Look no farther than Bethel, a village of about 2,700 people in Clermont County. There, Denise Strimple and fellow congregants of Bethel United Methodist Church provide an inspiring example of compassion.
They have taken on the task of fostering and adopting children whose parents are unable to care for them – often because of problems with alcohol or drugs.
This became a major part of the 151-year-old church’s ministry after Denise and her husband, Mark Strimple, volunteered to become foster parents 23 years ago. Since then, they have cared for more than 30 foster kids – some for up to two years.
The Strimples have inspired many other couples at Bethel United to become foster parents or to adopt children. Others have been certified as baby sitters for foster children, and many congregants offer up prayers of support.
Bethel United also organizes a Christmas party for adopted and foster children, who receive gifts from the congregants. The church’s other community services include an annual Joy of Adoption celebration and dinner.
Along with many of my colleagues on Capitol Hill, I am pleased to participate in the Angels in Adoption program of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Members of the House and Senate select people based on their generosity and willingness to help the children of those unable to fulfill their roles as parents.
I’m happy to announce that this year I have selected Denise Strimple and Bethel United Methodist Church as Angels in Adoption for Southern Ohio. They restore our faith in how a small community can make a big difference.
The Strimples’ home in Tate Township, just outside Bethel, was in transition when Mark and Denise decided to reach out to needy children.
“Our two kids were getting older,” Denise said. “We had more than we needed, and we wanted to share. We became foster parents, and the ministry grew out of necessity. It seemed to just be infectious.”
At the same time, the need for these services has grown – along with the problem of substance abuse. Some children are born addicted to heroin – such as the infant girl with blue eyes and an adorable smile who the Strimples took into their home in 2009.
In Clermont County, the number of kids that Children’s Protective Services has removed from homes because of neglect or abuse increased by 78 percent in two years – rising to 235 last year from 132 in 2008.
On behalf of everyone at Bethel United Methodist Church, Denise and Mark plan to travel to Washington, D.C., next week to be recognized for the congregation’s efforts to remedy this problem.
But they intend to do more than meet with me and get a pat on the back. More than 6,500 homeless people live in our nation’s capital. While in Washington to be recognized for helping children in Ohio, the Strimples plan to volunteer at a soup kitchen to help feed the homeless.
God bless Denise and Mark Strimple. God bless all the other members of Bethel United Methodist Church.
And may God bless the United States with more people just like them.
Jean Schmidt is the U.S. Congresswoman serving Ohio’s Second District.