I first met Sarah DePass, the Director of the Herkimer County Care Net, when I began training for a volunteer position at the center. After chatting with Sarah for just a few minutes, I recognized that God was doing a major work here at our local Care Net. Not only did I find an inspiring story about the community rallying around the center to keep it open, but also in the life of Sarah, the director.
Even if you are not from Herkimer County, you will be blessed to hear how God is working through the ministry of Care Net in this small rural county in Upstate NY.
Sarah is eager to announce that the new Herkimer County Care Net building, located at 12 West Street in Ilion, NY, is now open to the public. When Sarah was informed a few short months ago that their landlord was selling the building in Herkimer where the Care Net office had been located for over twenty years, she did not anticipate what a blessing God had in store for them.
They had to move on short notice, so the supplies from the Herkimer facility were transferred to the Utica Care Net about fifteen miles away, and Sarah began working out of that office temporarily.
“None of the programs were disrupted since we were meeting with our clients over zoom because of Covid,” Sarah said.
The Executive Director and the board members looked for a location to lease but had not been successful. There was also the problem of how to pay the rent. Their previous landlord was sympathetic to the ministry of Care Net and had only been charging them a dollar per month. They were worried that they might not be able to reopen the center.
But then, as Sarah was walking out of her doctor’s office in Ilion, she noticed a “For Sale” sign on a building across the street which had once been a doctor’s office, so she told the Executive Director.
The Executive Director and the Board of Directors began praying about the possibility of buying the building and asked others to pray as well. They also presented the need during their annual banquet which was virtual this year due to Covid.
Two sizable donations came in from local churches. Several anonymous donations also came in from individuals. Care Net was able to purchase the building, and a local church that had canceled a mission trip due to the pandemic took up renovating the building as a mission project. Due to the generosity of these churches and individuals, Herkimer County Care Net was able to reopen after all.
“Our old office was small and up two flights of stairs. We now have our own building which is much bigger and all on one level. And it is on the bus line and in a neighborhood where many of our clients live. I’m so thankful for God’s provision!” Sarah said.
The new center is not the only thing Sarah is grateful for. Thirteen years ago, Sarah was a teen mom who received services from the Herkimer Care Net. “I keep thanking God every day for putting me in this position—to be able to help women who are in the same situation I was in,” Sarah said.
You might wonder how a teen mom in need of services becomes the director of the very center that helped her. Sarah’s life is an inspiring story of God’s love, forgiveness, and transformation.
Sarah was raised in a Christian home and went to church every Sunday and Wednesday. She was also involved with her church’s youth group. “As I grew older, I rebelled,” she explained to me in a phone interview. “When I was 19, just before I was planning to join the Air Force, I found myself pregnant. My mom referred me to Care Net. When my test came back positive, I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.”
The thought of becoming a teenage Mom was overwhelming to Sarah, but the caring, non-judgmental counselors at Care Net helped Sarah to accept her pregnancy; she chose to give birth and to keep her baby.
She was disappointed that her plans for the Air Force had fallen through, but when her daughter was born in 2008, she realized that God had given her a blessing.
Those first few years as a single parent were a challenge for Sarah. She struggled with ups and downs had some setbacks. And Sarah admits that she wasn’t following God. Three years after her daughter was born, Sarah again found herself pregnant, this time with twins. “This is when I realized that I need to get back to following what God wants me to do,” she said.
Care Net played a major role in helping get her life back on track. She went to Bible studies at Care Net and started learning more about God. She was able to accept that God had forgiven her, and she began to trust Him more.
Sarah said that she never considered having an abortion, but she felt pressured to put the twins up for adoption. As Sarah prayed about this, God gave her a special Bible verse. “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?’” (Matt. 6:25-27 ESV).
Sarah felt God was telling her it was His plan for her to keep her babies, and that He would provide for her. With support from her family and help from Care Net, Sarah made it through her pregnancy.
After the twins were born in 2011, Sarah felt so blessed that God had given her three beautiful children. She promised Him that she would make raising them her top priority and that she wouldn’t let a man get between her and her children.
A year later, Sarah’s friend from her high school youth group arranged for her to have dinner with a young man she had worked with named Jared. They met at a local restaurant and hit it off. Over the course of six months, they became better acquainted, and finally, Sarah allowed him to meet her children. The children loved him from the start, and he loved them, too. Sarah and Jared were married in 2013.
“It was only by God’s grace that I was able to find a man who loves God, who loves my children, and who loves me, and I didn’t even go looking for him,” Sarah said.
In 2015, Sarah began working for Bank of America, and by 2018, Sarah was well established in her career there. But she began to feel a calling to help women who struggle with unplanned pregnancies, women who were in the same situation she had been in. Sarah heard about a prayer meeting Care Net was having at her church, and she volunteered to help with whatever needed to be done.
At the meeting, she met the Executive Director and told him her story and how much Care Net had helped her.
He invited Sarah to speak at two breakfasts held at local churches which Care Net held for their liaisons. This was a big deal for Sarah. Prior to this, even though Sarah knew she was forgiven, she didn’t talk much about her past. “For the longest time I felt ashamed because I wasn’t married, and I was a single Mom, so I really didn’t share my story,” Sarah said, “And then God was saying to me, ’Be open about this; It is okay because I have forgiven you for your sins.’”
There were approximately twenty people in the audience at each of the breakfasts. Sarah received wonderful feedback after each of her speeches, and then she was invited to speak in front of an audience of about a hundred at the annual Care Net banquet.
“I felt really excited and blessed that I was able to share my story,” Sarah said, “and I didn’t have to have that shame anymore.”
During this time, Sarah started volunteering at the Rome Center, but she had no direct contact working with the women. Her desire to serve this population of women continued to grow. “I just really felt the calling,” she said.
When she heard of a job opening at Care Net, she interviewed for it not knowing what or where it was. “When I heard it was for the Director position at the Herkimer Center, I just knew that God had put it all in place for me.” Though it meant giving up her career in banking and taking a major pay cut, she followed God’s calling and began her new career with Care Net in April of 2019.
“I can really empathize when I have teenagers come in because I was once a teen Mom myself. I can say to them, ‘You can do this!’” Sarah said, “and to anyone going through an unplanned pregnancy, I want to encourage them not to be ashamed. Don’t rely on the earthly men, rely on the heavenly Father.”
Sarah also wants them to know that Care Net is there to help, to be there for them in any way they can.
Sarah has been the Director of the Herkimer County Care Net for over two years. She is also a full-time college student, working online towards her bachelor’s degree in social work. But her greatest passion is being a mother to her three children.
The new center is open Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 10 am to 4:30 pm. Free and confidential pregnancy tests and ultrasounds are available as well as counseling and parenting classes. For more information, call (315) 867-6148, or visit their website by clicking on the following link: https://carenetcares.com/locations/herkimer.
Care Net has over 1,100 centers across America and over 30,000 volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering, contact your local Care Net. You can click on the link below for the national Care Net website: https://www.care-net.org/