Meet Your Hosts
Our hosts understand first-hand the demands of caregiving, the loss of dreams, and the need for respite and self-care. Your Host works in conjunction with the bed and breakfast or innkeeper to ensure that the mission of David’s Refuge is carried out. They will contact you before your stay to introduce themselves, be there to greet you when you arrive, and join you during breakfast time each morning.
Jeff and Agnes Smith
We are Jeff and Agnes Smith and we have just celebrated our one-year anniversary on July 2, 2022. We have seven children between us five young ladies Jocelyn, Faith, Yaritza, Nadia, and Lena, and two young men Enrique and Emilio. Emilio was diagnosed at an early age with Autism, through early intervention and various therapy sessions he was able to attend school. He’s a high school graduate and now attends college at Syracuse University through the Inclusive U program. Emilio’s journey has taught his dad to be more grounded and he has learned to be patient. Even though Jeff is the parent he feels that he has learned a lot from Emilio. He’s a big WWE fan and enjoys music and art. Being Emilio’s stepmom has been a joy for me to see how he has grown into the young man he is today. We are just looking forward to being a part of the David’s Refuge community. Looking forward to being able to share with other couples. To let them know that they are not alone and how David’s Refuge was a blessing to us.
Chris and Arlene Barber
Hello! We are Chris and Arlene Barber. We have 8 children. We have 2 biological sons and 6 adopted children from 2 foster family placements. We had 39 other foster kids that lived with us over the years. 15 years ago, we adopted 2 of our daughters who are on the autistic spectrum with behavioral issues. Our now 20-year-old daughter is a real handful behaviorally at times. We also have twin 10-year-old adoptive sons with authority defiant issues. These two keep us on our toes all the time. Our journey with them has been very eventful. We had heard about David’s Refugee for a couple of years before we finally joined it. It seemed too good to be true. Then our first respite retreat weekend was so amazing.
We had great hosts, and great accommodations (River Spring Lodge), and felt comfortable enough to share both wins and losses with other couples that were either starting their journey or had been on the journey for a while. We learned so much through the shared stories and experiences. We learned to take the small wins when they were there and of programs that we didn’t even know existed to help our children. We also learned we were not alone when times get rough. We created friendships with people that understood us and what our lives are really like. It also gave my wife and me a chance to reconnect, and refresh, and gives us something good to look forward to every year when we were struggling. This last year we decided we would like to pay it forward and attempt to host some Retreat weekends. In hopes that others, like us, could have these great experiences, share knowledge, and trials, and help others refresh and reconnect. We are grateful for David’s Refuge community and this opportunity.
Derris and Anny Henry
Derris and I moved to Fayetteville from downstate NY in 2014 to provide a better life for our children. Derris works for Aspen Dental, and I work for Syracuse Housing Authority. We have been together for 11 years although we made it official (wedding) this past May. We have 4 children Emmaliza 14, Elijah 9, Ethan 7, Evangelina 5. Both Elijah and Evangelina have been diagnosed with Autism, ADHD, and Sensory Processing Disorder. It has been a struggle to juggle both a career and our family especially having 2 kids with special needs. We have had to wear so many hats like secretary, mentor, social worker, even a doctor to help the bobos. We turned our spare room into an office just so we can keep up with the demands of the paperwork game. We joined the David’s Refuge family 2 years ago and have been blessed to have time to rekindle and work on us. We have been able to participate with date night, respite weekend, Mother’s Day event, I even went on a wellness retreat for women to learn about selfcare. We have been invited to speak in several fundraiser events with the organization to let the donors know how important their contribution is and, they can see firsthand who they are helping. After going on some respite weekends, we decided to be part of Dave’s refuge and volunteer to become host. We realize that it’s very important to help our small community and give back so that others can enjoy and get much needed rest. We know the importance of sleeping thru the night and even lying-in bed for a whole day without doing anything or having to think about anything. We will love our new role with Dave’s refuge and are looking forward to meeting every single one of our caretakers and providing them with the calmest weekend they can expect.
Karen and Terry Giblin
Bill and Jennifer Kirchoff
Rob & Dana Bisnett
Rob and Dana Bisnett know the stress of lengthy hospital stays, juggling appointments, and managing a household. They are busy parents of four teenagers: three sons and one daughter. Their middle son, Ben, has Autism and mental illness. Their daughter Giana was born with Spina Bifida and 9 missing ribs, resulting in 21 surgeries so far. They first visited David’s Refuge for rest and rejuvenation. They loved their time together at David’s Refuge including the opportunity to get to know other special needs parents. The beautiful mission of David’s Refuge inspired them to get involved as hosts. Rob is a B2B Sales Manager for Staples. He enjoys coaching his son’s basketball team, following the Dallas Cowboys, and fitness. Dana works for a respiratory therapy company and is a self-direction broker. Dana enjoys reading, cooking, and her work with other special needs parents. The Bisnett’s faith and their marriage have both been strengthened through their challenging experiences, causing them to view their circumstances as a calling. Rob and Dana have been married for 20 years and are still crazy about each other.
Stanley and Clarise Coleman
Stanley and Clarise Coleman were college sweethearts and God fearing, God loving parents of Chase, a wonderful teenager diagnosed with autism. Clarise is currently employed with Onondaga Community College while Stan is a 24-year employee of the Syracuse City School District as a Teacher Assistant. Advocating for special needs children and caregivers brings joy to them both as they each continuously learn how to best teach their own child to navigate the world. Clarise also supports the caregiver community as the director of a local nonprofit called Show Them How Smart You Are.
As a family, the majority of their spare time is spent doing what Chase loves most: watching lots of movies involving SpongeBob, Marvel characters, humor, and animals. Sporting events are also at the top of the list because Clarise is a sports fanatic. The Colemans enjoy travelling throughout the year, visiting family and new cities all over the country. Clarise enjoys bible-based and documentary readings, dramatic movies, and being the team mom for Chase’s cross-country track team. Stan is an artist who prefers quiet, creative time to work on art via various mediums. They have been married for 10 years.
Joe Sullivan and Ann Coyne
Joe Sullivan and Ann Coyne have been married for 13 years and between them they have 4 children.
There are three girls, all married and living on their own. Joe’s son, Matthew, has Angelman’s
Syndrome. Matt lives nearby in a group home, making it easy to visit often and bring him home on Sundays. Serving as Hosts for David’s Refuge has been very rewarding to Ann and Joe. They enjoy connecting with families, hearing their stories, and sharing in the struggles and triumphs of caregiving.
Chuck and Gerry DiCosimo
Chuck and Gerry DiCosimo have been married for 43 years. Their first child, Christine, was born with Prader –Willi Syndrome, a complex multi-system disorder which presented a lifelong series of challenges for her and her family. Chuck is an Oral Surgeon practicing in Manlius, New York. He has dedicated much time and effort to benefit people with special needs in his office as well as the community. Gerry is a Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Nurse Specialist who has critical expertise in developing specialized programs for people with special needs. Through her love and dedication, Gerry was able to arrange for and be directly involved in Christine’s education which resulted in Christine becoming certified as a Nursing Assistant in New York State. Chuck and Gerry have established a private residence for Christine in Manlius, New York through many years of hard work. The DiCosimos have learned through years of experience the importance of offering support to others. They are honored to be a part of the David’s Refuge team and enjoy sharing their compassion and knowledge with other families.
Julie Gridley is a single mom of a child with special needs. She was the first single parent served by David’s Refuge during their very first year and has been an active participant in the David’s Refuge Community, always feeling that someday she would give back in some way.
Julie is a firm believer that God allows us to experience both the joys and challenges of life to equip us to understand and help others. She has been the Intake Coordinator at a facility where she supports families in the process of obtaining a developmental diagnosis for their child for many years. She is a semi-retired birth and post-partum doula, having served many families and participated in over 200 births.
Julie was married for many years, and experienced the heartbreaking passing of the love of her life. She believes her special needs child not only saved her life, but revealed her greatest gifts and purpose. Julie loves people, loves to hear people’s stories, and loves to support others. She is very excited to be a part of the mission of David’s Refuge, showing others the love she has been shown and reminding individuals that self-care is a critical, non-optional part of being an exceptional parent!
Brian and Doni Dwyer
Brian and Doni Dwyer met while studying at Roberts Wesleyan College. They have been married for 15 years and are the parents of two beautiful daughters, Brooklyn and Isabella. The Dwyers understand the mental and physical challenges parents experience while caring for and raising a child with a life long illness. The couple first started their journey at David’s Refuge as guests over 5 years ago, and they have developed a deep understanding and appreciation for what the respite weekend provides.
Their oldest daughter, Brooklyn, has a very rare autoimmune/genetic disorder. Her body is fighting itself and destroying several endocrine glands, and she is one of about 250 children in the United States with this diagnosis. Isabella loves playing outside, especially with her sister. Brian is a science teacher and the head JV football coach at a local school district. After teaching Head Start for 14 years, Doni recently resigned to take care of their children. In addition to serving as hosts for David’s Refuge, Brian and Doni are co-chairs for the Syracuse area Fresh Air Fund.
Sasha and Sarah Hallock
Sasha and Sarah Hallock first visited David’s Refuge as guests and were amazed at the care they experienced. It was during the hardest year of their lives as they struggled to care for their son Judah who had recently been diagnosed with a rare genetic condition, called CDG. Learning to manage therapies and doctors appointments, surgeries and lack of sleep, David’s Refuge was a refreshing time for them to connect as husband and wife and reflect. They now have a second son Oliver and are adjusting to being parents of two boys. Although married only five years, Sasha and Sarah are incredible listeners with an amazing ability to connect with others. They are a huge asset to our team. Sasha is an artist who enjoys oil painting, running, drinking coffee and listening to classical music. Sarah is also an artist who enjoys interior, furniture and fashion design as well as cooking new recipes. They planted a garden for the first time last summer and hope to have a small one again this year. They live in Rochester and work as chaplains at the University of Rochester.
Eric and Daidra Hamlin
Eric and Daidra Hamlin came to David’s Refuge first as parents of a special needs child in need of respite. After receiving plenty of encouragement and care from their own stay, the couple wanted to “pay it forward” and help David’s Refuge restore and refresh as many caretakers as possible. Eric has been in pastoral ministry for the past 14 years. He has been involved in youth ministry throughout New York State and currently serves as lead pastor of Living Hope AG in Waterloo. He enjoys reading, hiking, playing with his twin boys and eating his wife’s Italian cooking. Daidra loves cooking, hosting events in her home and anything that has to do with her kids. She and Eric have been married for over 13 years. Daidra received a degree from Bryant & Stratton College in Business Management and has put it to good use helping lead offices, churches, coffeehouses and her own home.
Steve and Laurie Mitchell
Steve and Laurie Mitchell became involved with David’s Refuge through Eastern Hill’s Bible Church. Both have special needs siblings so they understand the value of a ministry that provides support to the families served through David’s Refuge. Steve is a Partner in BME – Business Machines and Equipment and Laurie is a retired from Madison-Oneida BOCES as a Special Education Teacher. Steve and Laurie have been married for 28 years and have two grown children and a daughter-in-law. They enjoy outdoor actives such as going to the beach and Black Lake. They have served in several ministries and have seen amazing things get accomplished through God’s love and grace and look forward to serving and being part of God’s continued blessing through David’s Refuge.
Ned and Shelly Morgan
Ned and Shelly Morgan were guests at David’s Refuge in 2017 and quickly concluded that this was a mission that they were called to serve with! Ned and Shelley have been married for 28 years, have 6 children ranging between college to elementary school, each being adopted, two with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their youngest son has Down’s Syndrome. Ned is a fruit grower/farmer, and Shelley is a stay at home whose passion and education is in social work and adoption. Interests and hobbies for Ned include anything hunting related. For Shelley it is flower gardening or volunteer efforts at the children’s schools, their church, and in the adoption/special needs community.
Hello beautiful friends! Being a mom to 3 boys has been my favorite adventure. As a single Mom for many years, I feel a special connection to other single parents where the work never stops! You are my people; I SEE you and I cannot wait to see you on a Respite weekend soon! While navigating mental health services and inpatient hospitalizations with my son with Autism, I remarried and finished my college degree. My background is in children’s mental health and child welfare. I am currently a proud Mobile Crisis first responder in Onondaga County. The Davids Refuge family has been a huge support to me in my caregiving journey and my prayer is you feel the same level of support! As your host I feel incredibly honored to share life with you! You are not alone, what you do every day matters and Jesus and this community love you!
Tami Czerwinski was first introduced to David’s Refuge in 2016, during a time of turmoil and chaos. Dealing with her daughter’s life threatening illness Tami was able to get away for a Single Mother’s weekend, and felt the love and support of this program. She felt in that moment that she would be able to share this same love and support to other single mothers in the future.
Tami had been a single mother for 14 years with no family support, and had to build her own circle of support for her little family of 3. Tami later met Brandon who loves her children unconditionally as his own. A few years later Brandon and Tami got married. They have a dog, 2 cats, a guinea pig, and about 15 fish. Some may say they have a zoo, but they are all part of the family and play different roles. Tami and her family enjoy being together and camping during the summer.
She is no stranger to the Intellectual Developmental Disability world. She has worked in this field since 2010, first as a 1:1 staff for a young man with Autism. She knew in that first month that this was the field that God had called her to be in and even changed her major in college to obtain an Associates in Human Services with a Certificate in Developmental Disabilities from GCC. Tami worked her way up in the field and has been a Care Coordinator/Intake Specialist since 2016. She has a love for each person and family that she comes in contact with and treats each person as if they were her own family. Tami loves to stay busy, be a part of her community, teaching her children about giving back and volunteering her time as she is able to.
Jenn and Ryan Ferguson
Jenn and Ryan Ferguson fell in love and married while Ryan was in school at Syracuse University. After Ryan finished school they moved to Olean, NY where they currently live. Ryan works in finance and Jenn homeschools their children and works part-time as a dental hygienist. God has blessed them with 3 wonderful children the youngest of whom is their reason for finding David’s Refuge.
At 20 weeks’ gestation Ryan and Jenn found out that their daughter would be born with Arthrogryposis, an orthopedic and muscular condition. They were given a worst-case scenario with doctors telling them that she might not live past birth due to lack of lung function. From her first breath (on her own!) Elaina has been defying the odds.
The respite weekends at David’s Refuge came as an unexpected blessing in very stressful times.
They started attending respite weekends 6 years ago when Elaina was 2 years old. Every year since it has been the highlight of their year. They look forward to the time away from the stress of life, strengthening their relationship, and connecting with others.
Jenn and Ryan understand the stress of navigating an unexpected and rare condition. They also understand the importance of spending time with those that face similar challenges. David’s Refuge has been integral in encouraging them, and they are looking forward to connecting with and encouraging other couples through hosting with David’s Refuge.
Matty and Tammi
Hello! We have been with David’s refuge for 6 years and it has been a true gift for us. We are both from Buffalo, New York. Matty and I have been together for 6 years and are engaged! My daughter is 10 years old, and I adopted her when she was 7 weeks old! She is blessed with an extra chromosome. I like to call it Up syndrome…there is not one thing down about her! My little brother has cerebral palsy so he is the reason why I always knew raising my little girl would be amazing! I work part time for National Property Management. Matty is a musician and an Artist. He has also worked for Wegmans for the past 17 years! He is a wonderful stepfather to Sofia. We are so lucky to have him! David’s Refuge taught us to slow down and relax. And also, that it’s ok to have some time away! Special needs parenting is hard, and we are so very happy we can help other parents during their stay!
Jennifer and Kenneth Keisner
Jenn and Ken have a 17-year-old daughter who has been diagnosed with an intellectual disability. Jennifer is a Self-Direction Broker and also the President of Longwood Special Education PTO. In addition, she is the coach of LI Cheer Sparkle (A special needs cheer team), runs a bowling league for special needs individuals, is the Long Island Representative for Autism on the Seas, runs a theatre group for special needs individuals and is involved with many local special needs’ organizations on Long Island. Ken works at Kia of Huntington and picks up the slack at home so that Jenn is able to help the community. Teamwork makes the dream work with these two! They look forward to being a Host family and to help spearhead the David’s Refuge legacy on Long Island.
We would like to show our deepest gratitude and appreciation for all of our former host volunteers for giving their time and love to support caregivers.
- Chris and Tom Doughty
- Terrance and Karen Giblin
- Dewey and Gloria Hakes
- Bob and Cheri Hawkins
- Kevin and Melissa Linck
- MIke and Helen Littlejohn
- Lori and Gerard McCrohan
- Tom and Judie Murphy
- Ben and Jamie Nodine
- Warren and Brenda Pfohl
- Dave and Karen Richardson
- Fred and Ellie Weir
- Tom and Lara Capuano
- Sean & Andrea King
- Steve and Gail Healy
- Jeff and Bitsy Namy
- Tony and Sara Paredes
- Andy and Lori Russo
- Jeff and Janelle Fields
- Erica Searles
- Hal and Careen Talbot
- John and Randi Downs
- Ian and Kristen Cuthbert