Lebanon County women support refugees for more than 40 years

LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. -- Two women from Lebanon County have sponsored dozens of refugees over the years.

One of those families fled from Cambodia during a devastating time and found a new life here in Central Pennsylvania.

Barbara Lessig and Grace Ziegler began sponsoring refugees more than forty years ago and as much as their support has helped the families, the families have impacted the two friends.

Fox 43 got to meet one of those families.

Countless family photos cover Barbara Lessig's fridge. They paint an overall portrait of what Barbara and, her friend, Grace Ziegler have been doing for more than 40 years -- helping refugee families.

"It's been an incredible journey and very rewarding. We just love these families like our own,” said Barbara.

It’s something Barbara says is like second nature to them.

"We're not really put here on earth just for ourselves,” added Barbara. “We're to reach out to our neighbors whether they're next door or whether they're thousands of miles away."

"Oh, wow, many hours. And every hour I enjoyed it all. I knew I had to get up at 4’o clock in the morning sometime to take some to work in Lebanon, but I didn't mind. It just got me out of bed earlier,” said Grace Ziegler.

Families traveled from as far as Cambodia and Vietnam to begin a new life in the United States. That distance meant nothing to Grace who tearfully remembers picking up her first family at the airport.

"But he just grabbed him, and hugged him, and said, 'I think I know this man’, and it was just so beautiful,” added Grace.

David Mam and his family left their country during the Cambodian Genocide.

"And the only way you could survive was to flee the country,” said Mam.

They fled and settled here in Central Pennsylvania with the support of Barbara and her husband... Better known to David as grandma and grandpa.

"Grandma, grandpa, I don't think I ever told you this, but we appreciate everything you've done for our family. We wouldn't be where we're at,” David told Barbara and her husband.

As much as Mam appreciates what Barbara and Grace have done, the women feel just as grateful.

"I really feel blessed by knowing these families,” said Barbara.

"And as a young girl, I always wanted to be a missionary -- God brought the mission field right to my door,” said Grace.

Barbara and Grace tell Fox 43 that so many of the families went on to do great things in the United States -- becoming doctors, surgeons, lawyers, and more.

The women see their support as something that's continued through the efforts of the refugees.