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To Russia with love Friends, parents of adopted boy band together to help Russian orphans

By Elizabeth Cook

Salisbury Post

Logan Everhart is a survivor.

It’s hard to believe the bright-eyed 9-year-old sitting at his desk at Morgan Elementary school last Thursday lay starving and neglected in a Russian orphanage just five years ago.

But he did, and the memory of the suffering she saw in that orphanage is compelling his adoptive mother, Vickey Everhart, to return to Russia to help the other children — the children left behind.

She’ll be following a trail blazed by her neighbor, Pansy Rutter, who has adopted four children from Russia over the past seven years and has made 12 trips to Russia.

Vickey, Pansy and friend Kathy Varnadore plan to leave the United States for Russia on March 23, carrying materials and money that will make life better for children in four orphanages. Kathy also has made the journey before; her first trip was four years ago.

They’re paying their own way and raising funds to carry out the mission. Proceeds from a spaghetti supper at BRS Construction in Richfield Saturday, Feb. 3, will help them reach their $25,000 goal.

Vickey and Lanny Everhart say they were overwhelmed by the support and help the community gave them as they struggled to keep Logan alive and nurture the other child they adopted, healthy Kristina.

“We’re ready to give back,” Vickey says.

The Everharts knew when they adopted Logan that he was malnourished and had undergone surgery in his stomach-intestinal area. What they did not know is that the botched surgery left him with a host of health problems and a complete disinterest in food.

Even now, Logan is diagnosed as anorexic and enticing him to eat takes constant effort. “No, thank you,” he has learned to say, holding up his hand like a stop sign. But he’s come a long way from the weak child who could not walk and had to get his nourishment through a tube. “He was so sick for so long,” Vickey says.

After more surgery and three years of constant physical therapy, he’s up to 57 pounds and can ride a bike, and he’s in the midst of his second full year of school in Morgan’s third grade.

“I think he’s doing great,” Lanny says, “but he’s still a work in progress.”

Meanwhile, sister Kristina has thrived from Day One and is an excellent student.

For Lanny, giving back to the community has meant joining the Richfield Volunteer Fire Department, where he is vice president of the board of directors and went on 50 calls last year.

For Vickey, it means joining her friends in the community on a trip back to the Russian orphanages in Chuvashia, Karlia and Kaluga. She already has one suitcase full of clothes Logan has outgrown that she will donate. They all know the need is tremendous.

“It’s a real eye-opener of what we have and what they don’t have,” says Kathy Varnadore.

The women say hepatitis spread through one of the orphanages, killing about a third of its 272 children. So one of their goals on this trip will be to set up a small infirmary with a few beds so sick children have a place to go apart from the other children.

They hope to deliver everything from paint for the walls to dishes, and even tires for the orphanage vans, which have to travel through a lot of snow and ice. Because shipping costs have gotten so high, it’s become more practical to buy most of the items in Russia. But they do hope to take a good supply of small dental equipment, high quality winter clothing (Thread Shed has already donated some) and a limited array of arts and crafts supplies — beads, embroidery thread, glitter, art kits, needlepoint kits and painting supplies.

In the arts and crafts rooms the group has set up in the orphanages, the children can learn a skill and make items to sell, splitting the proceeds with the orphanage.

Pansy says she knew after her first trip to Russia to adopt a child that she would have to go back.

“When we got there, we saw all the children who were left there with nothing,” she says. They went with $500 and 170 pounds of aid “and really thought we had done something until we saw the absolute poverty and the hundreds of kids.”

On her last trip, her group took more than $18,000 and 700 pounds of goods.

Her group has also started a sponsorship program for the children about to leave the orphanages, the 16-year-olds who will soon have to make their own way. A gift of $1,000 over two years provides a teen with three outfits of clothes, two pairs of shoes, a heavy coat and other necessities and $30 a month in spending money — enough to buy a pair of jeans or go to a movie, Pansy says, and to prevent a teen from resorting to crime to get such things.

“They’re able to go to work then and they’re able to make a living. And, hopefully, they won’t bring their children to the orphanage.”

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Want to help?

The spaghetti dinner for the Russian Orphanage Program will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, at BRS Construction, 208 North N.C. 49, Richfield. Adults, $7; children under 10, $3.50.

Contributions for the orphanages may be sent to Luther’s Lutheran Church, 4955 Richfield Road, Richfield, NC 28137, marked “Russia Program.” For more information, contact Pansy Rutter at 704-209-3837.

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