Every year, Heartland Family Service honors families from Nebraska and Iowa with their Salute to Families Celebration during the annual Heartland Family Service Family Week. The local families are recognized for their strong family life, community service, and leadership.
COMMITMENT TO FAMILY
Robert and Thresia Hettinger of Papillion and their five children sat down and had a serious discussion about how they could help their family after Robert’s sister passed away from multiple myeloma cancer. After rearranging their home and lives to accommodate a big change, they officially adopted six of Robert’s sister’s children while the others stayed with their father. Recently, the family added their nephew, bringing their family total to 14. Robert, a District Network Specialist for Millard Public Schools, and Thresia, a stay-at-home mom, teach by example. Monday nights are solid family home nights reserved so that everyone can focus on enriching their spiritual lives through lessons, activities, songs, and prayer. The children are respectful and disciplined, big on sports, and genuinely focused on what they can do to help others.
Pastor Nathan and Tina Sherrill of Council Bluffs, Iowa are intentional role models for their children. Together, they worship, study, work, and play. Nathan is pastor of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, where he is an active promoter of Christian education and has helped establish an Early Childhood Center, Music Conservatory, Christ Academy, Camp Creation, and other opportunities. Tina has a degree in elementary education and homeschools three of their six children. Because of her natural love for both children and music, she also teaches 12 piano students, has accompanied church and school choirs, and teaches Sunday school. The oldest three children are piano students of their mother and perform in recitals and local music festivals, as well as with St. Paul’s Children’s Choir.
CHALLENGED AND SUCCESSFUL
Patti Richardson of Omaha is all about kids. For 30 years, Patti has opened her arms to special needs foster children, adopting several of them. Ragina, 22, was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, ADHD, and congenital heart disease; Wesley, 10, has ADHD after being exposed to methamphetamine before birth; Aidan, 7, has congenital heart disease and had open heart surgery at just 2 mos; Anahla, 5, had a liver, small bowel, and pancreas transplant when she was just a year old; and Lasia, 4, is the only adopted child with no health problems. She also has three biological children—William, Jeffery, and Mikayla—who share her pain in losing son Andrew to brain cancer. The family suffered a second loss with Corey, a shaken baby who Patti fostered at nine months and adopted at 3. While the family has had their share of misfortune, Patti believes the humor they share helps them work through the difficult times.
Chris and Nicole Shives of Council Bluffs, Iowa met at Iowa Western Community College, where she was a Certified Athletic Trainer and he was the Head Golf Coach. In 2008, an MRI revealed a lesion on the left side of Nicole’s brain. Over the next two years, Chris and Nicole married and had their first child, Jaxson—a pregnancy that required a C-section, a blood transfusion, and hospitalization for Nicole. In 2010, Nicole learned the tumor in her brain was a malignant cancer called anaplastic astrocytoma and began radiation therapy. Meanwhile, Nicole started a new career as a college instructor, obtained a second master’s degree, and kept up her duties as a full-time mother and wife. Chris left his job to be home with Nicole and eventually became a Corporate Events Director with the American Heart Association. Today, Nicole is cancer-free. She also gave birth to their second child, Ashlyn, in April 2012.
Joel and Felicia Rogers of Papillion have raised their family to value spiritual growth, family honor, commitment to excellence, heritage, and service to the country. They have seven children—Javin, Clifton, Blake, Darnell, Dwayne, Ryan, and Zoe. Joel is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and now serves as Legislative Policy Analyst with U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base. Throughout his 28-year military career, he led outreach and volunteer efforts, earning numerous honors including the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. Currently, he volunteers with the Papillion Recreation Organization (PRO) and Toys for Tots. Felicia serves as the District Director for U.S. Congressman Lee Terry. She has been heavily involved with Wesley House Leadership Academy, Toys for Tots, Girls Clubs of Omaha, and she served as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 99th Pursuit Squadron of Civil Air Patrol.
Dave and Sheri Smith of Crescent, Iowa felt a calling to reach out to children of fatherless families. Together, they founded Trailblazers of the Heartland Ministry to defend the cause of the fatherless, inspiring hope for their family’s future that is rooted in everlasting love. Today, Trailblazers has programs tailored to all ages from newborns to seniors, involving more than 300 at-risk children and 170 families in building healthy, positive reciprocal relationships with each other. The Smiths and Trailblazers have received many awards and honors including the State of Iowa’s National Guard Family Program Community Award in 2011 and the Iowa Governor’s volunteer award in 2012. In addition to Trailblazers, Dave volunteers about 300 hours a year to the MICAH House homeless shelter, and Sheri has worked part-time for the Phoenix House domestic abuse shelter. All five children follow in their parents’ community service footsteps as well.
Dr. James and Nancy Armitage of Omaha have provided leadership in the Omaha community and contributed to the medical profession. Jim is an internationally renowned hematologist-oncologist with expertise in bone marrow transplantation and the management and classification of lymphoma. He is the Joe Shapiro Professor of Medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and received the Robert A. Kyle Award from the Mayo Clinic last year. Nancy practiced psychiatric and intensive care nursing until the demands of family and children took priority. Since then, she volunteered on local boards and committees for schools, churches, and nonprofits. The couple was honored as Samaritans of the Year by the Samaritan Counseling Center of the Midlands, and they currently serve as board members and trustees of several community organizations, including the University of Nebraska Medical Center Auxiliary and Faculty Wives Club, Munroe Meyer Institute Guild, and the Nature Conservancy of Nebraska.
Dan and Martha Peterson of Neola, Iowa own Peterson Angus Farms and have provided leadership to Southwest Iowa communities for more than a decade. Dan and Martha have supported Iowa Western Community College for almost a decade, serving on several boards and committees, chairing and co-chairing special events and projects, procuring auction items, working with youth, and hosting dinners in their home. In addition to IWCC, they are involved with the Council Bluffs Guild of the Omaha Symphony, Bluffs Arts Council, Alegent Charitable Council, Children’s Square, Visiting Nurse Association, and Heartland Family Service. Their children, Alexandra, Anna, Aiden, and Andrew, all belong to 4-H and incorporate the leadership qualities they learned from their parents in the own lives. The family also volunteers in Red Cross Blood Drives.
Salute to Families – Iowa will be held Nov. 14 at Mid-America Center (One Arena Way) in Council Bluffs from 6-8:30 p.m. $25 adults, $10 children. For more information, visit heartlandfamilyservice.org or call 712-435-5350.
Salute to Families – Nebraska will be held Nov. 21 at Happy Hollow Club (1701 S. 105th St.) in Omaha from 6-8:30 p.m. $45 adults, $15 children. For more information, visit heartlandfamilyservice.org or call 402-553-3000.