Liz Harry Makes Christmas Ornaments for Guatemala

Liz says that painting the faces on the angels is the biggest challenge.

By Susan Shinn Turner

You might have met Liz Harry at the 9:27 service, listening to her great-nephew, Archie Dees, play guitar as a member of the worship team. Or you might have met her at a recent GIFT women’s gathering, or in Gary Freeze’s Sunday school class.

Since moving to Salisbury in May 2017 with her husband, Zeb — who’s Margaret Kluttz’s brother — Liz has jumped into activities at St. John’s. One activity she’s carried over from her previous congregation was fundraising for mission partners.

In December, Liz sold brightly colored Santas and delicate angels made from dried okra pods. Proceeds went to support Escuela Integrada, St. John’s mission partner in Guatemala.

“One morning I had gone to the 8:30 service, and Paula Bohland spoke about the school in Guatemala,” Liz says. “It just spoke to me. I decided I wanted to sponsor a child, but I also wanted to donate money for school supplies.”

Liz’s goal was $500, and she made $400 — pretty good for her first year here, she thinks.

Liz has always given the ornaments as gifts, tying them on packages, and she’s used them to decorate her own Christmas trees.

She first spied dried okra fashioned into a Christmas wreath when she was shopping with friends at an antique mall in Virginia. She and Zeb moved to Salisbury from a farm in Raphine, Va., in the Shenandoah Valley.

“But it was so much okra!” Liz remembers. Then she hit on the idea of making ornaments, looked on Pinterest for ideas, and was on her way. She worked on the project for two years in Virginia, contributing to her church’s ministry in Honduras.

Liz Harry uses acrylic paint to make Santa ornaments from dried okra pods. This past Christmas season — her first effort at St. John’s — she raised $400 for the Guatemala ministry by selling okra Santas and angels.

Liz has already decided to continue the ornament project to benefit the Guatemala ministry again this year.

“I want to sponsor a child who’s in kindergarten or first grade to watch them grow,” she notes.

It’s not a huge thing, Liz says. “Everybody can do something to help others. This is one thing I can do to change someone’s life.”

Liz planted the okra in July, and it was ready around Thanksgiving. You have to let it dry on the stalk she says. Otherwise, it molds.

“We ate very little of the okra because I was trying to save it,” she admits.

Liz says she doesn’t spend too much money for supplies — just acrylic paint for the Santas and angels, and ribbons and sphagnum moss for the angels, and small dowels for their faces. The most challenging part, she says, is painting each angel’s face. “I am not an artist.”

Liz retired after a 45-year career as a flight attendant with United. She and Zeb bought Addie Ketner’s house, and moved in June 2018 after some renovations.

“It’s still a work in progress,” says Liz, who has her sewing machine set up in the foyer while she makes window treatments.

She and Zeb have been married since 1995, and together have four children and four grandchildren.

“Salisbury has been the most welcoming community,” Liz says. “It feels real homey. Everybody is really caring.”

Liz has also started helping with Wednesday meals — she met chef Ott Pinkston and Celia Jarrett, his lead assistant, in yoga class at the Y.

“I can’t believe what a deal it is,” Liz says of the weekly meals. “This is definitely a community church. We came from a small congregation. St. John’s is much larger, but very warm and welcoming.”