Testimonies containing heartfelt stories of hardship or pain and ending with gratitude by the individuals for being given a new focus on life marked the 10th annual CareNet banquet held recently at Blue Mountain Community Church, Palmerton.

The faith-based nonprofit organization in Carbon County is fully funded by private donations from individuals and churches. Susan DeMara, center director; Cheryl Deutch, anger management counselor and Jillian Stone, leader of Divine Debutantes, assisted clients in giving their testimonies.

The testimony of Roy and Tharshini Philip-Chandra Rajagopalan, who are the parents of a daughter, Praiselynn, centered around parenting and anger management classes, learning first aid, and attending Bible study. They also told of the tangible gifts to help care for their daughter.

Roy said that without CareNet, they wouldn't be as confident in the parenting of their daughter.

"They have given us everything for our daughter from diapers to formula to a car seat," said Roy. "Everybody seems like family. CareNet does a really great job."

Joe Pellegrino gave testimony about the "Teen Challenge" program at Carbon County prison. He told how it helped mend his strained family relationship. Before he enrolled in the program, he said his family didn't want him back home. During his last visit home, however, he felt welcomed, and they didn't want him to leave.

Pellegrino admits he deserves being in prison for his crime – aggressively assault against state troopers – but that through the Teen Challenges program and Susan DeMara's help, he has learned to serve the Lord and now plans to use himself for God.

"I smoked crack and did drugs," he said. "I drained my parent's bank account not once, but several times."

Pellegrino said that he was out of prison on furlough and is hoping that his lawyer can help him reduce his sentence because he is anxious to build a better life.

"If it's my place is to be in jail," he said, "then I will accept it as God's will for me."

Also speaking were CareNet volunteers Lloyd and Yvonne Stoudt, who shared testimony of how they were at one time a young couple, struggling with a baby on the way. Although CareNet services were not available to them at the time, they managed to build a successful marriage and raise a family with the help of their families. The couple will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary on July 19.

Kayona McFadden, assisted by Stone, said she really enjoyed her time with the other Divine Debutantes, a program for young teens.

"It has changed my life," said McFadden. "I used to be selfish, but now I know that someone is looking up to me and I have to live with the choices I make in life."

Stone that she has spoken with McFadden's mother, who confirmed that her daughter has changed her attitude and actions and that she is now pleasant and a great help around the house.

For the event, the banquet committee created an outdoor oasis for guests, complete with evergreen trees, birds and animals, leading to a feeling of serenity and peace. Entertainment was provided by Kristin Birchak, Stephen Hinkle, Jennifer Eckhart, Alicia Klotz, Cassandra McSparin and Yyonne Stout.

Dr. Kenneth Varano was master of ceremonies while Lois Hollopeter, board president, welcomed everyone to the event.

CareNet's 32 volunteers and two employees logged over 4,500 hours last year. They had 145 new clients, issued 42 pregnancy tests and saw 35 babies born among their clients.

Care Net receives no government monies. With the exception of the director and administrative assistant, all of their staff are volunteers. They have approximately 32 volunteers, including three peer counselors.

On an average week, they see 25 to 30 clients.

The group offers many different educational programs, providing accurate information on pregnancy, fetal development, the options associated with pregnancy, single parenting, the effects of adoption or abortion, life skills and relationship issues. They also offer some tangible assistance such as free pregnancy test, maternity and baby clothing, baby furniture, diapers and formula.

CareNet is located at 531 Mahoning St., Lehighton. For additional information, call (610) 379-0411.