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30th Anniversary Story: Princess Jane

As Elijah’s Promise celebrates our 30th Anniversary Year we are reposting an old blog about Jane Betz, of blessed memory, who was one of the founders of Elijah’s Promise. Jane was an extraordinary women whose legacy of serving every guest who walks through our doors with respect and dignity lives on in the work of Elijah’s Promise today. This blog post was originally posted about seven years ago…

Today, I brought a magic wand to work. The wand is bubble gum pink and has the feel of soft felt. My wand is a prop for my upcoming Princess Jane story which will be told to children at an Elijah’s Promise event soon. The story, like the wand, are symbols of how people can change the world for the better.

Before I get to deep into my Princess Jane story, I need to explain the story of my wand. As an almost forty year old professional, I typically don’t sport the magic wand look as part of my every day work/mom attire.

Jane Betz, who was one of the founders of Elijah’s Promise over twenty years ago, is the inspiration behind my magic wand.  Jane was a radiant woman who had a calm demeanor and deep convictions. She believed passionately that everyone deserved to be treated with dignity and in the Elijah’s Promise philosophy of “good food for all”.

Jane was resolute in her belief that as a staff and community we should never forget that every guest who walks through our doors and every student who comes to our job training culinary school deserves to be treated with dignity, respect and compassion. I was incredibly inspired by Jane as were so many others who worked with her at Elijah’s Promise.

One Sunday afternoon several years ago, I came home from work and my daughter who was about four years old at the time asked me what I did all day.  I had spent time with Jane that afternoon at the Elijah’s Promise Volunteer Appreciation event and I had been listening to her describe in detail the history of the agency.

In response to my daughter’s question, my mouth spit out the words, “ I spent the day with a ‘real’ Princess.”  I told her how Jane was a real princess because of her work helping so many people and her efforts to make the world a better place. My daughter who was very much into Disney Princesses at the time wanted to know a lot more about this real “Princess”.  Thus, I created my “Princess Jane stories” which I told her nightly at bedtime for over a year.

All of my Princess Jane stories revolved around a young Princess named Jane who worked every day to make the world a better place.  Like Jane Betz, “Princess Jane” was an artist and she was kind and tenacious about helping others.   The Princess Jane stories embodied the passions and the vision of the Elijah’s Promise community.

In my Princess Jane stories when Jane’s neighbors were hungry she gave them her own food from her kitchen.  When they needed more food, she planted a garden. When she didn’t have enough food to feed everyone from her garden, she gave them seedlings to grow their own.  In later stories, she got the whole town together to begin farming and working together to make sure no one would go hungry.

Before Jane Betz passed away, I told her about my Princess Jane stories and she bought my daughter a magic wand and wrote her a very sweet note. When Jane became very ill, I gave her a magic wand from my family and I told her how magical I thought she was.

My daughter is a bit older now and these days she is into what she considers “big kid” shows. But like my memories of Jane that help inspire my work every day at Elijah’s Promise, I know she will never forget the values imparted in my Princess Jane stories.  They are inspirational tales that reflect the magic that happens every day at Elijah’s Promise.

The stories at Elijah’s Promise are about the person who was homeless who we helped get a home, the family that would have gone hungry if we weren’t there to provide meals, the neighbors that are growing their own food in our community gardens and the students who graduate from the Promise Culinary School who are now in a position to support themselves and their families.

Now that’s what I call real princess magic …. when the whole community comes together to make the world a better place!

Blog By Michelle Wilson