The best way to describe Cheryl Barnett Messere is to call her a “shining star” in the sky of volunteers.

For the last 32 years, she and her husband, Barry Messere, and their two children have been major movers and shakers for the homeless.

She graduated from the Moore College of Art with a B.S. in art education. After student teaching at the old Memorial Junior High School in Phoenixville (now Barkley Elementary School), she stayed on to become a full-time art teacher. When the new junior high was built, she made the move with the school. When an opportunity to teach elementary art arose, she chose to move to the Spring-Ford Area School District.

Cheryl and Barry met in high school and married in 1966. Both families are from Phoenixville. The Barnetts go back three generations, and Barry’s family go back as far as four generations. There are two Messere children. Stephanie is a fashion designer. Toby has continued the family business, Toby Messere Plumbing. There are four grandchildren, three in the Phoenixville Area School District.

Cheryl returned to teaching art at Schuylkill School after Stephanie and Toby started school. She taught there for 27 years before retiring.

Actually, she has never really retired.

In 1987, 32 years ago, she and Barry became youth leaders at First Presbyterian Church in town. One of their first adventures was to have the group travel to Philadelphia to feed the homeless. What started out as once-a-month visit led to a very wide range of helping the homeless. There was Trevor’s Campaign, People to People Mission Group, St. Peter’s Pantry, Kimberton Fire Company Auxiliary with the famous Kimberton Donuts, and the list is staggering.

Cheryl’s direction focused on the plight of the homeless. She felt the area needed to wake up to the growing situation in the Phoenixville area, that more than a Band-Aid was needed on the growing local population of homeless.

Upper most on Cheryl’s agenda was housing for single homeless women. There were shelters for men and families in the area but nothing for just women without children in their care.

In October of 2014, The House — Phoenixville Women’s Outreach was formed.

By January of 2015, The House opened for women. There is room for six women, and the average stay is nine months.

During her stay, a woman is expected to find a job, save money, contribute to The House and become confident, independent and self-sufficient. Not all make it; not all are able to follow the rules set. A woman can rely on Women’s Outreach for support after leaving with continuing guidance and being provided with a mentor.

Women’s Outreach receives no funding from the state or county. Its funds are totally self-generated. Cheryl not only took on the job of founding The House but has become its executive director. May I remind you she does this work as a volunteer.

Cheryl is the first to point out Women’s Outreach”and all that it has to offer is due to the generosity, time, labor and talents of 119 entities — meaning individuals, agencies, clubs, organizations. They keep giving to maintain this most successful venture — so successful that a The Next-Step House is being sought.

Cheryl’s days and schedule are filled to the brim. But it seems she has no plans to retire. So, this mean her family will stay involved for the ride.

Cheryl is busy cooking and preparing food all over the place, so she likes quick and easy meals at home.

Family Night Shrimp

¼ lb. butter

⅔ cup lemon juice — fresh or concentrate

1 tsp. grated lemon rind

1½ cup Italian dressing

Black pepper to taste

3 lbs. raw shrimp (medium size, 30 to 40 count)

Loaf of crusty bread, sliced

Wash shrimp, and remove heads. Leave in the shells, and drain. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter. Add lemon juice, lemon rind, Italian dressing and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Add shrimp, and simmer for 6 minutes or so until shrimp are pink and tender. Ladle into individual bowls with plenty of juice for soppin’ with bread.

A great recipe for the entire family or all of it for just me. Serve with a salad.


Let Bette hear from you: Search YouTube for “Look Who’s Cooking with Bette Banjack,” as well (search bar: Banjack) for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.” Her book, “2 Cups of Yesterday,” is available at Gateway Pharmacy or by contacting her.

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