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Sharing Everything They Are and Have

Volunteering at GraceWorks is not a sideline to Tim and Karen Costello – it’s a Christian duty and a privilege.

“We should not just write a check, and say, ‘You all take care of the poor people.’ ” Karen said. “The way I grew up was service and taking care of people – that’s just what you do.”

Tim says he is grateful for the abundance in their life, but he realizes that the greatest gift is “the assurance I have of an incomprehensible love from God.” His response is to love God and to love his neighbor.

“That means I have to share everything I am and have,” he said. “There are many ways to love your neighbor, but Jesus makes it clear that loving the poor by taking care of their basic needs of clothing and food is one way to love him.”

The Costellos have known each other since middle school but being cast together as a romantic couple in a high school play led to a real-life partnership that has improved people’s lives for decades. This year marks the 40th anniversary of a marriage that has led the charge in their work for GraceWorks, Tennessee home schooling and Forest Home Community Church.

Never flamboyant, always hardworking, caring and thoughtful, the Costellos have been instrumental in helping GraceWorks through tremendous growth in the past decade. Together, their work in fundraising efforts has helped raise at least $660,271 for GraceWorks.

“My way of serving is through relationships,” Karen said. “Tim is let’s be efficient, be people of integrity, and let’s get stuff done. We’re a really good team. In serving, you got to have both.”

Fourteen years ago Karen was asked to represent her church on the GraceWorks Advisory Council. She volunteered sorting clothes for GraceWorks’ Thrift Store, and was on the committee designing an annual fund-raising dinner, a membership she continues to this day – duties ranging from setting menus and addressing invitations to setting up and cleaning afterward on the day itself. And their 120-member church always brings 30 people to the annual dinner.

Any task Karen undertakes, she does with an infectious laugh and without grumbling or criticizing. One year when a volunteer group failed to rinse and dry dishes after the annual dinner, she pitched in to help – cracking jokes and keeping the mood cheerful as the chore went late into the night.

Tim joined the GraceWorks Board of Directors seven years ago, and his quiet wisdom and motivation and leadership skills led to his being named vice president.

The annual Golf Fore GraceWorks Challenge wouldn’t be the same without the Costello family. Tim has chaired the golf committee for seven years. The challenge asks players to raise more than a thousand dollars each. Two of the couple’s sons bring their own four-player teams, and their church matches the money each church member raises. A Costello uncle also has participated in raising money.

The Costellos also were instrumental in legalizing home schooling in Tennessee. Karen home-schooled their four children, while getting her graduate degree in psychological counseling. Owner of Costello Construction, Tim is an ordained elder in their church, where he focuses on teaching and motivating.

“Not only have the Costellos blessed GraceWorks and the community, but they have blessed me personally by seeing how much they care for others,” Development Director Kristi Sylvester said.

— by Kathi McClure

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