For 20 years, Sheri Gelvar counseled people with vision and hearing loss, finding it deeply satisfying to help clients with sensory disabilities make strides in the world.
“It was incredibly rewarding. It still touches my heart,” said Gelvar, 57, who communicated to the deaf through sign language she learned while at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania in Bloomsburg. She is originally from the Scranton area.
While visiting a graduate school, she happened upon a man, both blind and deaf, communicating with another individual. “I was enthralled with the whole communication piece, and that’s what drew me,” she said. Gelvar went on to earn her master’s degree in counseling with a specialty in people who are blind and deaf. An immersion program at Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College in Westminister, had her living with deaf and blind people.
Counseling is all about communication, so the switch to her second act, event planning, 14 years ago made sense. Much of her counseling work centered on information and referral throughout the state of Maryland for anyone who had hearing and vision loss.
“Event planning is a lot of information and referral,” she said. “I realized so much of what I had done would be beneficial to what I am now doing.”
Sheri G Events plans weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, corporate and social events, and other special occasions. She also handles parts of events like invitations, favors and kippahs.
She lives in Pikesville, Md., and once belonged to Chizuk Amuno Congregation, so many of her celebrations are Jewish.
“I stumbled upon the world that I’m in now, being an event planner, and I haven’t looked back,” she said. “A lot of amazing skills such as the desire to please people have transferred from my prior life to now.”
She managed to keep her business afloat during the coronavirus shutdown by brainstorming and thinking outside the box. She pandemic-proofed her events, coming up with fresh ideas, staying prepared and working wholeheartedly. Like others, she also pivoted to drive-by and Zoom events, and other means of holding socially distanced simchas.
“The biggest challenge I found then was not being able to have a specific answer for my clients. So they were really grasping at wanting to know when and what we could do,” she recounted. “Things were harder because we didn’t know when everything would open up. What I did enjoy was being able to look at situations and make them work in whatever way we were able to at that given time.”
She figured out how to do “Zoom mitzvahs” from homes. “A family would call me and say I don’t know which direction the laptop should face. What do you think? Literally, I would stand outside their house. I would look through the window while we communicated through our cell phone and say move your table this way, move your chair that way. And they would. I was able to be of help to them. It was very difficult at times for them just to be able to look at things differently.
“It made me want to focus on what we could do to make it happen for that family, whether a drive-by or signs in the yard.”
Families asked Gelvar what she could do to make the Zoom mitzvah special. “Sometimes, it was just ordering a pillow personalized with a child’s name or their logo. It made it feel real.”
Events normalized by the fall of 2021 and picked up, she said.
Gelvar is a mother to three grown children and wife to Eric Gelvar, an electrical contractor and business owner. Her oldest son, Cody, 29, has worked five years as a program associate for 4Front at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore. Daughter Evy, 24, is in graduate school at Loyola University Maryland studying for a master’s degree in school counseling.
Her middle son, Jake, 27, works as a database specialist for Maryland Department of State Police. He was diagnosed with a severe case of Crohn’s disease when he was 11. His battle with the digestive autoimmune disease inspired Gelvar to raise money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, an education and research nonprofit. By running in half-marathons and holding fundraisers, Gelvar and her husband have already collected some $200,000 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, saying “it’s something very dear and close to our hearts. So we are involved and do everything we can to help fund research for a cure.”