Growing up, Hope Painter attended Elizabethtown Area School District and had friends and classmates who lived at the children’s home. After studying early childhood education, Hope applied to become a house parent at the children’s home on a whim, out of curiosity.

“I was hesitant, as I hadn’t worked outside the home since having my girls,” Hope said. “Once I got on campus and learned more about the program, I knew this is where I was meant to be.”

Since she has two small children at home, Hope enjoys the variety working with the high school girls at Umbaugh Cottage offers her.

“I love working with that age group because they are such formative years,” Hope said. “They face so many challenges at that age, and they are really finding out more about who they are and what they want in life. I feel blessed to be a small part of that.”

From academics to friendships, and everything inbetween, Hope guides the young ladies of Umbaugh Cottage, but is also inspired by them.

“The girls are like true sisters,” Hope said. “They have times where they may get frustrated with each other, but they are also the first to lend a helping hand or shoulder to cry on. They defend each other, give advice and share a common bond.

“I want them to know they are capable of anything they put their minds to. These girls are movers and shakers. I hope they continue to be outspoken about things that matter. They are up to big things, and I hope they never lose that fire.”

Many children succeed at the children’s home because generous donors and dedicated staff give them the chance to just be kids, which all children deserve.

“Playing outside were things I took for granted growing up,” Hope said. “For many of our kids, playing outside would not be safe, especially after dark, if they didn’t reside here. Donors give the kids the opportunity to focus on school, friendships and extra-curricular activities.”

This past Christmas, Hope made countless batches of cookies with the girls, as well as put together a project where they each made personalized ornaments to hang on the cottage’s Christmas tree.

While they worked, Hope enjoyed listening to the girls talk about their future homes, careers and where they would be in the coming years when they take their ornaments with them.

“I grew up with a single mother,” Hope said. “We didn’t have much, but my mom always made Christmas magical.”

Most years, Hope’s mother did that with help from family, church members and other programs that donated gifts, fixings for Christmas dinner and more.

It was especially important to Hope that the girls had a magical holiday of their own last year, since they weren’t able to participate in the usual holiday activities due to COVID-19 restrictions.

When Hope accepted her new position, like the rest of the world, she never expected COVID-19. As an adult, she struggled with the “new normal,” but she watched the girls tackle every challenge with grace and ease.

“They have inspired me in so many ways over the past year,” Hope said.

Throughout the 2020 presidential election, Hope was blown away at how informed the girls were.

“They watched each debate and kept up with current events,” Hope said. “They were able to have passionate discussions, and our senior, Success, was able to go out and cast her vote. I know the future will be brighter, because they are part of it.”

Most of Hope’s favorite moments with the girls center around the small things: sitting around the table eating a good meal, a Friday night movie in the living room or playing a round of “Family Feud.”

“I don’t think words could ever be enough to thank our donors,” Hope said. “One of the best parts of working with an older age group is that they are old enough to realize what opportunities they have here. It’s not something they take lightly. Our donors are making a difference, and I hope they know without them, none of this would be possible.”