By PENNY FLETCHER
Marge and Dick Yarger chose the Tampa Bay area because of their love of sports, but sports isn’t what their life’s been about.
“When we lived in Port Charlotte, we would drive up this way to see the Lightning and the Rays games,” Marge said. “We followed them closely from the beginning, and we were there when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup.”
So in 2002, when it came time for the two lifelong educators to retire, they bought a house in the Villages of Cypress Creek, close to their daughter Wende in Ruskin and still not far from their son Kirk in Sarasota, and continued to go to the games and follow their teams.
But other things about the area began to draw their attention, and having been involved in churches where they lived before, soon they were heavily involved in St. Andrew Presbyterian Church.
In addition to being an Elder and Deacon, Marge has served in many areas of ministry, including Circle Leader, Secretary-Treasurer of the Presbyterian Women, on the Health Cabinet and Nominating Committee, and has taught Christian education classes.
This year she was also on the World Day of Prayer Planning Committee and is a Stephen Ministry leader, co-chairwoman of the Prayer Shawl Ministry and Vice Moderator of Presbyterian Women.
She has been active in the community as well, and has volunteered with Friends of the Library and backstage with the Pelican Players.
Sunday, March 23, while she was helping the Rev. Mark Salmon on the altar, she was surprised by being presented with the Presbyterian Women’s Honorary Life Membership Award.
According to the Presbyterian calendar, that was the Sunday designated as Celebrate the Gifts of Women Sunday.
But Marge hasn’t been active only here in her community. Ever since obtaining a master’s degree in education from Michigan State University, she’s been interested in people and cultures, and she and Dick put that curiosity to use by traveling the world in a different way than most travelers do.
“We don’t just see the tourist attractions, although we do get to do a lot of fun things and see beautiful places,” she said. “I wish I had gone as a child — or at least when I was much younger. We here in this country have so much we don’t realize, and seeing the things we’ve seen puts a whole new light on everything. Like here, we sleep in beds. In Cambodia, they sleep on the floor.”
Booking only with Overseas Adventure Travels, they go to places others might overlook: Cambodia, Australia, Africa and China. And while they’re there, they participate in the local culture, work with schools, and Marge has even thatched roofs and carried supplies on her head with the natives.
“We chose Overseas Adventure because they have a foundation that supports orphanages and schools, and through them we get to meet families and see and do things with them,” she said.
Recently the Yargers held a slide presentation at St. Andrew that included their time with the Maasai tribes, some of which are nomadic and some stay in one place.
“They impressed me a great deal, especially their housing,” Marge said. “They live in huts. The women and children get the wood and the men build them, and then the women thatch them on top and put together termite mound dirt dust and dung from their animals and plaster the walls with that.”
After being told how the tribes lived, women from St. Andrew began making them “pillowcase” dresses; called that because they have no shape so they will fit women of many sizes.
“We’ve become involved in a lot of things because of Marge,” said Dotty Guerrera. “Marge and Dick explain the plight of the people in Africa so well. And Marge is supporting our Presbyterian Women’s group project to help children all over the world through the Heifer Project,” (where cows are bought for villages to raise).
The Presbyterian Women are active in all sorts of projects, both locally and globally, said Guerrera. “As Vice Moderator, she’s responsible for planning and producing four gatherings a year, each with a program of importance, to draw interested people from all over Hillsborough and Manatee counties.
“In February we learned about prison ministry. People find it easy to overlook that segment of our population, and as a result of the program, we now have several people working with the speaker she brought in, Rebecca Reynal, in prisons and halfway houses, either through donations or with volunteer work.”
To find out more about St. Andrew’s programs or to become involved, call the church at 813-634-1252 or stop by the office at 1239 W. Del Webb Blvd., Sun City Center.