Volunteer Highlight: Diane Belnavis

​We are so proud of our wonderful RE volunteers!  Their expertise, energy and enthusiasm are the lifeblood of our programs. Today, we highlight volunteer Diane Belnavis.  She took the time to let us get to know her a little better.  Here’s what she had to share:

​Where are you from? 
I was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up on Staten Island.  After college I drove to the West Coast and settled in Oregon for the next fifteen years, and then 25 years ago moved back to the East Coast to southeast Pennsylvania. In a few months, I will be making the move BACK to Oregon, but on the east side of the mountains this time, out of the rain!

What class/classes do you teach at Mill Creek? 
I teach the Roots & Shoots class, children from 8 to 12.  Roots & Shoots is an international children and youth organization started by Jane Goodall to introduce young people to service towards animals, the human community and the environment.

What brings you to Mill Creek?
Last year I was searching for a supportive community where I could continue to lead a roots & shoots group of young people. I attended services at Mill Creek last summer and found the kindest, friendliest and most supportive and accepting group of amazing people.  It has been a pleasure becoming part of this community! Mill Creek walks their talk and is TRULY a welcoming congregation.

What do you love most about Religious Exploration at Mill Creek? 
The energy, compassion, and passion, insight and commitment, and determination of 8-12-year-old children! I learn so much from them every week. AND TERRY of course!

Anything interesting you’d like us to know about you? 
In Oregon, I went to graduate school for entomology, the study of insects! It is also where I learned about autism while working in a children’s group home. When I left to move back east to Pennsylvania 25 years ago, my friend Brent Sullivan, who is autistic, joined our family. Together we started Juniper Hill Farms, a place where adults with autism can learn skills for independent living. Brent and I hope to continue in Oregon assisting autistic adults with their independence, but with a focus on communication for those who cannot speak.

I didn’t give up insects completely, however…. I was the ‘bug lady’ at Longwood Gardens for ten years and introduced many people to some of my favorite incredible pet creatures as well as the benefits of eating chocolate chip cricket cookies.

Thank you for EVERYTHING you do, Diane! You are appreciated!!!