George Sweatt / Events & Activities Director | email
God has gifted and blessed George with multiple talents and he uses them all at Family Life! George works in our radio and youth departments. His favorite part of both jobs is hearing about the change God causes in people lives - a big reward of ministry work.
George is a part of the Saturday morning Kids Korner – cutting, mixing, and adding sound effects to the audio he records with the gang each week.
His love for kids and passion for Christ caused George to pursue a degree in youth ministry at Criswell College in Dallas, TX. After serving as youth pastor for eight years and working for a non-profit radio station for two years, George began praying for his next step in ministry.
It wasn’t long before God opened the door for an interview with Family Life. After visiting the ministry and spending several sleepless nights in prayer, George made the trek from Texas to join the Family Life team in June of 2008.
About a year into his work with Family Life, George expressed interest in working for Family Life's youth department. Who were we to argue? So along with his Performing Arts responsibilities, George joins Katie Bernier in Youth Action to help plan and coordinate events for teens and young adults.
While George may seem mild-mannered, you’ll be surprised to know he's tested the limits of extreme sports. Bull-riding, skydiving, base-jumping, and bungee jumping are a few of his much loved, and otherwise crazy, things to do. Being raised in Texas, where snow is a rare commodity, George is looking forward to some good NY skiing when the flakes begin to fall.
Debbie Fero / Events Coordinator | email
Debbie is responsible for planning, coordinating, and overseeing events and activities for adults, including singles, seniors, and homeschooling parents. Her days are filled with phone calls, emails, and face-to face communication, all to draw adults into having a personal encounter with Jesus. Debbie's heart is for Christ, and for the people He puts in her path.
Prior to answering God’s call to full-time vocational ministry, Debbie spent 19 years working in the high-stress newspaper industry. She fine tuned her administrative and organizational skills as Circulation Director for the Daily Review in Towanda, PA. As part of the management team there, Debbie played a big part in corporate strategic planning and customer service training.
When her marriage of 21 years ended in divorce, Debbie found herself searching for “someone” to fill the hole in her heart. Her search ended while attending her first Family Life event, a SALSA (singles) conference, where she realized Jesus was drawing her into a personal relationship.
Over the next few years, Debbie discovered how to use her God-given gifts and even her hurts to minister to women and singles. As her passion for ministry grew, God made it clear that He was calling her to be a part of the Family Life team. After a year of raising personal support, Debbie took her leap of faith, left her job at the newspaper, and joined Family Life.
Debbie enjoys spending time with her immediate family. This includes her son, Dan; daughter, Maggi; son-in-law, Otto; and her grandson, Antonio. She also likes spending time with friends, watching movies, and doing an occasional jigsaw puzzle.
Katie Bernier / Performing Arts Assistant & Counseling Assistant | email
Katie is a 20-something who thrives on bringing order to chaos of any kind! How has this come to be? Well as the oldest of 12 children, Katie has lived a real “cheaper by the dozen” life. A natural and gifted caregiver, her greatest passion is discipling and mentoring young adults. She also loves reading, writing and blogging (AKA: truth scribbling) as a way of unwinding and processing life. So to wrap all her skills into one great career, Katie has decided to study Biblical counseling and is currently working on her certification.
Katie’s job at Family Life takes the form of an administrative assistant and then some. She works for the Performing Arts department, helping to support the ministry’s operational processes and keep matters running smoothly. She jokingly says her job is “primarily about running around behind everyone, picking up leftover pieces!” (I bet that’s much like growing up with a dozen siblings!)
An avid theater lover, Katie also serves as wardrobe manager and assistant costumer for most of Family Life’s theatrical productions. She loves to travel on the road with the acting and production crew, and thrives when she's living life “behind the stage.”
Gary Short / Biblical Counseling Director, Counselor (LCSW) | email
In addition to overseeing the Biblical Counseling department, Gary counsels individual, couples, and families in the Bath, Corning, and Elmira areas of Upstate New York. Gary loves every aspect of being a counselor and daily thanks God for the great privilege of helping those that seek Godly wisdom for their concerns.
Gary was led to Family Life in 1976, back when the ministry was operating as Area Youth for Christ. He worked as a caseworker for a boy’s home called New Life Homes-Snell Farms, a former division of Family Life. In 1982, Gary sensed God calling him to develop a new counseling department! Although excited about the opportunity, Gary had a feeling that once the department was underway, he would leave it in the good hands of another counselor to follow another God-led path.
Sure enough, Gary spent the next 20 years as a school social worker at the Greater Southern Tier BOCES. Gary was called back to Family Life part-time in 2003, and after five years, was asked to serve as a director and counselor of the very department he helped to establish over two decades ago. God moves in beautiful circles!
Gary and his wife, Barb, have three sons: Jason, Dean, and Darin. Gary also has a Master’s degree in Social Work from Syracuse University and is a doctoral candidate at Trinity College. On a more personal note, Gary has a passion for classic cars and trucks. His yearly trips to the Carlisle Show – a major auto event in PA – make him a pretty serious enthusiast!
Barb Short / Biblical Counselor (LCSW-R) | email
Barb counsels individuals, couples, families and small groups with difficult life issues such as anxiety, depression, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. She is blessed by the Lord to help hurting people in any way she can.
After working for 18 years at
Barb and Gary have three sons: Jason, Dean, and Darin, and two grandsons: Hudson and Levi. She has a Master’s Degree in social work from Syracuse University and has advanced training and certification in EMDR, a treatment technique for handling and processing trauma. As a registered nurse, Barb finds her medical background to be a valuable asset in the counseling field.
In her spare time Barb enjoys “playing in the dirt” - a euphemism for tending her large perennial garden! She and Gary also have had the privilege of traveling overseas to provide missionaries with encouragement and counseling services as they serve the Lord. The work is strenuous but very rewarding, and they look forward to more opportunities like these.