The Slabacks' faith and time help church and students grow
People Who Matter
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Community: Lives in Orfordville, teaches in Albany.
Family: Sons, Alex, 7, and Noah, 3; dog, Chloe, and cat, Ginger.
Hobbies: He's the kind of guy who will buy a broken snow blower just to fix it.
"Anything that I can find that I can fix or come up with a solution for, it just thrills me," he said.
On the couple's wedding: The high school sweethearts were married 11 years ago in June under the apple trees on the farm where Wendy grew up. They cleaned out the hay mow and used wood planks for seating. Guests weren't allowed to out dress the groom, who wore blue jeans and a blazer.
On people who matter: "It sounds really kind of corny, but I guess I am a corny guy," he said. He said he has "this ideal" that he tries to be. It's not any one person, he said, but a perception of a person he wants to be and tries to make sure he is.
The Rev. Wendy Slaback
Community: Lives in Orfordville and is pastor of New Horizon United Methodist Church between Footville and Orfordville
Hobbies: Reading, playing the piano, which she started when she was 12, and walking. She also enjoys traveling and took every opportunity she could in school, going to Germany in high school and El Salvador and Belize in college.
Favorite family activities: Walks to the ice cream shop, park and library. On Friday nights, they'll go out. For a fish fry? "Usually Subway."
On people who matter: "Anybody who's just really passionate about what they do, I think, can make a difference," she said.
The teachers who had the most impact on her in high school were the ones who were the most passionate.
"I feel just really blessed to be where I am, that I am doing what I feel like I'm meant to do and being able to work with a small church and help just plant ideas and motivate people and inspire people and encourage them. It has been just wonderful. So I don't feel like I'm really doing anything spectacular, but I think sometimes just doing simple things with a passion does make a difference."
ORFORDVILLE Their license plates sum up their service simply: "teachin" and "prechin."
Since moving to Orfordville almost seven years ago, Ryan and the Rev. Wendy Slaback have helped grow and sustain their church and have helped shape young minds.
Ryan is a middle and high school tech ed teacher in Albany. Wendy is the pastor at New Horizon United Methodist Church, a rural congregation between Footville and Orfordville.
"They've done so much for the church over the years," said Marshall Reese, church council president.
He never expected someone just out of seminary school to bring so much to his or her first job, but that's what Wendy has done, he said.
The church is in an exciting time because of Wendy's leadership and the couple's endless time, faith and ideas, he said.
Wendy's main goal was to reach out to younger families, she said. Her efforts in starting a back-to-school carnival, fall parties, movie nights and Packer parties and restarting Vacation Bible School have helped attract those families.
Without a designated space for little ones at the church, Ryan remodeled a storage room into a nursery with a toy shelf. With a love for problem solving and tinkering with tools, Ryan is always finding new projects, both at church and at school.
Albany Superintendent Steve Guenther said Ryan is fun to work with because he challenges himself to come up with new things.
"He's definitely a lifelong learner. ... He's taken classes in new directions and done things you wouldn't normally find in a small school," Guenther said.
Ryan challenges students to rise to the occasion not only academically but also through responsibility and character, Guenther said.
Ryan said he "swallows his lumps" by knowing he's kind of the "practice run" for some kids.
"If they hate me because I make them do this and this and this," he said, so be it.
The kids must learn structure and authority at some point, and maybe the lessons will help them achieve something or hold onto jobs later in life, he said.
"I take pride in being able to shape who people are going to be," he said.
The Slabacks are high school sweethearts from Monroe, and they are always coming up with ideas from small to large, Reese said.
Their current project is developing a transitional housing task force to help the less fortunate in the community. They are exploring whether the church and others could buy a foreclosed house and turn it into a place where a homeless family could get back on its feet.
"We want to make sure it's not a ‘Ryan and Wendy thing,'" Ryan said. "The vision came from here. We're hoping the roll-out comes from everywhere."