You may know me as the Farm-2-Table lady, Ryan’s mom, or the Pro’s Wife. My name is Cheryl Lee, and I wear all those titles. . . and have earned many others over the years. Mark & I have been members of this community for almost 30 years. When our son was almost 2 years old, we moved from the Northwest suburbs and relocated to Mattoon, where my husband served as the Golf Professional at Mattoon Golf & Country Club for well over 20 years. The first and only neighborhood we looked at was Elm Ridge. For many reasons, it reminded me of the neighborhood my brothers and I grew up in in Central Pennsylvania. . . Osceola Mills. However, unlike Elm Ridge, our little town was divided with the “Crick” being the dividing line. My three brothers and I grew up on the other side of the crick. And, we were one of only two Catholic families in that neighborhood.
Should I share my story?
As this story unfolds, you will find a glimpse into how my mother “equipped” her children in the midst of what nowadays would be labeled a “a dysfunctional family.” Her card to me was my inspiration (and courage) to share this story.
It took many years to come to terms with my childhood, and I have labored over how to explain the impact the sentences written and placed inside a Christmas card had on my heart. My courage came in the form of scripture: Philippians 3 “13 Brothers and sisters . . But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
In the midst of an incredibly busy “week before Christmas”, I had to sign for an envelope my mother had mailed the week before. The card was lovely and the sentiment very touching. There was also a handwritten note neatly folded around a check. My mother and I had promised to ONLY send cards—but, neither of us held true to that promise! My heart was full, yet heavy as my mother is on a fixed income and care gives for the “elderly” for spending money. My mom is 85--but you didn’t hear that from me!
“I’m sure blessed with a loving family.” she wrote in her letter to me. “You like to give, so do it. Accept this from my loving heart. The act of giving increases my happiness!” Tears well up even now as I write this! In honor of my mother, I chose to donate the money to Fit-2-Serve's Endowment Campaign kicked off earlier this year! What better way to honor my mother's gift to me than "gifting" it to an organization I truly feel IS transforming our community.
When we talked, she admitted her hope had been that I would get something for myself. "But, Mom, I did! And, now we can both feel joy in doing this together!"
Now. . . the rest of the story. . . .
As a child, my mother took all four of her children to Sunday Mass . . . and, we had to sit up front in the 2nd or 3rd pew back! I think back on how strong her commitment must have been to get three boys dressed in proper Sunday attire and for this tomboy to put on a dress. Every single Sunday, there was an envelope that went into the collection basket along with an envelope from each child. Shirley Irene had planted “seeds” in what most would have considered “poor soil” back then.
I often wonder what drove my mother to do what she did. But, like most, we underestimate the power of a Heavenly Father who guides us despite our lack of understanding or knowledge. My mother not only taught her children to be generous, but she lived it throughout our childhood. . . and she still does! She planted the “seeds” of faith that I now live out it my daily life to the best of my ability.
Yes, this is my story of my mother instinctively “equipping” me and my brothers. And, the beauty is her nurturing this gift of generosity is continuing in her grandchildren and great grandchildren. . . a generational shift to giving to others.
Endowment Campaign – Please Consider
Fit-2-Serve begun the journey to establish an Endowment Fund because we are confident that He who began a good work in our community will carry it on to completion. It’s the first step in a long journey, but we are confident with Our Father leading, He will guide us along the way. Won't you consider joining us on this journey of youth development and community transformation?
How can you help?
Over 9,000 contacts in 2019 . . .
Over 800 community youth engaged . . .
Over 3,000 volunteer hours provided. . .
Help continue this transformational work in our community.
Consider donating before the close of 2019!