over it. Even though he doesn’t get to be with me till the end of my life, I was able to be with him until the end of his. The foundation makes it possible for him to live forever in a way.” Through Shaun’s life and tragedy, Jenny has found a way to give others the help they need to avoid the perils of addiction. Happily ever after doesn’t always look like it does in fairy tales. For more information on the Mighty Mehal Foundation, visit mightymehal.org.
27 minutes | a year ago
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Michael C. Upton Story Sponsor: HORSE INN 540 East Fulton Street Lancaster, PA 17602 (717) 392-5528 • horseinnlancaster.com I met a man in the forest near Kirkwood dressed in lederhosen. He sports a red kerchief around his neck. His head is covered in a green, handmade woolen cap and his white whiskers peak out from its sides, framing his well-aged face. His eyes are glazed over and losing sight. He’s got a rugged pair of hiking boots, perfect for leading the curious through the enchanted world of nature surrounding him. He smiles. For 39 years, Mr. Rich (a.k.a. Richard Humphreys) has been entertaining children of all ages at Gnome Countryside, an enchanted and themed nature trail winding through his Colerain Township property. The former art teacher started the educational attraction shortly after he was forced into retirement due to vision loss from macular degeneration connected to a lifetime of diabetes. Before we took a shortened trail walk on a rainy morning in August, we sat and talked in a hovel-like room filled with story-telling devices, books on Gnomes and bits of treasured past. “They say the gnomes are nocturnal, so I’ve never seen one, but I’ve had a great time looking for them,” says Rich. “A lot of kids tell me they see gnomes and fairies, which I think is pretty neat. I’m a firm believer there are legends of little people to foster the imagination of children. And it does work.” Rich first discovered the wee spirits when living in Iceland. He also traveled to Denmark where they flourish in folklore. “There are legends of little people in all the indigenous cultures,” explains Rich, who produces a world map specked with red dots marking gnome activity—Northern Europe is almost completely covered in red. He points out a small red dot on Lancaster County. “This is such a beautiful woods, it’s just breathtaking. It’s the perfect place to look for signs of the nisse,” says Rich about why he chose here for his endeavor. “I love outdoor work. Now it’s gotten pretty difficult.” Rich openly talks about his sight loss, his diagnosis of diabetes at age 14 and life spent monitoring blood sugar levels. Without insulin, he would have only lived to age 17. When his blood sugar gets high, he feels extremely lethargic, and when it is low, he can lose consciousness. His vision started leaving him in 1980. “Diabetes has been such a major factor in my life. A big part of my life is forcing myself to do things. And I’ve been a pretty terrible risk taker,” says Rich, who throughout his life has been attracted to doing things for the experience, like climb to the absolute top of a 120-foot tall Norway spruce, circumnavigate the globe and walk from Ohio to Lancaster. “I’ve had lots of adventures in my life,” says Rich, whose new adventure is here teaching kids—and the occasional adult. He’s legally blind, but can distinguish outlines with what is left of his sight in his right eye. He sees no detail, but knows the nature trail and his home perched above it by heart. “I’m written about in a book, 50 Secrets of the Longest Living People with Diabetes; my secret is humor.” It’s true; we spent a lot of time laughing. “I love to hear children laugh. Sometimes I wonder if they are laughing at me or with me, but it really doesn’t make any difference because I love to hear kids laugh,” says Rich, who pulls out a pair of “silly oversized sunglasses,” which he wears to greet kids before they get off the bus. “Everybody comes here, we sit down … and I really can’t see, even with these glasses on.” After the introduction, we head out into the rain to the half-mile trail where we receive comedic anecdotes, discover talking rocks; pound on a gazebo-sized, homemade drum and come to a troll bridge where we are given the choice to go over or under—being a rainy day and that we are boring adults, we chose to go over. A section of the trail turns into a playground where the kids can enjoy some free time. “It’s probably one of my favorite parts of the trail because they get to explore, build gnome houses, and stack rocks, which I love doing,” says Rich. Gnome Countryside is one of those “best kept secrets” in Lancaster County and gets a lot of “oh yeah, I heard about that place” reactions, but the true gem of the forest is Rich. The lessons he teaches come subtly, with humor and sincerity. He teaches about our differences as human beings, the importance of respect and the necessity of Earth stewardship. Meeting him was like no other experience I’ve ever had in my life. Go to gnomecountryside.org to book your visit.
14 minutes | a year ago
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Michael C. Upton Story Sponsor: ENVY STUDIO 24 West King Street Lancaster, PA 17603 (717) 435 9343 • bnvied.net “I realized I was not going to go anywhere if I kept putting myself down.” – Frosoula Romano The confidence and certainty Frosoula Romano’s bright smile conveys was not always as evident as it is now. Hidden inside her was a mass of anxiety, which started in high school. As she moved into adulthood, the feelings grew and after she became a mom, the anxiety completely manifested and started to affect her life. “After I had my first son, there were some really intense years,” says Frosoula, who internalized any stress. “While I tried to keep it all together on the outside, I would just come home and crumble for a little bit.” There’s reflection of this behavior in her name. Frosoula* is a diminutive name of Effrosini, which is derived from the Greek word effraino meaning “to bring joy” or “to please.” While bringing joy to the world around her, she lost the joy and pleasure within herself. “For me, I had to learn a lot of self love. There was a lot of doubt, criticism, patterns of thought that were breaking me down. It was very debilitating at times.” There were no specific incidents that triggered her anxiety; anything from new social situations to the demands of normal, everyday life became a catalyst for anxiety. As it became more and more overwhelming, she worried her feelings were leading to depression. The first thing she did was talk with her family doctor. Frosoula tried several medications, none of which worked for her. “I’m sure medication works for some people, but it just did not work for me, my body, or my spirit. I had to go a different route,” says Frosoula. She had to learn a whole new perspective. On a whim, she hit the gym. The routine of working out seemed to help; it provided a release she did not know she needed. “I remember looking in the exercise room—I’d never taken a class before—and I saw a bunch of women with barbells. I was like, ‘Whoa, what is this?’” remembers Frosoula before she signed up for her first Les Mills Bodypump class. “It was the group of people that took it to the next level for me, the sense of support and no judgement.” Bodypump is marketed as the original barbell class and is offered as the “ideal workout for anyone looking to get lean, toned and fit—fast.” The program is offered at a number of gyms around the area. “It gave me the confidence to take other classes, to meet other people, and then start realizing how open all of these people are,” says Frosoula, who recognizes she had, and still has, a great support system with her family. “I wasn’t alone.” Her anxiety has faded over time and working out became one of her tools. She fed the newfound desire providing her with results and eventually became an instructor of Bodyflow, a Les Mills yoga-based program. She finds the program calming and the workout allows her to find inner peace. “I needed something to bring it down a notch. I’ve learned to have a meditative state in a lot of stuff. When I get up and instruct a class, I am zoned out and in my own world,” says Frosoula, and one of the biggest things she had to learn was to accept being in the moment. “We are always worrying about the future or worrying about the past. That is not helping.” She effraino (translate as makes happy) her family and announces being a mom is her full-time job— her 12-and 8-year-old sons are active kids—but beyond teaching at the Hempfield recCenter and for private classes, Frosoula is also a Reiki practitioner and a doTerra essential oils consultant. Reiki is a palm-healing therapy in which a practitioner places their hands lightly on or over a patient’s body to facilitate healing. The alternative healing practice was developed in Japan in 1922 and combines the two words: rei meaning soul or spirit and ki meaning vital energy. doTerra is a brand of essential oils—distilled from plants and other natural ingredients—sold by a multi-level marketing company. “I would never suggest anyone not take their medication, but all of this helps me,” she says. “It all starts with reflecting on your own thoughts. Our thoughts can make us or break us. We all need to look at our perspective. We really have to start giving ourselves more.” (*It is also the Greek name day for the 25th of September.)
9 minutes | a year ago
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Michael C. Upton Story Sponsor: ARGIRES MAROTTI NEUROSURGICAL ASSOCIATES OF LANCASTER 160 North Point Boulevard, Suite 200 Lancaster, PA 17601 (717) 358-0800 • argiresmarotti.com Jeremy Crouse grew up in Columbia. He took it for granted. “I thought Columbia and Lancaster were kinda whack,” says Jeremy, relaxing in the backyard of his parent’s home on Lancaster Ave. “You don’t know and appreciate it until you get away from it for a few years. It’s super cool and I’m proud to be a Columbia resident.” Jeremy did leave the area. He discovered an appreciation for Lancaster County. But it was a hard road, a road pocked with drug abuse, questionable choices, and ultimately rock bottom. “I was living on the streets. Basically, my alarm was a sprinkler system in a community park where I was sleeping,” says Jeremy, recalling the depths of his five-year stay in Las Vegas. “Oh yeah, I hit rock bottom. Out there it’s Sin City and it will definitely play on any of your vices. It’s definitely going to take ahold of you.” After working in local restaurants as a young man, it was the hospitality industry that led him to Vegas. The city offered him a level of professionalism, respect, and success he could not find in Lancaster County. “It felt good to be appreciated in that line of work. There’s a lot of opportunity in Vegas,” says Jeremy, who drove out with nothing to lose and got a job working in a Wolfgang Puck establishment. “At first it was fun. I was literally on my own for the first time in my life and it felt great, actually.” In Columbia, bars shut down at 2:00 a.m. In Vegas, bars don’t close. Most city residents are transient, cold people and while Jeremy admits it is a great place to visit, living there is not for everyone. It surely wasn’t for him. The glamour and the bright lights faded in his eyes. “The strip is a glorified street, once you step off that strip it is nothing but terrible. It’s very misleading,” says Jeremy. “My goal was to go out to Vegas for my career—and there is some great dining, and there are wonderful things about the city—I just went off that path.” The National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates almost 17% of Las Vegas area residents over the age of 12 have used illicit drugs (not considering marijuana or prescription drugs). In 2016, 7.5% of all deaths were attributed to methamphetamine, ecstasy, and other psychostimulants. Addiction, as Jeremey defines it, is a misleading relationship. At first, he felt great, looked good, was successful, but ultimately he wound up spending two months in a hospital after being in Vegas. He’d lost 75 pounds since the day he arrived five years prior. His kidneys started to shut down. “It was really, really bad,” says Jeremy. “And there was absolutely nothing out there to help. I was looking for help.” One night in the park, a police officer saw complete desperation on the face of Jeremy, who wanted only to go home. After their meeting, the officer got Jeremy a bus ticket east. “I needed to come home to love. That’s what saved me,” says Jeremy, the recounting of the story touching him emotionally. “I came home with a pair of jeans and a bag full of paperwork. It’s crazy. I had a lot of healing to do.” Moving home eliminated his access to drugs. It also humbled him. He didn’t expect to be moving into his parent’s home in his late 30s. “I had to work really hard. I put my ass on the bus every day to go to work. I had to do the work, but I have a wonderful family who support me. Inevitably, it was up to me to put myself back on a successful journey,” says Jeremy. “There are weak moments, but I have to just focus on the good that is happening now. So many positive things have happened over the past three years that it would be a complete waste of time to ruin it for a high.” Completely clean, he’s now a licensed Realtor and he thanks many great mentors for the success he is having in his new occupation. Real estate and the relationships it builds are his new highs. “Buying a home is a memorable moment in most people’s lives. To come from where I was…it is amazing to me. It feels really good,” Jeremy says; he’s happy to be back in “whack” Lancaster County. “Vegas is not a fond memory. There’s nothing I built out there that I miss.”
26 minutes | a year ago
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Brooke Carlock Miller Story Sponsor: ALPHA DOG ADVERTISING 150 North Prince Street Lancaster, PA 17603 (717) 517-9944 • alphadogadv.com She doesn’t remember the night she and her adoptive mother had to flee Ethiopia for their safety, but Patience Buckwalter loves to hear the story. “The militia came into our small village, and they were hurting people. It was too dangerous to stay,” she explains. Her mother escaped in the middle of the night and made the 15-hour trek with then three-year-old Patience to Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. The pair then made their way to the United States, where they settled near her mother’s family in upstate New York. “My mother was a missionary nurse in Ethiopia for eight years,” Patience continues. “My birth mother got really sick and passed away. My father was a hunter. I was the youngest of my siblings, and he wasn’t quite sure how to take care of a baby.” Her father took her to a nearby clinic, hoping that someone would be able to take better care of his child. It was there that her mom, a single woman, created a bond with one-year-old Patience and starting asking around about the process of adoption. Thinking of his baby’s future, her father agreed. Patience continues, “She would have liked to keep me in Ethiopia, so we could be close to my siblings and him. But he completely understood when we had to leave in such a rush.” Despite having to leave Ethiopia, Patience and her mom stayed in contact with her birth family. “We’d write letters, send pictures,” she says. “I went back for the first time that I remember when I was 11, and then again when I was 23, and we’re hoping to go back this year. We’ve always kept the Ethiopian culture alive in our household—having Ethiopian food, going to Ethiopian church services—and my mother speaks the language, Oromo.” After graduating from high school, Patience and her mother moved to Lancaster to be near her grandparents, who had retired to Landis Homes. She earned her associate degree in human services from HACC, then her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Millersville, where she now serves as an adjunct professor and field liaison. Her experiences as an Ethiopian adoptee spurred her interest in different cultures and led her to specialize in working with immigrants and refugees in the Lancaster area: “I have always been interested in different cultures, and foods, languages. Just the way somebody’s culture influences them and how they interact with other people.” Not long after moving to Lancaster, Patience and her mother became friends with a Syrian and Iraqi family that moved in nearby. As years passed, she noticed that the family still had trouble adjusting to everyday life in Lancaster. “I would go there to visit them and I would always be asked to check their mail, just help guide them—which I’m totally fine with doing,” she admits, “but even though they had past their resettlement process time, they still needed that extra support. I also noticed that the woman struggled with maintaining or getting employment outside of the home. Just culturally, you know? Like, ‘Do I work more or less hours? What kind of work can I do? I don’t really have the degree, I don’t have the skillset.’” One thing Patience also noticed was that every time she visited, the woman would provide food. “She’s an amazing cook,” Patience laughs. “So one day I was thinking, and said, ‘If I provided a space for you to showcase your food, or a space for people to eat your food, would you enjoy cooking on a regular basis?’ and she said, ‘Can we do it tomorrow?’” It was there that the idea for the Grape Leaf Café was born. In 2018, Patience, who doesn’t cook and didn’t know the first thing about the restaurant industry, took it upon herself to find a mentor and learn everything she could to allow Lancaster’s refugee women to showcase their cultural cuisine—and get paid for it. “We started just as a pop-up because we didn’t have a location, and we would just go to little events, pop-up events. We’d go to conferences, fairs… at first I had six women cooking. I had a Syrian woman, Congolese, Sudanese, Pakistani, Nepali,” she beams. As word spread about the café, Patience had more and more women with different cultural backgrounds reach out to offer their expertise. Now, the café has found a permanent home on James Street in downtown Lancaster. Located nearby is Patience’s other passion project, the Grape Leaf Empowerment Center, which she founded to help Lancaster’s many refugees and immigrants gather socially as well as receive specialized services and resources. “We serve youth, men, women and children,” says Patience, adding, “and it’s a safe gathering space. It can support families beyond 90 days. I realized that we needed something, and through just hearing from other communities, people needed a center that they could call their own. And so this is the center that they can call their own.” Much to Patience’s delight, two of the first groups to regularly utilize the Empowerment Center were from Africa. In the end, behind everything she does to give back to the community is the thought of her birth family, still living in poverty in Ethiopia. “I feel so privileged to be here,” she acknowledges. “Our lives are so, so very different, but we’re still connected by the Ethiopian culture.” To learn more about Grape Leaf, visit grapeleafcenter.com.
14 minutes | a year ago
REVELO ISSUE 05 • Written by Michael C. Upton Story Sponsor: GOOD’S INSURANCE AGENCY, INC. 20 Trinity Drive #100 Leola, PA 17540 (717) 661-6100 • goodsinsuranceagency.com It’s not the average request: “Can you throw your shield?” But it is a request Jason Johnson hears a lot from the kids he visits in costume as Captain America. “I say ‘No, I can’t throw my shield. It will bounce off and break stuff and I’ll have to pay for it,’” explains Jason, Founder and Director of the Central PA Heroes Coalition. The children he and other heroes visit all need a little time away in a fantasy world, where they can be awestruck fans, where they can forget the reality around them. The non profit’s mission is simple: to bring happiness and smiles to all children through the love of costume characters. It just so happens the 60-member roster of heroes specializes in putting smiles on the faces of kids living with debilitating, life-threatening illnesses (and never charges a fee for their appearance). Jason started transforming into Cap for comic conventions and he met a friend who was doing the same thing for charity. He thought donating his time to visit sick kids was a lot cooler than paying to attend a convention, so he joined his friends Batman and Spiderman at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Ronald McDonald House. “They were visiting some children out there and they needed a Captain America. I did the visit and it was really eye-opening to me,” says Jason. “I’ve developed long-lasting friendships with some of these kids.” Captain America is his go-to character, but Jason has been Green Arrow, Star-Lord, and Deadpool. (When he was Star-Lord, his son accompanied him as Rocket Raccoon.) “But, I always go back to Captain America. He’s probably the most popular character I do, but if Spiderman is around, I might as well just go home,” jokes Jason, who says kids connect to the Cap character’s leadership. Kids also keep Cap, err… Jason, on his toes. He has to be up to date not just on the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, but also the storylines from comic books, cartoon series, and fan theories, which are everywhere on YouTube. “I used to read a lot of comics when I was a kid, then I got into video games, but I always loved reading comic books,” says Jason, who now prefers trade paperback editions where he can read a compilation of books or an entire story arc in one volume.* “I look at us as comic book versions of therapy dogs. I’ve been known to just hang out at a kid’s house in costume for an hour playing video games. That was enough for them.” The Heroes still make rounds to children’s hospitals, but the majority of their efforts have been focused on home visits. They hold annual events like an indoor trick or treat trail in E-Town and fundraising events like superhero breakfasts; appearances at malls, charity drives, and restaurants; and special superhero adventures. A superhero adventure recently played out for one lucky boy named Noah. Enlisting the power of Lancaster businesses (Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse, Escape on Queen, Premiere #1 Limousine Service, Altana Rooftop Lounge, Visit Lancaster City, The Spice & Tea Exchange, Fox and Crow Studios), Lancaster Bureau of Police, and a bunch of volunteers, Noah was able to live a superhero day with a full-blown, tactical showdown versus Hydra, Thanos, Black Cat, Green Goblin, and more at Lancaster County Park. “Altana was our Avenger’s Tower,” explains Jason. “Basically, our little buddy Noah was running around with Spiderman trying to stop Thanos.” The event was put into a short film by Aurora Films and the movie captures Jason’s heroics. It’s easy to see how the father of three from Elizabethtown was swept up in the powerful and immediate connection kids have with these characters. His own daughter has taken part in the action as well, dressing as the X-Man—or X-Woman—Jubilee. “I like to think what they have taken away from the experience is the sense of giving back,” says Jason. “They’re getting to be teenagers now so I’m waiting for it to become embarrassing.” The “Heroes Family” is big and growing; the recruitment door is always open, even for people who don’t want to dress up. Jason and the rest of his superheroes are always looking for help. Heroes… assemble! *As both the author of this piece, comic book enthusiast, and Marvel superfan (no costumes though, by Odin’s beard!) I recommend picking up writer Jason Aaron’s Goddess of Thunder which collects Thor numbers 1-5 and will give MCU fans an early look at what might be found in the 2021 movie “Thor 4: Love and Thunder” starring Natalie Portman as Thor. For more information on the Central PA Heroes Coalition, visit paheroescoalition.com.
56 minutes | 2 years ago
REVELO ISSUE 04 • Written by Michael C. Upton Story Sponsor: PENNSYLVANIA COLLEGE OF ART & DESIGN 204 North Prince Street, Lancaster PA 17608 (717) 396-7833 • www. pcad.edu Great or small, with triumphant applause or obscure anonymity, everyone wants to make their mark on the world. “I never signed any of my stuff in art school and the habit just stuck. Everything was untitled,” says the artist recognized as Untitled Mark. Apparently the decision did not have any deep, secret meaning to him. “I just did it.” Or, moreover, he didn’t do it. What has become his nom de plume as a fine artist, Untitled Mark’s absence of an artist’s mark became his signature and he embraced the name. “I’m an artist. I like to put my mark on everything. It doesn’t matter if it is paint, pencil, wood; it doesn’t matter. I put my mark on everything no matter the medium or material,” says Mark in his Hazel Street workspace surrounded by well-used welding equipment, finished pieces of his early art, and various fragments and shapes of metal and wood. In the center of the space there’s an old wheelchair, which he says is good for napping. Human-sized model planes hang from the ceiling that Mark rescued from his neighbor’s trash. He sees beauty in salvaged material; it is the epicenter of his creativity. “New material is too boring and plain,” he says. “You don’t have that age—that soul that’s in old material that just pops out at you… and that’s what I look for.” Imperfections such as rust or dings are perfections to Mark. His own imperfections moved him to become what he is today. Born in Washington State, Mark moved around the U.S. with his parents who were doctors, landing in Lancaster at a young age. He was then shipped off to boarding school in Connecticut as an effort to help with learning disabilities and was given several diagnosis throughout the years including A.D.H.D. He spent his high school years struggling with bullying and his father nearly died of cancer. As a teenager, Mark viewed his childhood as bad but now realizes his parents had attempted to give him a great childhood. Nevertheless, he struggled with those perceived demons and turned to drugs to cope, to find his high. “I was living on rock bottom for quite some time,” says Mark, who celebrated ten years of sobriety on October 28, 2018. “I realized I couldn’t accomplish anything being on rock bottom. A light switch clicked, and I needed to do something with my life and art was what helped me get back.” Creating a better life for himself became his goal. At the age of 25 he started taking evening classes at Pennsylvania College of Art and Design and shortly after enrolled full-time. He took welding classes at Harrisburg Area Community College. While working as a scenic artist at Tait Towers, he was presented with an opportunity that paved his artistic course. Mark was asked to furbish Rock Lititz. “It was the first time I ever made furniture. It was a big leap,” he says. “I got thrown in to the wolves.” The series of furnishings outfitted the production rehearsal space for the entertainment industry’s largest design facility. Mark found his connection to art when he was young while building with LEGO blocks and Erector Sets. He is inspired by the work of Alexander Calder, the MoMA-collected, American sculptor widely regarded for his mobiles and public sculptures—with four nearby in Philly and one Swarthmore. Calder’s incorporation of movement transcended abstract expressionism and gave his art life. Mark’s art is a self-described visual contradiction between form and function, together with unlikely textures, shapes, and materials. “I like to be able to use my hands and feel the mediums. I love clay, but after clay probably metal,” says Mark, who relishes the sense of accomplishment at being able to manipulate the materials he works with. Much of his work incorporates a distinct use of angles, raw metal zigs and zags with perceived abandon and direction. He aims to create visual contradictions between form and function. Length is a fluid concept. His subjects seem arbitrary, ranging from a heavy, pointed-nose skateboard made of repurposed wood and rough metal resting in a corner of his shop to commercial work in some of the area’s most recognizable businesses, like Spring House Brewing and American Bar and Grill. Size is dictated only by space and Mark’s will. “I don’t like anything having straight lines. I like to have that offset. It’s just for my sanity I guess.” Art is what keeps him sane—his words. Art delivers the strength he needs never to return to the days of substance abuse. “Art has been that one thing that has kept me strong, so I wouldn’t faulter or go back to hard drugs and alcohol,” says Mark, openly. “Everybody has their little happy place. Art is my happy place. I can go there and everything else dissolves and there is nothing wrong in the world.” To view and purchase Untitled Mark’s work, visit www.untitledmark.com.
56 minutes | 2 years ago
REVELO ISSUE 04 • Written by Brooke Carlock Miller Story Sponsor: ZIG’S BAKERY & CAFE 800 East Newport Road, Lititz PA 17543 (717) 626-7981 • www.zigsbakery.com As Kitty Byk shares the stories of her harrowing experience during the Holocaust in Austria, she laughs. She laughs as she describes lying in the yard of a work camp, staring up at the sky and listening to the whistles of bombs falling all around her. She laughs as she recounts hacking a cow to pieces and eating the raw shreds because she hadn’t eaten meat in ten years. Kitty’s ability to recall these traumatic events with laughter rather than tears or terror serves as a testament to her resilience. Hearing her speak is a moving, and also somewhat mystifying journey into the human spirit. Kitty was 12 years old when Hitler’s Nazi party took over her hometown of Vienna, Austria in 1938. Her father was Jewish, and lost his job when race laws took effect and businesses were no longer allowed to employ Jews. When Kitty’s uncle, a WWI veteran, was sent to a concentration camp and executed, Kitty’s father realized he was in grave danger. Sponsored by a cousin living in the United States, Kitty’s father escaped from Austria in 1939, begrudgingly leaving his family behind. Because she had Jewish blood, Kitty was not allowed to attend school. She was told to report for work at a place that sewed army uniforms. Kitty was a hard worker, and did well, until one day when a large needle in her sewing machine slipped and punctured her thumb. The wound became infected, and Jews were not allowed medical care, so Kitty was forced to stay home. Because she was not working, she lost her food ration benefits. Kitty explains, “Of course I hadn’t been getting any food on those days that I wasn’t working, so I immediately went back to the Labor Department when I was healed. The minute I got there, they took me and put me in one of their vehicles. They took me to the Siemens factory on the outskirts of Vienna. And that’s where I spent the next two years.” Kitty smiles as she remembers the other inhabitants of the work camp where she spent ages 14 to 16. It was a “funny group of people,” she recalls, consisting of French POWs, Czechoslovakian prisoners, a group of nuns who had been caught harboring Jews, and a few of what the Nazis called “undesirables,” Kitty explains, “including me, but also prostitutes and homosexuals.” The motley crew was sheltered in a warehouse with a makeshift wall separating the men and women, some uncomfortable bunks without mattresses, pillows, or blankets, and one toilet in a corner. “Every morning we were marched out and inspected… and if we were found ready to work, you were ok. If not, you disappeared,” Kitty says matter-of-factly. Two years of grueling work manufacturing parts for V-2 rockets passed by, during which Kitty survived on a daily ration of one piece of bread, a cup of hot water mixed with milk powder, and a small cup of “mush” made from boiled vegetable peels. On days when fighting came close to the factory, the “undesirables” were not allowed to enter the air raid shelter, so Kitty often sat in the courtyard, watching the planes. “We would see the planes and we would make bets, because you can tell from the whistle of a bomb whether it’s going to land close to you or not.” One morning in 1945, the prisoners lined up as usual, but no one came to inspect them. The group emerged from the barracks to find the camp deserted, the German soldiers having fled due to the advance of the Russian army. Kitty and a French POW friend decided to walk back to her hometown of Vienna— a trip that took two days. She arrived at her old apartment to find her mother gone, but most of the buildings on her street miraculously still intact. Russian soldiers occupied the city, “taking almost anything that wasn’t nailed down and shipping it off to Russia,” Kitty says. “We had no electricity, and food was almost impossible to get.” The next few years involved both amusing and heartbreaking tales of survival, including working for the Russians at a leather factory, hiding from soldiers to avoid being assaulted, moonlighting as a magician’s assistant in an embarrassingly skimpy costume to earn money, and tumbling into a bomb crater and badly wounding a knee on the way to the country to beg farmers for food. “War is terrible,” Kitty muses, “but the aftermath for a conquered city is much, much worse. When I’m asked what we ate, I always say, ‘You don’t want to know, but this I can tell you. There were no cats, dogs, squirrels, pigeons or even crows alive in the end.’” In May of 1946, just after her 20th birthday, Kitty received a letter from her father. He had remarried and wanted Kitty to join him in the United States. Immigration laws allowed her to travel as a dependent only as long as she was under the age of 21, so Kitty hastily made the decision to leave her mother in Vienna and make the journey. She joined a transport of concentration camp survivors on a freight train to Bremerhaven, encountering harsh winter conditions without food, heat, or toilet facilities. Crossing the Atlantic on a freight ship, she endured storms and the violent seasickness of nearly all on board, before finally arriving at Ellis Island to meet her father. Kitty’s story is so vast and rich in detail, it is almost impossible to capture it in print. Whether time has softened the sting of her suffering, or circumstances necessitated fortitude that not many of us cannot imagine, Kitty insists, “I must say that I wasn’t scared at all… pretty much the whole time. I guess I’m just lucky that way.”
56 minutes | 2 years ago
REVELO ISSUE 04 • Written by Michael C. Upton Story Sponsor: ARGIRES MAROTTI 160 North Point Boulevard, Lancaster PA 17601 (717) 358-0800 • www.argiresmarotti.com “I was in my 20s when I received a phone call from my cousin,” starts Lionel Adriano. His tale is tough to hear. It’s tougher to tell, I’m sure. He’s summoned the courage to share his story on a dreary afternoon from a seat in the salon he and his business partner will open in only a few days. Starting a business may not have been a stretch of the imagination for the Lionel who majored in business and finance at the University of Hawaii, but it was a world away in the mind of the Lionel who was homeless on the strange streets of Lancaster only a few years ago. “My cousin brought up some things in the past that had happened to the both of us by a relative. Some inappropriate things happened to her and I when we were little,” says Lionel, as his eyes begin to well up at the memory. The wounds are still fresh. His pain is real. The cousin recalled a time when the two were young, no older than age eight. On multiple occasions a relative showed the cousins pornography and asked questions, which led to inappropriate physical activity. The acts were something Lionel repressed. When he answered his cousin’s call he was living in California, struggling with a bad relationship. “I came here because we were planning to approach our relative. That’s how I got here,” he says. “I got here with a duffle bag and that is it. I wasn’t going to go back to Hawaii. California didn’t work out, so I didn’t want to go back there either.” When I ask him if he ended up working out the issue with the family member, the now 35-yearold Lionel answers resoundingly, “Yeah,” in a positive and solid voice. “I said what I needed to say. I knew that the potential for that relationship to end was there and unfortunately, that’s how it went. For me, I knew I needed to say something.” By his own admission, he had a hard time coping with the realization of his abuse. He started running with a dangerous crowd. He was taking any pills he could find. “I was doing whatever drug I could do to suppress the issue. I found myself contemplating suicide,” says Lionel, who eventually entered into a residential treatment program. His drug-filled days left him with little support once he was released. He was homeless in Lancaster, a city he knew little about. “This wasn’t the life I expected to live. And the only person who was going to be able to change that was me.” One morning something just clicked. He left the shelter and headed to McDonald’s to get a cup of coffee and a newspaper. He was going to find a job, start to turn things around. By chance, one of the few people in Lancaster Lionel knew and could call a friend was driving by and saw him. She picked him up, took him into LUXE Salon & Spa where she worked and cut his hair for free. “As I was in the chair getting ready to leave, the owner, Ana Kitova, came over and offered me a job,” says Lionel, who had completed an esthetician apprenticeship while in college. He stayed at LUXE for six years and will always be grateful of the kindness he was shown there. Now, he has moved on and opened a combination barbershop and beauty bar called Revolve Atelier. “This is kind of emotional… for good reasons,” says Lionel, looking around the studio. Revolve Atelier is a venture between Lionel and barber Matthew Schreck. He really had no interest in working with skin and beauty in the beginning. His apprenticeship and work while in college was a way to pay some bills, but one of his clients kept offering him a job in cosmetics. “Finally she gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” says Lionel, who now finds the work therapeutic. “More and more, I fell in love with it. The ability to make people feel better is the most rewarding part.” He doesn’t want to look ahead, because seven years was not that long ago, but he knows he is in a place to face new—positive—challenges. “Being homeless and being able to make it through, I see this as just another opportunity to push myself.” Looking back at the hard times, he says, “I wish I had the voice to ask for help. With things like drug abuse or molestation, it becomes such a part of your identity and when you are hiding that, it becomes embarrassing, you become ashamed. Slowly, you back yourself into a corner and you don’t know how to reach out. Shed your ego. It’s okay to ask for help.” Sage advice from someone who has lifted himself up.
56 minutes | 2 years ago
REVELO ISSUE 04 • Written by Michael C. Upton Story Sponsor: GREG ORTH’S SANDLER TRAINING 1175 Manheim Pike, Suite B, Lancaster PA 17601 (717) 459-3445 • www.thincbox.sandler.com Jen Nields wanted to be a humane officer since high school. After graduating, a position opened up at a new animal shelter and Jen jumped at the opportunity. She started working as a kennel attendant, became an assistant technician to veterinarians, and handled some office work. As her work experience grew, so did her responsibilities. “At one point in time I was the operations manager, the educational coordinator, and the humane society police officer all in one little ball for this shelter,” says Jen. Then in June of 2017, Jen’s family suffered a horrible tragedy when her father passed away abruptly. He did not have life insurance, and since they were already financially struggling, the Nields took a huge hit. Three weeks after his passing, his garage caught on fire and destroyed the items the family was planning on selling to make ends meet, leaving Jen to work three jobs in order to pitch in while her mother underwent heart surgery. Realizing that her mom also had trouble financially supporting her pets, Jen thought to herself, “How many other people go through this same situation or fall into a situation that is out of their control?” With her mother’s circumstance in mind, Jen pitched Santa Claws and Paws to the shelter and the team took to the idea. Santa Claws and Paws is a program that donates pet toys, treats, and beds to individuals and families who are experiencing hardships during the Christmas season. With help from the Lancaster City K-9 Unit, they were able to provide for 27 families throughout Lancaster County in their first year of operation. Jen plans to continue the program for the foreseeable future, and hopes to eventually include veterinary care. “Some people look at me and say, ‘I don’t know how you do your job!’ And I say, ‘I don’t know how you don’t!’” Beyond being just a job, fate ended up pairing Jen with a very special dog. One day while working at a vet hospital, she received a call from a friend regarding a 7-week-old puppy who was found on a Lancaster County farm. Barely breathing, emaciated, dehydrated, dangerously underweight, and infected with mange, his chances of survival were slim. “He was in really rough shape. I didn’t know if his ride in my car was going to be his last ride,” Jen recalls. “I got some blankets and made him this little bed on my passenger seat just so he had some comfort. I had seen a lot of dogs like him; not one time did I think he’s going to change the dog laws in PA. Not one time did I think, ‘This dog’s going to become famous and change everything in Lancaster County.’” The dog was later named Libre since he was rescued on Independence Day. Libre straddled life and death during his recovery and became a cause célèbre with charges of animal cruelty being forced against the previous owner. “Libre’s Law” was drafted less than a month later and was signed into law as the Animal Abuse Statute Overhaul bill in the summer of 2017. “Although these laws are not perfect and still need improvement, they gave recognition to suffering that wasn’t there previously,” explains 24-year-old Jen, who now serves as a Humane Law Enforcement Officer with the Pennsylvania SPCA, “A lot of people were outraged and realized something needed to be done.” There are generally two types of cases Jen comes across in her work. Sometimes a case is “black and white” and it is obvious an animal is in serious need of veterinary care or the owner is hoarding pets, like the recent case of over 100 cats—most blind due to lack of care—in one home. “Some involve very lengthy investigations, where I really have to look into details,” she adds. “It’s not my job as a cruelty officer to just go out and take everybody’s animals. That’s not what I want to do. If I can improve the situation and keep that animal in their home, that is my goal, unless the animal is in grave danger.” Her job is not only removing endangered dogs and cats from bad situations, but also handling mistreatment of farm animals. In Lancaster County, the ability to govern both urban and rural situations is a necessity. Growing up in Bird-in-Hand has provided Jen with a good understanding of her neighbors. There are two routes of engagement if an animal needs to be removed from an owner. First, and most peacefully, an owner can voluntarily surrender the animal. Otherwise, a search warrant is obtained to remove an animal from an abusive situation, which can sometimes be traumatic and downright dangerous. There’s a reason she wears a sidearm. “At the end of the day, you need the best outcome for the animals,” says Jen, who uses her empathy and understanding of human circumstances to navigate tough situations. “If you get angry or just react out of emotion, it isn’t going to help. I try really hard to not let the situation I walk into harden me to the world around me.” For more information or to donate to the PSPCA, visit www.pspca.org.
56 minutes | 2 years ago
REVELO ISSUE 04 • Written by Michael C. Upton Story Sponsor: MANHEIM IMPORTS 712 Lancaster Road, Manheim PA 17545 (717) 665-6611 • www.manheimimports.com Sean Hall admits that being a private investigator is only cool half of the time. When not ditching members of the Church of Scientology, chasing down members of the Amish Mafia, or helping the citizens of Lancaster, Sean spends a lot of time “sitting around.” Honestly though, who wants to hear about the boring bits? “When it is exciting, it can be just like it is on TV,” says Sean in the back room of his Duke Street office. On the far wall, a collection of gadgets sit on shelves in museum-like fashion: fake street light covers for hiding cameras, watches with built-in lenses, bolt-laden boxes meant to disguise tracking devices hidden under cars. “I got into that for a while. If I had to dress up, I put a gold watch on,” says Sean, pulling a piece from the shelf. A lot of the items are custom made, like the Starbucks cup with the pin-sized camera. Before he opened Lancaster Detective Agency, Sean served in the U.S. Air Force as a military police officer with top secret clearance. He returned to his native Pennsylvania and was meeting up with a friend for lunch when he took a most fortunate wrong turn and ended up in the parking lot of a detective agency. “So, I went in and got a job,” he says. “I was kind of in between… and I was always interested in the job, ever since I was a kid.” His first case was a suspicion of stalking “with a lot of harassment attached to it.” He was contacted by a concerned resident and, after a meeting and long discussion, decided to take the case. “A lot of little stuff can look like it’s not a big deal,” warns Sean. “There were other things that were going on at the same time. But then the lady’s dogs started dying.” Both he and the owner suspected someone was poisoning the pooches. So, he did a lot of “sitting around” and watching. He ended up catching the guy “doing something simple,” but enough to garner citations. He could never pin “the other stuff on him” and a motive for the perp’s actions was never revealed. Creepy, yes, but stalking cases are the most common job in his line of work, like when Sean caught a guy in Manor Township outside his client’s house, at night, wearing a ski-mask. He was able to detain the subject until police arrived and the stalker ultimately received a prison sentence of one year. “He was breaking into their children’s room a little after midnight. There was a relationship there. He had previously lit her porch on fire and put stuff in her gas tank,” says Sean. Catching criminals in the act is a rush, but Sean also investigates things like insurance fraud, child custody cases, and relationship matters like alimony, cohabitation, and infidelity. While local jobs are his bread-and-butter, Sean also has taken on some high-profile cases. His work investigating members of the Church of Scientology sounds like scenes from an action thriller. He gets off the plane in Tampa or Los Angeles and makes his way out of the airport only to spot a team of private investigators waiting for him. He takes a seat and waits. Hours pass. After a long enough time, he knows who is there waiting for him. Who else would stand around an airport exit for hours if they weren’t watching for someone in particular? Now knowing who he needs to ditch, he picks up his rental car and heads to a motel. The motel is a dummy location meant to throw anyone off his trail. He ditches the rental car, swapping it out for a vehicle set at a predetermined location. Next, he locates his mark. “I was hired by a production company that was filming a TV show reuniting families. My job was to locate the person inside of Scientology. It was an adventure. It was a lot of fun, but also very stressful,” says Sean, who also worked with Amish Mafia to track down “Lebanon” Levi Stoltzfus. In the Discovery channel show, Sean produces footage of the star having multiple girlfriends. The series about Scientology never aired, but he learned valuable lessons from the experience and made worthwhile connections. There’s more to being a licensed private investigator than preventing domestic violence and chasing down TV personalities, but Sean can’t let us in on all his secrets. However, once we finish this interview, he shows off his collection of spy gear… or perhaps better known as “tools of the trade.” It is a pretty cool job indeed.
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