The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

May 4, 2014

Plant a seed, watch it grow

Father’s death leads woman to give unto others

By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer

FARRELL — Desperate for a way to channel her grief, Lynette Evans turned to prayer. And the answer came, she said, when she stopped focusing on herself.

Evans was no stranger to the power of prayer, she said, belonging to Greater Mount Zion Church of God in Christ in Farrell, but after the unexpected and devastating loss of her father, Harrison Cromartie, in a fire, she found no solace in her ordinary activities.

“I went into my room and stayed there. I was closed up. I was angry. Angry that God wanted my father. I felt like I hit rock bottom,” the 58-year-old Farrell woman said.

“And suddenly, I knew I had to start giving of myself. Planting seeds. Seeds of faith. And that’s how the Seeds of Faith ministry was born,” she said.

Evans threw herself into volunteer work. She logged hundreds of hours at Buhl Community Recreation Center, overseeing the game room; she spent nights at the Ark House in Farrell, a shelter for homeless women, where she served as a volunteer residential counselor. She answered the phones at the Red Cross, worked at the Prince of Peace Center in Farrell and volunteered at a local domestic violence shelter.

“And it was the perfect medicine for me. The perfect dose. I was so busy I didn’t have time to focus on losing my dad and about how sorry I was feeling. Give of yourself. That’s the answer,” she said.

Her husband, Jack Evans, a deacon at Greater Mount Zion, jumped right in with her, she said. “I told him I wanted to plant seeds of inspiration and he said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”

“I knew her dad. What a great man. I’m with her. Anything we can do to help, we’re going to,” the 58-year-old Evans said.

Much of the 25 years of fundraising to date has been food-centered. Locally known for their ribs, they’ve had food booths at Buhl Day, WaterFire Sharon, pumpkin festivals, carnivals and even a food truck known as “The Rib Connection.” They sell french fries and Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwiches at Buhl Day, she said.

Since 1988, they’ve raised thousands of dollars, all given away in scholarships and donations to area service organizations needing help.

Though both profess a love of cooking instilled by their mothers, they’ve gotten a bit away from that in their latest venture at the Shenango Valley Mall in Hermitage. From 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, the couple operates a kiosk, selling African-made and -inspired jewelry, designer handbags and bath and beauty products.

She hopes to add portable cell phone chargers before long, she said. “We’re always looking for the next big thing,” she said.

Evans said they recently gave more than $2,000 to the Buhl Rec Center for improvements to the game room that included toys, a facelift for the room and a clock. “I volunteered there so I knew the younger ones needed some new toys,” she said.

The couple rents the kiosk for six months at a time starting in January. She’s disappointed, she said, because the winter months didn’t bring the traffic into the mall she had hoped for. “So we don’t have hardly anything to donate to the Prince of Peace. I think we might extend the time frame some, but this winter was really bad for business,” she said.

Several customers stopped by on a Friday afternoon looking to buy her cookies. She can’t keep food entirely out of the fundraising, she said, and offers cookies, pies, cobblers or cakes weekly.

“My mother taught me to cook and, ooh, I hated it. She got me up at 6 o’clock in the morning and told me ‘I don’t care if you’re mad about it’ and now look at me. I love to cook and it’s a big part of our Seeds of Faith ministry.”

They no longer give scholarships, she said, because students didn’t seem interested. For the $500 or $1,000 scholarships available to Farrell students only “two or three” would apply, she said. “It’s disheartening, the lack of interest,” she said.

And while they plan to continue focusing on helping nonprofit organizations in whatever way they can, Evans said she has a new idea for another seed to plant. The couple owns property in the 1100 block of Fruit Avenue in Farrell, with enough space to offer an “incubator” area for locally talented artists who lack startup funding.

“We have a lot of talented people in this valley, but maybe they don’t have the money to get their product out there. We’re going to set up tables and tents, and for a small fee, they can set up there, selling their goods. Not permanently, you understand, just to get started,” she said.

And the Evanses will bring out the ribs, complete with the secret sauce, on Friday and Saturdays, starting on the first weekend in June. She is hoping to find some produce vendors and local artisans interested in participating, she said. Anyone wishing to participate can contact Evans at 724-931-5018.

Seeds of Faith ministry has an account at First National Bank of Pennsylvania, she said, and anyone who wants to donate can contact the bank directly.