Andrew and Judith Ross

Andrew and Judith Ross have been married for 60 years, raised four children, and have 11 grandchildren.

Andrew was a Hungarian Jewish Holocaust survivor. He was the Army buddy of Judy’s brother Phillip, which is how a European Jew and a devout Christian first came together.

About to turn 89, Andrew spent his adult life as a steel company salesman, traveling the highways and byways of America to support his growing family. He was instrumental in teaching many young businessmen the tools of the trade, especially going the extra mile to care for customers.

Judy served as a member of the DuPage County Board in suburban Chicago (the second largest county in Illinois) for many years.

The couple were instrumental in mentoring many young parents on how to best raise their children from his “office” on the front porch of their humble home, where they still reside today. Andy and Judy have now become each other’s caregivers.

Judy’s brothers, Phillip and Daniel, were both congressmen from Illinois. The youngest brother, David, was a psychiatrist. Judy’s oldest brother gave his life when he diverted his Navy jet from crashing into a populated area.

Their children include Matthew, a brain surgeon who is married with three children; Debbie, an elementary school teacher and mother of five who worked to end the sale of pornography in DuPage County; Peter, an attorney who is married with three children and who served as an U.S. Air Force pilot in Iraq; and John, who is working in the oil fields in Alaska.

Dr. John and Leah Schaut

Dr. John Schaut of Kenosha, Wisconsin, and his wife, Leah, have been married for 24 years and have four children, including an adopted daughter from China.

When their eldest son was age 3, he went from being a normal talkative child to having speech difficulties that were eventually diagnosed as being due to autism. The family bought a van and toured the nation seeking options for dealing with an autistic child: They attended conferences, read about new research, and listened to a variety of speakers, both parents and professionals. The family bonded together as they sought effective treatments, and they remained faithful to God and active in supporting a church that is pastored by a parent of a special-needs child.

A clinical psychologist, John arranged his schedule at Veterans Affairs to often enable him to be home at 4:30 p.m. for his family. The couple downsized their housing to afford investment in the needs of their children. Dance lessons and similar activities gave way to focusing on the child with the greatest needs, though the parents strove to spend time with each one. With the help of a support person and a communication aid, their son graduated high school this year.

In addition to supporting a church, the Schauts have invested in summer camps and sponsored children whose families could not afford special-needs camps.

 

Phengchanh and Wilaiwan Soundara

Phengchanh Soundara was born in Laos as the son of a Chinese fisherman and a Lao woman. Abandoned by his father and then orphaned at a young age, he escaped to a Thai refugee camp with the hope of being relocated to the United States. He arrived in the Washington, D.C., area in 1980, attended high school in Virginia, and currently works as a service technician for an equipment-rental company. His wife, Wilaiwan, was born in Bangkok, Thailand; immigrated to the United States in 1986; and currently is a domestic worker. They have been married for 28 years and have two children.

Both parents serve the region’s Thai temple by doing housework, serving food to the monks, and performing groundskeeping duties. They also help other Thai people who arrive as immigrants by guiding them to get better jobs through an employment agency called Helping Hands, or by fixing their cars without charge because Phengchanh believes in helping those in need.

Phengchanh imparted the lesson to his children that nothing comes easily and if you have a goal, you have to fight for it. Like other immigrants, he and his wife started from nothing but ended up owning their home and four cars and raising children in whom they instilled the culture and religious heritage of Thailand.

Andrew and Rebecca Powell

Andrew and Rebecca Powell of Charleston, West Virginia, have been married 20 years and have seven children, ranging in age from 2 to 17. The family has pulled together despite hard times due to Andrew’s life-threatening illness of a decade ago. The family now lives with Rebecca’s parents.

The Powells lead by living the principles they teach and providing an example of being kind, generous, loving, forgiving, patient and resourceful. Andrew took the boys to help shovel mud in the aftermath of a flood in Clendenin, West Virginia. They also helped build a small home for a man in need.

Andrew is involved in Boy Scouts and his church. Rebecca was president of her church relief society for many years, giving countless hours to helping and coordinating spiritual, emotional and financial help to many in the congregation.

Daniel and Lakeisha Meadows Ivey

Daniel Ivey and his wife, Lakeisha Meadows Ivey, of Durham, North Carolina, have been married 16 years and have four children, three of whom are adopted.

Lakeisha cares for the children, one of whom is wheelchair-bound, two have feeding tubes, two have ADHD and all three have learning development issues. Daniel works two jobs to support the family. Over 13 years, this couple has been foster parents to 15 children.

Lakeisha is the daughter of Bishop Jerry and Shirley Meadows, previous Parents of the Year. Daniel serves as a church deacon and his wife is a youth leader.

Pastor Bill and Faye McDonnell

Bill and Faye McDonnell of North Las Vegas, Nevada, have been married 44 years, raised three children and have 11 grandchildren. They have demonstrated their commitment to their faith by continually opening their home to families in need and individuals who are going through hard times. In their own family, the obstacles they have overcome include the loss of a child.

The McDonnells have organized an effort to help people with employment, and led marches to underscore the need for more jobs in the community. They operate a behavioral-health counseling service named Breakthrough and coordinate an outreach to feed and clothe the homeless.

Bill is known for his compassion and sensitivity to the needs of others, and for always being willing to lend a hand. Faye demonstrates her compassion by feeding shut-ins and bringing water to the homeless.

Bill has risen through the ranks from deacon to pastor and is superintendent of Church of God in Christ in Nevada’s 1st Jurisdiction. He serves as administrative assistant to the bishop in that jurisdiction. He is president of Churches of Southern Nevada, an organization of pastors from all denominations designed to address community affairs. Faye, a former administrator in the Clark County School District, works alongside her husband and is state supervisor for women in Church of God in Christ in their jurisdiction.

Bishop Alfred A. and Dr. Susie C. Owens

Bishop Alfred A. Owens and Dr. Susie C. Owens of Washington, D.C., have been married 44 years and have two children and six grandchildren. In 1966, Bishop Owens founded Christ Is the Answer Chapel; it merged 10 years later with Mount Calvary Holy Church to form what is now known as Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church, which has a membership of nearly 8,000 people.

In addition to raising their own son and daughter, the Owens cared for and nurtured 53 foster sons and daughters, some of whom became associate pastors at his church.

The church operates a food and clothing bank, and an alcohol/drug abuse program, known as Calvary’s Alternative to Alcohol and Drug Abuse. In addition, it runs Calvary Christian Academy, which educates children from infancy to the eighth grade; an HIV/AIDS ministry; an employment service; a prison ministry; and several other outreach and social service ministries. It further operates an outreach facility called the Bishop Alfred A. Owens Jr. Family Life Community Center.

In 1988, Bishop Owens was consecrated a bishop in the Mount Calvary Holy Church of America Inc., and appointed as senior bishop in 2008. He has served as dean of the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops since 2000 and as archbishop of the Joint College since 2009.

Hawaii State Sen. Mike and Carol Gabbard

Mike and Carol Gabbard, married for 47 years, are both public servants and educators. Mike gained state and national recognition for leading the fight against the legalization of same-sex marriage in Hawaii, a battle lost in 2014. He has been a state senator since 2006 and has helped pass numerous bills related to health, public safety, renewable energy and environmental issues.

The couple raised three sons and two daughters, homeschooling all of them. He is Roman Catholic and Carol is Hindu, but both religious traditions are honored in their home. Despite persecution for standing for traditional marriage, Mike received a lot of support from conservative churches and organizations for his efforts to educate people about the significance of marriage between a man and a woman.

Before becoming a state senator, Mike served on the Honolulu City Council (2003-05), where he focused on environmental issues. He has served as the chairman of the Hawaii Senate’s Energy and Environment Committee since 2009, the same year he was chosen by the Sierra Club as “Legislator Who Made a Difference.” He is a member of the Hawaii Invasive Species Council, the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum and the Hawaii Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee, the latter of which seeks to find solutions to the effects of global warming on Hawaii.

Carol was on the state board of the Department of Education from 2000 to 2004. While their daughter, Tulsi, served in U.S. Congress as the representative of Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, Mike and his daughter co-founded the Healthy Hawaii Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the environment and improving individual and community health.

Pastor Mark and Edna Abernathy

Mark Abernathy is the senior pastor at Connect Point Christian Center in Snellville, Georgia. His wife, Edna, leads the music ministry. They have been married for 38 years and have one daughter and one grandson.

The couple founded a ministry for young people and one for couples in their church. Their example of a loving, committed marriage provides a healthy example for single and married members of their congregation. They practice fidelity within their marriage and teach that to their members. They also encourage sexual purity before marriage.

Their congregation is multiracial and encourages respect and love for all people. The church, founded by Mark’s father, received considerable persecution for this policy, and the church was even firebombed in the 1970s. In their personal lives, their daughter’s first marriage did not work out and she recently married a man from another ethnicity.

A graduate of Lighthouse Christian College, Mark served as head of the New Life Christian School in Stone Mountain, Georgia, for 10 years and during that time coached football, basketball and baseball, and led teams to national championships. He served as associate pastor of Connect Point Christian Center before becoming senior pastor in 2004. In 2006, he received the prestigious NAACP award in religious affairs. He consults regularly with executives from various businesses, schools and churches to help create spiritual-based solutions to global problems. Mark is a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP, and is also national co-president of the American Clergy Leadership Conference.

Lowell and America Callahan

Lowell and America Callahan of Wheatland, California, have been married for 37 years and during that time they have fostered special-needs children, (adopting four of them) and raised seven biological children. America is currently homeschooling two teenagers and helps a young adult look for a suitable job.

The Callahans are advocates for parents of children with special needs; they assist Spanish-speaking families access community resources and provide translation when necessary. They are devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and live their faith by caring for people less fortunate than themselves. Lowell, who works as a general contractor and air-conditioning mechanic, always gives a generous discount to senior citizens. He grows fruit and vegetables on their property and gives half of it away.

Since 2011, America has been owner-operator of a small business in downtown Wheatland called America’s Emporium and Thrift. The store serves as a gathering place for local senior citizens, and if any seniors need a ride to a doctor’s appointment, America will find a way to take them there, even if it means closing the store for an hour or two. She passionately believes in the value of sacrificing oneself for the sake of others and has lived her life accordingly.

Both have served as Sunday school teachers and are members of the Wheatland Lions Club.

Apostle Ralph L. Edwards and Prophetess Irene Edwards

Apostle Ralph L. Edwards and Prophetess Irene Edwards have been doing joint ministry for about 40 years, spending much of their time and resources serving those in blighted communities, as well as in prisons, nursing homes and hospitals. During almost 42 years of marriage, they raised three children while dealing with financial, physical and emotional challenges. To date, they have 15 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

The couple lives in Harlem, New York City, and their church is in Jamaica, Queens, but their ministry takes them to wherever they are needed to spread God’s love, which may be organizing a food program or caring for families that have lost a loved one to violence. They have a heart that wants to serve all kinds of people in all kinds of situations.

The Edwards’ deep bond provides a model of fidelity that helps people understand that the family is the basis of true success. Since 2001 they have been leading a seminar entitled, “Marriage Enlightenment: Public Success and Private Failure,” that has helped change the thinking of many participants about what constitutes a successful marriage.

In 2004, they became certified as chaplains, and Apostle Edwards later served as New York State director of the United Chaplain International Worldwide Outreach. They also began a church, One Way International Ministry Inc., nine years ago.

Kenneth and Kim Fox-Muhammad

Kenneth and Kim Fox-Muhammad, married for 30 years, returned to Kenneth’s home town of East Spencer, North Carolina, to help the struggling community reverse its chronic poverty and high unemployment rate. While raising three children, they launched numerous programs to assist youth and adults, including a drill team, the Respect for Life Community Center and the Empowerment Network, a community development corporation that built a center to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Kenneth and Kim own Muhammad’s Business Solutions, offering their business expertise to minority communities. Recently, Kenneth hosted a workshop that recruited more than 45 businesses and individuals to help his town. Since the community lacks a school, library or indoor recreational facility, he is founding a charter school in his mother’s honor as well as a community center.

The family places a high value on serving the community, leading by example and obtaining an education. Kenneth is working on a dissertation at Walden University in its Public Policy and Administration program. Kim is graduating in July from the University of Phoenix, as is their eldest daughter. Their younger daughter is attending Strayer University. At times, the couple worked multiple jobs to support their family — Kenneth worked in Abu Dhabi for almost 18 months; Kim is manager of a Family Dollar Store.

Devout Muslims, they are active in their mosque, with Kenneth training the men to be responsible in caring for their families and Kim showing women how to do more with less. Kenneth has also served as mayor of East Spencer and on numerous boards, including the Rowan County Housing Authority.

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