My Why

Inside out, outside in……how does one view one’s self? Truly a question that sometimes confronts one’s “why”.

I heard a sermon some years ago that challenged me to examine “my why”. Is my personal mission of serving consistent the mission of Agape?  Is my leadership transactional, focused on my role of supervision, organization, and group performance or is it transformational, am I motivating and engaging of co-workers, families, and supporters by sharing Agape’s mission and vision? 

To begin, I have come to see that my life in and of itself can be one of continual distractions……competition, one’s need to be accepted, along with being conscientious of, and navigating through the critical spirits of those who look for failure, only using this failure to validate themselves. This has challenged the spirit of my serving, and “my why”.

Agape has been foundational to “my why” for nearly 34 years. There have been hills and valleys in this journey of serving the youth and families entrusted to our care. 

“My why” is intertwined within my belief that “the more we serve, the more opportunities we will be given to serve”. Further “my why” is centered within the belief that we are obligated to the youth and families in our care: to provide them the best services we are able”.

“My why” is driven, and supported by those that have encouraged me to seek to always rise above the hidden agendas of those who whose motives are less than genuine. 

Finally, “my why” is often challenged by “is the climb worth the view’? Being truly centered on our mission of serving with excellence, always brings me back to “knowing the climb in fact is worth the view”! 

Be safe,


The Journey of Service

“The more we serve……the more opportunities we will be given to serve”. As I reflect upon the past year and a half, I must say there have been challenges both professionally, and personally that have made me center even more on the here and now…. Intentionally embracing each day as an opportunity for service. 

Agape, like so many other non-profits have had to adjust to the ever-changing child welfare system. We have remained dedicated to our mission, and recognize our privilege of serving youth, families, young adults, and one another with excellence.

The dedication of our staff, foster families, and our community support are unmatched. While we have been blessed with growth, and added new faces within Agape, our dedication to our mission of serving remains on point. 

The 2021 Agape Strong- ‘Shine-On’ Fundraising Gala provided still an additional opportunity to educate others about the Agape mission, the opportunity to build and affirm new and old relationships, and yes, provide a great opportunity to raise monies for Agape’s Youth and Family Fund! This year’s event was especially meaningful as it included a tribute to co-worker, and my wife of 38 years, Sandie who passed away in early 2020.

Like many families, the diagnosis of cancer forever changed our families’ lives.  Significant changes had to be made to make way for blood transfusions, both oral and intravenous chemotherapy, follow by stem cell transplant earlier this year. Sandie was beyond amazing in how she took on this disease refusing to be just a statistic. One year and one day after diagnosis she was told she had achieved remission. Amazing yes, however her journey doesn’t end there… fact, remission brought with it a new treatment plan with the primary objective to remain in remission until a cure is found.

The doctors, nurses, hospital staff, friends, family, the community of southwest Ohio, and my co-workers here at Agape who wrapped themselves around Sandie and me with prayer, love and support reminding us of a continued opportunity to celebrate and reminded one another of the blessing of the life we share together.

In closing, Sandie being gone, has been unbelievably challenging, and the toughest journey I could have ever imagined…… yet when I slow down, and hit the “life” pause button, I ‘am reminded of the blessings we shared, and these blessings have brought me back to the belief that “life is good”!!

As Sandie would say “remember to breathe, this is just a chapter, not the whole story” ……you still have time to get it right.

Be safe,            Steve

The Journey Continues

This month I want to take a moment and share about one of our co-workers and my wife Sandie.

The Journey Continues

We adopted this phrase some years ago during a time when we were enjoying some of the life experiences that we had only dreamt about.

As many of you know after nearly three years of battling multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that had attacked her body, Sandie passed away at the end of February 2021. I can’t even begin to describe how much she is missed – by me and her Agape family of co-workers. Nor will we ever forget how she fought like a warrior to overcome this dreaded disease.

It only took .85 seconds for our lives to change beyond what we could have ever imagined. After a Sunday night ER visit, Sandie was given the news “we found cancer!”  In a calm tone (which she later concluded was because she was in shock) she looked the doctor right in the eye and said, “I can’t have cancer, I have grandchildren on the way!”

The first few weeks were consumed with appointments, tests, and the beginning of what would become months, moving into years, of treatments and chemotherapy. Sandie wore a T-shirt during that time that said it all – “I’m kicking cancer’s butt! What’s your superpower?”

From the beginning she embraced an attitude of “finding the most positive way possible” to overcome the cancer that was ravaging her body, and she never wavered from this mantra. The result led to her being described by her treatment team as an amazing inspiration. I truly feel in the months before she died, Sandie knew her time here was ending, and yet she went out of her way to protect us, especially me, from the reality of this approaching day.   

After her passing, I came across several of her day planners and at the end of each month she shared some of the most inspirational messages I have ever read. A few that have become my favorites I leave you with today:

These are not scars, they are the tattoos of my strength. I wear them with pride, lest I forget warrior blood runs through my veins.

Be strong, yet I must remember I need to rest somedays.  When you feel weak know your strength must rest. You are still a warrior giving your best.

and her final post:

Breathe darling, this is just a chapter…….it is not the whole story.

For me, there remains no doubt that Sandie’s positive attitude and her belief in her recovery was an inspiration to everyone. She was driven each day to embrace and thank each person who had reached out to her, sharing how life can change in mere seconds and be it positive or not, every individual is on a journey. She lived out her life emphasizing tomorrow is a new day and always believing you still have time.


The Greatest Lunch Ever!

While it’s been years ago, I want to share about a friend who during our relatively short time of knowing one another, had a significant influence on my personal and professional life.  Preston McMurry, Jr., is the Chairman/Corporate Values Sheppard of McMurry. At that time his firm was one of the top ten marketing firms in the United States.

I first met Preston at an alumni event in 2011 at The Ohio State University, being seated at his table with the Dean of the College of Social Work, Tom Gregoire. After dinner, I was asked by one of the Coordinators if I was available for lunch with Preston the following day, and suddenly my schedule became “open”. The impact of meeting Preston for lunch that next day has been in and of itself “life and Agape enhancing”.

During lunch we talked about Preston’s history as an OSU football player under Woody Hayes, and how it felt to be a member of team that won the 1957 National Championship. As our conversation moved to his profession I learned more about him, and of his business model. I asked Preston the question of what he perceived as the “core value” to the success of McMurry. Without hesitation, his direct, and yet simple response was “loyalty”!

“Loyalty”!!  You’ve got to be kidding me!!  Simple in theory, vital in practice……yet, how does one establish a unified foundation of loyalty? Preston shared that he believed that he was 100% loyal to those he worked with, and expected them to be loyal not only to him, but also to the mission of McMurry.  His tone indicated that at no time was the wavering from this core value to be tolerated.

I was then confronted with the fact that I may had been searching for answers related to building a “positive, professional, and progressive” culture in virtually all the wrong places. Truthfully, I had become increasingly discouraged by the actions of others, and began thinking that maybe it was time to move on. Further, I had continually beaten myself up when the result of what I had strived to happen, did not.  Much like the definition of “insanity”, I kept doing some of the same things over and over, expecting different results?!

After lunch with Preston, and with the help of a “coach”, I re-defined the personal and professional expectations of me as a leader, the expectations of my co-workers, and especially the expectations of the Leadership here at Agape related to a core value of “loyalty”.  As I’ve come to see, loyalty cannot be a “kind of, maybe, would be appreciated” consideration in my personal life, and here at Agape!

The result has been amazing!  I believe strongly, and have communicated almost daily that we must affirm and demonstrate this core value of “loyalty” to one another as Co-workers, to our Professional Care Providers, Referring Agencies, the community, and the youth we are entrusted to serve.

The vision here at Agape is foundational upon “serving families, youth and each other with excellence”. Agape has, and will remain dedicated to loyalty and “slamming the doors wide open” to anyone who desires this type of serving environment, and welcome you as we serve together all who are entrusted to our care.

In closing, I cannot thank Preston, and my “coach” enough for their time and continued encouragement and guidance. Is “loyalty” the answer to the challenges that are before us? Not entirely, however “loyalty” has been, and will continue to be foundational at Agape where each day we will continue our journey of “serving with excellence”!

Be safe,


Frozen by Fear

Have you ever heard this reference in describing a response to a major event in one’s life………

I have come to find that there are times in our lives where a single moments exchange with another person forever solidifies a path from our past that ultimately drives us in a positive direction in our future.

My father was a part of one of those exchanges in the beginning months of Agape, and this brief exchange has continually influenced me during our 28-year history as a family serving Agency.

In the weeks before we launched Agape, he asked me a direct, and yet thought-provoking question…. “are you scared?” His question literally stopped me in my tracks, and I immediately responded “are you kidding, I don’t have time to be scared”! Being persistent, he again asked me the question……”are you  scared?” Having a little time to gather my thoughts, I responded “yeah, I guess I am”.

My “Pop” paused for a minute, and then said something I will never forget. “Interesting thing about fear, it can either motivate you, or it can freeze you”.  “I want you to remember the choice you have in front of you as to how you deal with this “life” event may forever change your life journey”.

Not knowing how else to respond to his “fear” sharing, I changed the subject saying it was time for me to go.

As I was leaving my “Pop” looked up from the table and said, “I want to encourage you to always remember what I said, that fear can motivate you, or fear can freeze you”.  He then smiled in only the way he did, and said “stay warm Steve, stay warm”.

My wish for all of you is that when you experience times like these you remember to “Stay Warm”!

Agape Strong,



Celebrating 28 Years of Serving

Today as an organization we celebrate 28 years of serving families and children in southwest Ohio.

We are honored and humbled by the trust that you, our friends, family and our community have placed in us.

We are thankful for the staff who work diligently to make a  positive difference in the lives of families and children.  We are thankful to our Board of Directors who donate their time, talents and resources in support of our mission and vision.

We are thankful for the hundreds of families who have opened their hearts and home to children in need during the years.  Your dedication to children who are  in need of love and care is inspiring.

We have watched children come into care at Agape and experience success, graduate high school and go on the advance their education.  We have been a part of children being matched with their forever family and witnessed countless adoptions over the years.  We have been there as families have worked diligently to better their lives for the opportunity to be reunited with their children.  We have been faced challenges together, addressed those challenges and celebrated the successes, small and large….because we believe in celebration!

Thank you for your support of our mission, your prayers for decision making and your serving alongside us.

We have been and continue to be blessed and we are “Agape Strong”!

Defeating Odds

In 2011, my middle son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  It was just as the DSM-V was eliminating “Asperger’s Syndrome”.  He was 9 at the time and struggling socially.  Just getting through a single day at school was a challenge.  He didn’t have any friends and teachers were unable to reach him.  However, he was gifted in Language Arts and surpassed his peers.  I made the difficult decision to home-school him while we learned to navigate the new waters that we were in.

Those days were some of the most painful, as a parent.  Meltdowns were sometimes hourly.  Nothing seemed to calm or soothe him.  His education suffered and I was genuinely concerned for his future.  His grades were straight “F’s”.  We were able to meet with a therapist, Kasi, who would help to dramatically change our lives for the better.  Initial appointments were quiet as they worked to build a trust and bond.   As the communication strengthened, he started to feel understood.  The more that he felt understood, the more he started to connect social dots.  Meltdowns were coming less and less.  Confidence started to flow.  He was able to return to regular school within a matter of a year.  His amazing therapist gave him the tools that he needed to self-advocate.

Here we are 6 years later and he is a shadow of his former self.  Meltdowns have been completely eradicated.  Honestly, I can’t even remember the last time he even came close.  The work he did with Kasi paid off.  Her gentle guidance helped him re-discover his voice.  Today, he is on the honor roll, accepted into advanced classes for high school next year, discharged from his therapies, in some after school social clubs, working as a teacher’s aide, and thriving in ways that we didn’t think were possible.  We didn’t try to shelter him from his fears, we just showed him how to overcome them.  In turn, he didn’t just defeat the odds, he has shattered them and left them in his dust.

I wish that I could take some credit for that but I’m grateful that I can’t.  He worked hard for where he is.  He fought for all of his accomplishments.  He struggled and learned from those struggles.  We cannot always overcome every obstacle but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t  try.  He did not let anything define him – he defined himself.  He didn’t know where all of his hard work would get him until he did it.   He just knew that giving up was not an option.


*Nicole Mann is an Administrative Assistant at Agape for Youth, Inc.





The “Other” Category



A little over four months ago I was given the opportunity to join the Agape team as the Licensing and Training Coordinator. As I sat in the office with Bruce and Rodger hearing about all the aspects of the job that I would be required to do, they finished with saying, but it is not an inclusive list of your duties and there is a “other” category that is open ended. Coming from a 9am-5pm office job where I wore a headset to be on the phone with clients 8 hours per day, I was excited for the adventures that would come with joining the Agape family.  On the other hand, I was nervous. I had been with my previous employer for 4 years and I had just finished becoming a licensed foster parent. Who knew where that journey in life was going to lead.  However the more I reflected on the possibilities and happiness that would come from switching career paths, the more excited I became. So, I took the leap and joined the Agape Family.  What I didn’t fully realize was those “other” duties would become my favorite part of my job.

What makes Agape so great is the things we do with our foster parents and families.  I joined the team a little before Halloween when the fun of the holidays was just beginning. Being in the office when donations would arrive and sorting through books, clothes and gifts always made for fun afternoons full of laughter and comradery between coworkers. When the time came for our family night and Christmas Carnival, it made for what I call “controlled ciaos”- kids running around having fun, not really knowing which kid is where but enough volunteers to make sure everyone is safe. Everyday there is always something that has landed in the “other duties” category.  This past week however took my “other duties” to the next level. I got the opportunity to deliver and build a crib for a teenage mother coming into one of our foster homes. I took a couple hours out of my day to go to one of our foster homes and had an amazing afternoon. I was able to talk with the foster mother and learn about her journey and her life while we worked together building a crib and rearranging her spare room for a youth who was in route to her house.  It was one of those afternoons that remind you what Agape is all about.

You never know what hand you are going to be dealt sometimes. Changing career paths was scary and made me extremely nervous, but it was one of the best moves I could have done. I am so happy to be a part of the Agape team and even more excited when those “other duties” present themselves.  So I challenge you, when those “other duties” in life pop up, try and make the most of it because sometimes the most fulfilling part of your day comes during those times when you do some things in that “other” category.


*Jamie Fisher is the Licensing & Training Coordinator at Agape for Youth, Inc.  and has her own blog at Fishers Foster Tree


…..And the Adventures Continue!

In the past, I used to share a lot, I mean A LOT!!!…. Personally, I shared about me, my family and our lives. So much at times, I believe my daughter would call me out about my ‘oversharing’. I had convinced myself that this was me… “Mr. Transparent”, “Mr. Open Book”, with a “what you see is what you get” mentality in relating to those in my circle of “friends”.

As my wife Sandie has said….just when we think all is good…” life happens” and it gets even better, and when we think life can’t get any worse…” life happens” and what we thought was the absolute worst of times, somehow definitely looks better than what we experienced next.

In my walk through the extremes of the pendulums of “life happens” experiences, one piece of knowledge I acquired is that of discerning between “friends” and acquaintances, and that I needed to respond differently to each in my relationship with them. I believe there are times we experience such a desire for “friends”, we create a relationship we believe to be one with ‘depth’ when it truly was a relationship of ‘surface’. Have you ever experienced someone close to you be nearly destroyed emotionally, and even spiritually as a result of them sharing personally with an another (they believed was a “friend”), only to have this person share this personal information with others with the sole motive to injure that person. I believe the devastation experienced is without question one of the worst things I could imagine going through.

There are certainly a number of attributes and behaviors that define friendship yet one of the best was shared years ago by Charlie McMahon, Lead Catalyst at SouthBrook Christian Church. Charlie shared a great message about what defines friendships and relationships. His reference was for us to consider who those “friends” closest to us and whether or not that have ‘refrigerator rights’ in our home… know those “friends” who are always welcome in our homes and yes….can open our ‘frig’ anytime they desire. It’s one of his messages I remember to this day!

What is your definition of true a “friend”, or friends and how have you built upon and strengthened your relationships and your commitment to them?

A little over two years ago, my best friend, and yes I ‘am referring to my wife Sandie, and I made an ‘adventure’ commitment that has forever changed our lives.

As part of this pact we made, each month, we ‘committed’, sometimes individually, or collectively to plan a getaway for the two of us. It could be anything from a day to a weekend trip, with the only rule being we could not stay at the same place twice during a given year. This has led to both memory building opportunities and life changing experiences. We have had times of being hopelessly lost, to how the heck did we luck out and we get here” times in our travels. We have also expanded upon these monthly adventures inviting “friends” to share them with us which has built some of the greatest relationships of “depth” either of us could have imagined.

My wish for each you the building of, and the keeping of “deep friendships, amazing journeys, and oh yes, a good number of ‘refrigerator’ rights”!

Steve's Signature

Memory Recall Day

Today is what I refer to as a ‘memory recall day”. Years ago one of my co-workers who was not only a really good person, she was also a ‘rock’ when it came to her work. Seldom was she ‘rattled’ by the ongoing challenges experienced by the youth and families she served.  This particular week seemed to be one of ‘those’ weeks where every crisis took on a life of it’s own and each was supercharged in both emotion and intensity.  Literally, she was like an old time phone operator with the receiver constantly at her ear, switching from one caller to another.

Then came Friday…..and here was her post to begin the day…..


It was what happened when a call came in and her voice mail message began with “hello, this is Alisa, if you’re calling regarding a potential, or pending crisis please know my schedule today is already full.  I encourage you to get together with those you’re dealing with, and share with them that any and all crisis will have to wait until Monday to be addressed”.

Then came the message response on the other end of the phone which was priceless……”uh oh, okay, talk to you Monday”.

To clarify, she did call back the parent who had called in and told her that her voice message was just a light hearted way of reflecting on her week……..

As Kid President says take time in life to….”Pause, Breathe, Love”

Be safe,

Steve's Signature