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Who would guess that 16-year-old Mernie Migacz, a high school honor student, President of the Speech Club, stats keeper for the boys’ basketball team, active in her church youth group and working in the church nursery, was also living in the fifth of seven foster homes?

After early years of instability, Mernie’s single mom managed to keep things loosely together for the five years between 5th and 9th grade. Her Mother’s alcoholism created an unsteady home life, and contributed to many problems, including eviction. Mernie asked a family from her church, who paid her to do housecleaning, if she could stay with them to finish her sophomore year. Mernie became a ward of the court and was placed with that same family. Health issues in that family required her to change homes at the end of 11th grade, which meant moving to a new school district.

Fast forward to 1997 when Mernie had earned a bachelor’s degree in Deaf Studies at CSUN. She began dating a woman who attended All Saints; and in 1999, she and Karen Meier were married by then rector Ed Bacon. In 2003, Mernie completed nursing school, and a few years later, she earned a Master’s in Nursing Education. Currently, she is a Nurse Educator at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. To quote Mernie, “One of the most important things I learned from my sixth foster mom and personal hero, Isabelle Iyer, is that the only thing life owes you is an opportunity, and what you do with that opportunity is completely up to you.”

After nursing school, she joined the dynamic Foster Care Project (FCP). She appreciated their efforts to effect policy change, such as extending the age of emancipation from foster care; providing birthday gifts to foster children via the Birthday Club; and Christmas gifts via the Angel Tree. There are diaper drives, Thanksgiving basket food drives, tutoring, and mentoring. Another great accomplishment is FCP’s furnishing and providing toys and books for a new visitation center in Pasadena, where families can have monitored visits with their children who are in foster care. As Mernie describes it, helping FCP makes her feel like she has come full circle! In 2008, Mernie and Karen became licensed foster parents to 17-year-old Lydia.

Occasionally, someone who knows Mernie’s story asks her how she is so well balanced. “Attitude is a choice,” she told me, “I have been the recipient of many kindnesses throughout my life, and I choose to focus on that, rather than the hardships I endured. We all experience our own challenges and hurdles; how we choose to face them makes all the difference in the world.”

Written by Wendy Edwards as part of our ongoing series spotlighting the amazing individuals who have found their place and make up the “we” in We Are All Saints. For more on the Foster Care Project, visit their webpages. For a shout out to their great work, check out this local news story.