Monday, October 10, 2011

GRACE in ACTION: Teri Valentine

Bite and Balance

Everybody at All Saints seems to have a story about how deeply the church has affected their lives. Teri Valentine, a member of the Women’s Community steering committee, likes to tell one about her children.

“My youngest daughter, Hazel, was in an evening music recital at school and asked her brother Sam to attend,” she said. “Sam told her that he looked forward to the Wednesday youth group at church more than anything else during the week, so he hoped that she would understand his not being at school for her recital. That must be some youth program, right?”

All of Teri’s children have been active in the programs at ASC. Her eldest, Katie Rayburn, who just left to attend the University of Arizona, was an acolyte. Sam Rayburn is a ninth grader, an acolyte and active in the Wednesday night program. Hazel Valentine is in fifth grade and sings in the children’s choir.

“All Saints has had a very positive effect on the lives of my family,” she said. “I love the sermons. They are always inspiring. Church should help you get through the week. As my children have gotten older, they have also come to understand the lessons we get in the sermons.” Among the lessons she values most are that we are not here to judge other people and that it is important to help those who are less fortunate than we are.

Teri began attending All Saints during the George Regas years, after moving to La Cañada. She was looking for a place to volunteer to help people in need. “I checked out some organizations in La Cañada, but they tended to keep their money in the local community and the people in La Cañada aren’t really in need,” said Teri.

At All Saints she found a rich variety of ministries to support. She donated some women’s toiletries left over from a Girl Scout project to the Women’s Community and was recruited to serve on the steering committee. That was perfect for a busy mother, because the steering committee meetings coincided with the Wednesday youth programs.

“Our church has so many ministries to people in need,” Teri explained, “and I really trust the staff to see that the money we give is going to the right places. There are a lot of organizations doing charitable work, but you don’t always know who is behind them and how the money is spent. I trust that ASC will not spend money unwisely.”

Donating money, as well as time, to All Saints is something that has increased for Teri over the years.

“I always gave when I could,” she explained, but she didn’t pledge in the early years when she was a caterer with a struggling restaurant. “I was afraid that if I made a pledge that I would find my kitchen staff staring at me, saying ‘What do you mean we can’t cash our paychecks?’ ”

When she, her husband and a third business partner began their current company, The Perfect Bite Co, Teri said she decided she needed to take the leap of faith and pledge 10 percent of her income to support the work at All Saints. “It was the right thing for me to do,” she explained. “It is a balance in my life. The company has thrived and I really feel like we are doing well so that we can help other people.”

Growing out of Teri’s wildly popular pastry kisses, The Perfect Bite Co now provides a wide selection of fresh and frozen foods to markets and specialty stores such as Gelson’s and Williams-Sonoma. It makes private label products for markets nationwide and also distributes products under its own labels.

Parishioners have sampled some of Teri’s food at the annual Lunch of Compassion, which raises money for a different charity each year. It was originally a simple lunch of rice and beans, but Teri has expanded the menu a bit since she began donating all the food three years ago. “We still have the simple dishes and some vegan dishes, but I also include a few meat dishes,” she said. Because she donates the food, all the proceeds from the lunch can go to the charity.

Teri is also committed to seeking out new people, inviting them to All Saints and getting them connected to various ministries. “I’m famous for bringing Charlie Rahilly (our current Senior Warden) to the church,” she laughed. “It’s a big church and sometimes people find it hard to get involved. I want to help them find a place where they fit in.”

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