It’s hard to get the whole story because Katie Barnes is so modest, so unassuming, about the good work she does.
“I don’t do anything so special,” she says, “There are a lot of other people – a lot of other people – who help. There are a lot of generous people here in Norwalk.”
And that’s certainly true. And now, thanks to Katie Barnes, all those generous people know who they can give their cash donations to, and their bake sale proceeds, and the clothing their kids outgrow – all the while knowing that their charity is going where it can do the most good.
“We’ve kind of adopted Miriam House,” Barnes says, speaking of the Catholic Charities shelter for mothers and children located in Norwalk. “It was back around Thanksgiving of 2009 that we really started getting involved.”
With Katie Barnes, it’s always “we,” never “I.” She heard somewhere that Miriam House needed help – food for the residents, and clothes and toys for the children.
“It was sad. The kids were wearing old clothes that didn’t fit very well, and they hardly had anything to play with. Just a couple of old puzzles. So I called my friend Toni who works at Miriam House and asked her what we could do for these people. We had a fund-raiser, raised some extra money, and bought them food for Thanksgiving – potatoes, bread, fresh vegetables and fruit. Then we had them put a wish list together for Christmas. We helped get them what they needed. I remember we made them some nice Christmas cookies that first year.”
Since then, the entire Wal-Mart family, including store manager Kathleen Sullivan, has pitched in.
“I remember getting a tour of the home after Thanksgiving,” Barnes says. “It was always clean and bright, but it wasn’t luxurious by any means. One of the mothers was giving me a tour. When we got to her room, she showed me a little Christmas tree. There was nothing under it for her child, nothing there for her. That really got to me. That’s when I realized, these people have nothing. It makes you grateful for what you have, I’ll tell you that.”
Like most parents, Amy Schnorberger gets teary talking about the gift that her children represent. But, unlike most parents, her gratitude is directed toward specific human beings as well as God. Because Amy and her husband, John, are the adoptive parents of Katy, 7, and Drew, 5, both of whom were granted life by mothers who could have chosen otherwise.
“When John and I got married, we just wanted to be parents. It didn’t matter how we accomplished that, really. We just wanted to raise children,” Mrs. Schnorberger said. “I can’t even tell you how much our children mean to us.”
[singlepic id=2 w=320 h=240 float=left]As you might expect, she has strong feelings on the topic of abortion. “To us, these birth families are heroes. They did what was best for the children, and not necessarily what was easiest for them at the time. They put aside what other people were telling them. They put aside their own understandable desire to get out of a difficult situation, and they chose adoption. I admire the courage and the faith of anyone who does that.”
Both adoptions were handled sensitively
“There are so many issues that surround any adoption. There is so much information both sets of parents need to have to make a good decision. Catholic Charities helped with all of that. There was no sense of hurrying the process along. They were thorough enough for all parties to feel they were making a good decision,” Mrs. Schnorberger said.
The Schnorbergers enjoy open adoptions for both of their children, which means they remain in periodic contact with the birth families of both of their children.
“How open you want your adoption to be is always up to the families involved,” Mrs. Schnorberger said. “And that’s where Catholic Charities is of service. They take the time to make sure the situation’s going to work for everybody – the child, of course, but also the birth family and the adoptive family. All of them need to be on the same page.”
The Schnorbergers looked at different adoption options – both international agencies and independent adoption services. But they felt that Catholic Charities’ compassionate and complete counseling process offered the best opportunity for both sets of parents to understand and give their consent.
“You have to remember, it’s not easy for birth mothers,” Mrs. Schnorberger said. “They have to think things through as they carry the child. And then at the end of that road, they have to say good-bye. I think it’s important that the selflessness of birth mothers be recognized.”
“In fact, at our house on Mother’s Day, these women are very much honored. It means so much when they tell us, ‘Every time we see you with these kids, we know we did what was best for them.’”