“If you hold on hard enough and believe firmly enough that anything is possible, you change your own life and you change someone else’s.” – Sara Kobylenski
Wednesday, October 17 began and ended with chilly weather and a bit of rain, but the staff, volunteers, board members, community partners, family, and friends who gathered underneath a tent in front of the Haven enjoyed some special moments in between honoring Sara Kobylenski when the air felt warm and the skies were clear. To some it was coincidence, to others it was another example of Haven Magic*.
The open house event on the 17th gave members of the community a chance to reminisce about the nine-and-a-half years of Sara’s tenure as Executive Director at the Upper Valley Haven and celebrate her future “retirement” as a social services consultant with organizations like the local Couch Family Foundation and Samaritan House/Tim’s House in St. Albans, VT. As Merritt Patridge (Board President) shared, “[we] could not be more excited that Sara remains in the field of social services in our community because there’s so much work to be done and she’s a true visionary.”
Guests enjoyed light refreshments, tours of the campus, and remarks by Merritt Patridge and Sara herself. In her introduction of Sara, Merritt told the audience, “It is not an exaggeration for me to say that working with Sara in this capacity at the Haven has been the most formative, memorable professional experience of my life.”
Event attendees were lucky enough to be in the company of the former directors of the Haven: Mary Feeney, Suzanne Stofflet, and Tom Ketteridge. The evening concluded with a special gift presentation from Tom Ketteridge who bestowed upon Sara the Haven rocking chair that he received upon his retirement, in hopes that Sara would one day—”a long time from now”—pass it along to Michael Redmond, the Haven’s incoming Executive Director. Although, he added with a smile, knowing Sara, she’s “not going to be sitting down rocking on the porch anywhere.”
Sara reflected on her time at the Haven and how her own family had become part of the Haven family. She spoke about the importance of the organization’s commitment to the concept of abundance and acknowledged the presence of all those in attendance: “Each and every one of you has contributed something and has brought your sense of hope and possibility to this campus.” In closing, Sara shared, “It is a privilege to be joining all the rest of you in the ranks of supporters, fans, donors, and hopefully at some point, volunteer, as I continue to feel the passion for the importance of this mission and this work in the community… and to understand how it happens only through partnerships, through a shared caring, created by the community, sustained by the community, in service to the community.”
*In keeping with Sara’s belief in the concept of abundance, the staff and volunteers at the Haven have experienced myriad examples of Haven Magic, which are unexplained examples of things working out or resources showing up in the nick of time before hope is lost.