CareNet of Carbon County recently held its 12th annual fundraising banquet at Christ Evangelical Free Church. The theme was "Children of the King." The sanctuary was transformed into a grand banquet hall complete with crown decorations as centerpieces and great food for the 140 people who came raise money for the non profit organization.

As part of the program, several clients shared how CareNet has made a difference in their lives.

CareNet is a faith-based nonprofit organization in Carbon County, which is fully funded by private donations from individuals and churches.

Susan DeMara, center director, and Cheryl Deutch, anger management counselor, assisted Kellee McArdle, Jennifer Long and Rich Cadwallader in giving their testimonies.

Deutch said that she always felt disconnected throughout her life, but that her life as a rebel ended when she turned to God. She said her two failed marriages became almost three until she accepted God's word into her life.

"I was in so much pain and heartache," she said. "God saw me through it all."

Deutch said she became a counselor because she wanted to help others.

The testimony of McArdle told of her life going wrong when her boyfriend was killed in a car accident, which led her to a life of pain. She has received counseling at CareNet and now has a strong relationship with Joe who she married earlier this year, on Feb. 14. She said that because of CareNet she knows the importance of marriage and that she and their combined family of three children now read the Bible each morning before they go off to school.

Life before CareNet was not good for Jennifer Long. Initially she refused to have anything to do with God because she felt he wasn't real.

"I came to CareNet for parenting classes," she said.

She said she had a hard time coping with her little boy, but realized she needed counseling to deal with issues that happened to her in the past. Where once she would not think of reading the Bible, she now has three Bibles in her home. She said that she also is working on her relationship with her boyfriend and they plan to marry soon.

Cadawallader said that he came to CareNet for help with depression and anger.

"I was seeking love in all the wrong places," he said. "I was arrested for fighting and I had a DUI, which cost me between $8,000 and $9,000. I spent time in jail. I was suicidal."

Cadawallader said that he had resentments about things that happened to him in the past, but has learned to forgive.

"Nothing feels as good as forgiveness does," he said. "I felt the fog lifting and I felt freedom, love and joy for the first time. I don't have to live like I did in the past. I feel life in a positive way. It's like having a second life."

CareNet's 37 volunteers and two employees logged over 4,000 hours last year. They had 725 appointments and 85 new clients, issued 27 pregnancy tests and saw 18 babies born among their clients.

CareNet receives no government money. With the exception of the director and administrative assistant, all of the staff are volunteers. 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.