Christmas 2017Magazine Features

Driven to Help

The Amish don’t drive cars, but they sure know how to make sturdy high-end furniture.

Don and Loretta Shaver, soldiers at The Salvation Army in Punxsutawney, Pa., have formed a symbiotic relationship with the area Amish that is a win–win for everyone.

Don, 74, and Loretta, 65, have been married for 49 years and have three children. He’s from Virginia and met Loretta when they both worked at a Maryland nursing home in her home state.

They moved to Punxsutawney at the recommendation of Loretta’s brother. Don worked in a sawmill before retirement while Loretta was a housewife. They’ve been attending the corps off and on for 30 years and have been soldiers for two decades.

The Shavers drive the Amish to the grocery store and to medical appointments. The Amish, in turn, donate to the Army’s fall auction, which funds the meals and gifts the corps gives away to needy people at Christmas.

“They donate furniture, tables, stools, benches; you name it,” Don says of his Amish friends.

Loretta added, “The Amish donate to us and we should give them something back in return. We drive them to places out of appreciation for them donating to our auction. They’re happy when they see our van coming.”

The Amish, Christian followers of Jacob Amman who in 1693 emerged from the Swiss Anabaptist movement in Europe, are a common sight throughout rural Pennsylvania. They live and dress plainly and reject most modern conveniences, including driving automobiles and using electricity in their homes.

A huge lift

Loretta said she and Don drive the Amish to do grocery shopping in nearby Knox once a month, as well as to a Sam’s Club near Pittsburgh. The Amish, who have large families and are known for thriftiness, like to buy in bulk.

While it’s common to see Amish horse and buggies traversing the back roads of Pennsylvania, traveling on Interstate 80 is out of the question for them. That’s why Don and Loretta’s service is invaluable.

Lieutenant Dawn Carter, the corps officer in Punxsutawney, said some locals will offer the Amish rides, but the cost is often high.

“It’s hard for the Amish to be able to afford all the groceries and the ride out there,” Carter said. “Our 12-passenger van is big enough to bring a group and has room for the groceries.

“Don and Loretta have a really unique relationship with the Amish and they can ask them personally for donations.”

Least of these

Carter said the Amish also donate fruits and vegetables to the corps.

The auction, which is held in the corps gymnasium, is broadcast live on a local radio station and the Amish goods are popular items.

“We go around to the whole community and we ask for donations,” Carter said.

Besides the outreach to the Amish, the Shavers also pick up children for all of the corps activities. On Groundhog Day, one of the biggest events in this small town, Loretta helps with the corps breakfast; Don parks cars for the event and then joins his wife to help at the breakfast.

Once a month, the Shavers take the canteen to a local food bank and distribute hot dogs, coffee, and juice.

Many of the recipients—some transporting their food in laundry baskets or wagons—stop to talk to the Shavers.

‘For the Lord’

“That gives us a chance to talk about God,” Loretta says. “I believe people should turn their lives over to Jesus Christ.

“There are a whole lot of people who appreciate what we do and you see the smiles on their faces.”

Loretta, who has suffered strokes and heart problems, said her health won’t slow her down.

“I enjoy doing what we do. We both do,” she said. “I do it for the Lord. I’m trusting God and doing what He wants me to do. If it wasn’t for Him, I wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

Don admits he could retire and enjoy the good life, but that’s not his style.

“I do this to keep me going,” he said. “If I sit down, I’m going to die for sure and I’m not going to do that. I’m going to keep moving as much as I can move. If the good Lord will let me move, I’m going to keep moving.”

When asked why he does it, Don replies simply, “I love the Lord.”

Carter said the Shavers are model soldiers. When Carter mentioned wanting to start a prayer group at the corps, Loretta was enthusiastic, given the victories she saw while praying for her health.

“She really does trust and believe in prayer,” Carter said. “She will ask anyone for prayer. She takes any prayer request to heart. She spends time with God and makes sure that she covers any request or concern she sees in prayer.”

Willing spirits

Loretta added, “I really love praying. When things went wrong, I used to get really mad and angry, but I have tried to learn that God is always there and He listens. Maybe it’s not the answer I want, but I have to depend on Him to get through things. Jesus always gives us what we need, not our wants, and we should trust Him with all our heart and love Him and serve Him.”

Carter said the Shavers are constantly moving—never staying in one place long enough to cast a shadow like Punxsutawney Phil, the famous local groundhog.

“Don and Loretta are always here,” she said. “They’re always willing to do anything I ask. I don’t think they’ve ever said no to me. They’re always going. They really take their soldiership to heart.

“Retirement doesn’t mean that you stop. You keep working for the Lord.”

by Robert Mitchell

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