June 29, 2018
DEFINITION: Accepting responsibility for; including in a larger whole.
On Abundance, Inspiration and Adoption
“My hope is that adoption is not seen as uncommon but as common. I pray that we grow into a community that is not bound by blood, but bound by love.” –Sarah DeGarmo
Sarah DeGarmo’s story is one of life echoing art. And vice versa.
As the founder and CEO of Rise by Design, a design and brand creation company based in St. Joseph, Mo., DeGarmo turns business ideas into professional brands. In essence, she and her team turn the hopes and visions companies have for their identities into something alive. She turns them into something familiar, yet surprising and memorable, and builds them to last.
“I love being creative and I enjoy that every day brings a new challenge to my doorstep. I get to wake up each day and make things beautiful and I lead a small, but mighty team of people who love to do the same,” says DeGarmo.
But that’s just the start of the story.
These attributes are creatively woven across DeGarmo’s surprising and quite “uncommon” childhood as one with 12 siblings – 11 of whom were adopted from the Philippines. “I can’t imagine life without adoption,” she says. “The process blessed me with so many wonderful memories and so many more to come.”
DeGarmo and her husband, who have two sons at home, are on their own adoption journey. More than a year ago, they began the process of adopting from the Philippines. They are excited to welcome home their little girl in a few short months.
While there are many paths to adoption, such as fostering to adopt, domestic adoption and international adoption, each story involves loss. “Every child coming from adoption has experienced tremendous loss that led to their present circumstances. No matter how joyful adding to your family can be, there’s also a very present reality of mourning and grief for the child. It’s difficult for me to think about what my own siblings endured on their journey to our home.”
Talking about adoption – often, and honestly – is one way DeGarmo hopes the community can open more doors for families. As new conversations begin about adoption and foster care, DeGarmo is encouraging a fresh look at the language used to help maintain positive communication.
“Consider the audience. A child brought home through adoption may have trouble hearing and understanding the questions you ask. If kids are around, set up some time to grab coffee with the friend you have questions for to better safeguard children,” she says.
The questions themselves can also be a careful point of consideration. “Intimate questions about a specific child’s adoptive/foster story may not be appropriate. An adopted child’s story is theirs to tell when they are ready. Keep your questions general,” says DeGarmo.
Another common misconception DeGarmo notes pertains to giving adoptive parents a different kind of praise than birth parents. “People often say ‘you’re such great people for adopting those kids.’ This is the hardest because it is so well-meaning, but it’s hurtful. Put yourself in the shoes of an adopted child … you’re listening to your parents being praised for taking care of you. In essence, you’re hearing that you are a charity case. Since we don’t praise people for raising their birth children, let’s start to replace that language with something like, ‘I love that you’ve added to your family through adoption.’” Phrasing it this way, she adds, helps change the expectation to reflect that all parents – whether they’re birth or adoptive – are striving to raise their children in loving, caring environments.
DeGarmo explains that area churches, such as her own, Wellspring Community Church in St. Joseph, offer support systems for foster and adoptive parents and families. “Overall, we have found St. Joseph to be a community that continues to embrace foster care and adoption. We are creating a new normal for the next generation. It is normal for me to listen to the voices of my children pray for foster babies each night. It is normal for the kids to receive letters from classmates at school who are excited to hear they have a new big sister. It is normal that my children are surrounded by bilingual, multicultural aunts and uncles. It’s the normal I love and it’s the normal I celebrate each day.
“My hope is that adoption is not seen as uncommon but as common. I am fortunate that my children have grown up around adoption and have been blessed immeasurably by it. I pray that we continue to grow into a community that is not bound by blood, but bound by love,” she says.
Like the branches of a beautiful family tree, DeGarmo’s work toward changing perceptions about adoption and her own passion toward design continue to flourish into something truly unique and impactful.
But she says it like this:
“Look around. God created a beautiful, magnificent earth and there is an abundance to be inspired by. If I am needing inspiration, I like to get outside and study each element. A blade of grass, the way gravity moves water, the petals of a delicate flower … all of these things are inspiring to me. It’s all part of one larger, more beautiful story.”
More than a decade of service later, the program continues to grow. Most of the kids who live in this St. Joseph neighborhood receive free or reduced priced breakfast and lunch during the school year, but have limited food resources in the summer.
All you curious, brave, intrigued or surprise-seeking persons, preferably who have young people in your care: Check out Super Science Saturday for an uncommon learning experience. You can always settle your hair down on Monday.
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When it’s time for a coffee fix, St. Joseph’s options range from the eclectic to the trendy to the fast and familiar. The coffee culture in St. Joseph continues to expand and thrive, fueled by historic roasters, young entrepreneurs and locals who want to open the doors to a comfortable piece of the city’s relaxed vibe.
Who is the hardest person to buy for on your list? These are the people who “don’t need a thing.” They “have everything they need.” They “want you to spend your shopping time somewhere else.”