The Jibson Family: Living their Shared Values in the Menomonee Valley

Written by Kristin Nelson
    Friday, 21 June 2013
The Jibson Family: Living their Shared Values in the Menomonee Valley

On a bright, cheery Tuesday morning, I met Dan, Sherri, Josiah, and Tirzah Jibson at the Urban Ecology Center’s Menomonee Valley Branch. Immediately, I saw a glimpse of each family member’s unique personality through their independent engagement with other Center visitors. Dan sat in a circle with the morning Bird Walk group, listening carefully while sharing a huge smile and kind laugh. Sherri chatted and sipped hot chocolate with another birder and Center member, Carolyn Vargo. Josiah and Tirzah each played with Carolyn’s young grandchildren, who clearly loved the individual attention they were receiving from the older Jibson kids. Even though these interactions were separate, a shared glow of patience, grace, and serenity emanated from each of the Jibsons that clearly united them as family.

The Jibsons are long time Layton Park residents who became members of the Center in March of last year. Dan learned about the Center through another member who told him about our equipment lending program. Dan thought this would be a great resource for both his family and a recreational group he belongs to: Blind Outdoor Leisure Development. B.O.L.D.’s mission is to offer meaningful outdoor sport experiences for the blind and visually impaired to develop social and athletic skills and celebrate their resiliency. Eighteen years ago, an accident left Dan totally blind. Dan discovered B.O.L.D. and attends bicycling and cross-country skiing expeditions with members. Since the Urban Ecology Center lends cross-country skiing equipment to members at no charge, Dan’s family is able to join him on B.O.L.D. outings and share these experiences with him in supportive community of friends.  
Soon after joining, the Jibsons began to discover more of the benefits of membership— both tangible and intangible. The family routinely participates in morning Bird Walks in Menomonee Valley’s Three Bridges Park. Dan and Sherri facilitate homeschooling for Josiah, age 14, and Tirzah, age 12. They see the Bird Walks as an opportunity to expand the children’s experiential learning and foster a sense of an interconnected community.
The Bird Walks address several personal levels of meaning for Dan. Since he cannot visibly identify birds, he listens to recordings of birdcalls at home to learn about the nuances of their communication and applies what he has learned during the group walks. He also “stays close to Tim” [Manager of Research and Community Science] and graciously accepts his mentorship in identifying the various species present in the park. Furthermore—and maybe most profoundly for Dan—the Bird Walks activate and heighten his strong spirituality by allowing him to enjoy God’s creation through an integration of his senses and mindful presence in nature.

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The Tuesday morning Bird Walk Crew at the Urban Ecology Center's Menomonee Valley Branch

Spending quality time in nature and providing loving acts of service to one another are clearly integral parts of the Jibson Family’s value system. Dan and Sherri, who met in the Navy, shared a sweet story about their one year anniversary to illustrate this. During a trip to Canada, Dan and Sherri set off on hike that grew from the anticipated three hours to an unexpected eight hours due to deep winter snow that hid trailheads and signage. Dan explained that Sherri was determined to finish the hike, even though her feet were soaked and freezing. In his calm and resourceful way, he gave his dry socks to her. “I think this is when she really knew I would take care of her for life,” said Dan.
Tirzah chimed in to share a similar story that mirrored this beautiful moment between her parents. During a recent morning Bird Walk, Tirzah accidentally stepped ankle-deep into the cold water of the Menomonee River. Her sneakers and socks were soaked with mud. Sherri took off her mittens and let Tirzah wear them like socks until they returned to hot chocolate, coffee, and a warm fireplace at the Center. I can’t help but think that maybe she recalled the kind example of her husband during their fateful hike many years ago.

“It was very sweet,” says Tim Vargo, who witnessed this tender exchange between family members. “It was Tirzah’s sense of exploration that resulted in her stepping into the river. Tirzah and Josiah are uber-explorers.  They love running off together to explore new areas and climb trees. When I think of the kids, I think of their sense of exploration.”
When asked what they like about being at the Center, Josiah and Tirzah’s distinctive personalities emerged once more. Tirzah, an outgoing, active girl who plays piano and violin, shared that she loves how Center staff and visitors are so friendly and welcoming. Josiah, who plays saxophone, swims, and is more reserved, tends to gravitate toward some of the quieter, more independent activities that Center has to offer. The Jibsons have two older children, Stephen, a student who works at Outpost Natural Foods Co-op, and Sarah, who is currently doing mission service work in Peru.
Dan summed up his reasons for supporting and engaging with the Center:

“We simply like being here, especially since we can experience the beauty of God’s nature together. The activities we do here help us feel empowered, like we are making a difference, and good people— truly, good people— work here and enjoy what they do.”

Are you interested in fostering your family’s unique shared values amongst the connective beauty and power of nature? Click here to start your family membership.

The Urban Ecology Center’s value-driven mission asserts that all families deserve to experience the Center’s benefits, regardless of their financial situation. Call Kristin at (414) 964-8505 x134 to inquire about our membership scholarship program.

Kristin Nelson

Kristin Nelson

Kristin is the Development Systems and Membership Specialist at the Urban Ecology Center and is deeply inspired by the generosity of our members, donors, and volunteers. She is delighted and humbled everyday to see kids grow, learn and heal through the Center’s programs. When she’s not at the Center, Kristin is working on her MS in Community Psychology, painting, and playing and laughing with her son.


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