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Herald Angels spend their retirement teaching home schoolers

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Last month, the Catholic Herald asked readers to nominate community members who stand out for their generous service and kindness. Staffers reviewed the nominations and selected Deb and Rob Stevens as the 2020 Herald Angels. 

As the Stevens considered retirement, they thought about the gifts God had given them and how best to give back. Then they got to work.
For many years, the couple lived in Winchester and attended church across the border at St. Leo Church in Inwood, W.Va. Rob worked in business and finance. Deb was a high school science teacher. By the end of her career, Deb was involved in the local home-school community, reviewing coursework for families and teaching classes. After he retired, Rob also began teaching home-schoolers. 
In 2016, the couple moved to Stafford to be closer to their grandson, Paul. They took their passion for education with them to their new community, asking around St. William of York Church in Stafford if there was a home-schooling co-op that needed teachers. The St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Homeschoolers (STARCH), a home-school ministry that serves St. William of York and St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg, took the couple up on their offer. 
For three years, they taught in a room at the local library, “until we got kicked out,” said Deb. She likes to teach by conducting lots of experiments, which attracted the attention of students not in the class. They allowed those kids to join but it was a little too crowded and noisy for the library. So they put the home in home schooling by turning their basement into two small classrooms. Since the start of the pandemic, they’ve conducted classes online. But the kids are still doing lab experiments; she leaves the kits on her front porch for parents to retrieve. 
For their classes, the Stevens charge a minimal fee to cover supply costs, and ask an additional favor. “I ask them to pray for my son” — Father Joshua Stevens of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said Deb. “My fees are out of this world,” she joked. 
One reason they help the home-schooling community is to support an environment that often fosters vocations. “A huge number of vocations are now coming out of the home-school families. And that’s a big thing for me with a son who’s a priest,” said Deb. “You’ve got these wonderful families doing their best to preserve the faith. So you do whatever you can to help.” 
Another of their passions is vacation Bible school. They helped restart the program at St. William of York, which now gets about 75 kids each summer. They also ran Bible camps at their old parish and at their son’s parishes. The Stevens love creating an environment for kids to have fun while learning about the faith in church. “I think you plant a lot of seeds,” said Deb. 
As if that’s not enough to keep them busy, the Stevens spend their Saturdays and Mondays during tax season helping people with their taxes. Rob got the idea from his father, who did the same thing during his retirement. “There’s no reason for these people (who) are low income or retired to go out and pay $200 to get their tax return (done),” said Rob. 
The Stevens wanted to spend their retirement staying busy and engaged. The reason they volunteer so much comes down to a simple biblical principle for Rob — “to whom much is given, much is expected.” As Deb says, they’re giving back the talents they’ve been given. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020