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Singing and laughing came naturally for Ellie Farber and her friends even in a scary part of Harrisburg.

They were out at night distributing supplies to the homeless as part of the Bethesda Mobile Mission when a man in his 20s came up to the van.

“He was really nice to us,” recalled Farber, 17, a senior at Cumberland Valley High School. “He was just very hopeful. It was a sad situation he was in.”

The man loved their music and charitable spirit. He said as much when they returned the following night. “I’m so happy that you are back,” Farber quoted the man.

“We brightened his day,” she said. “We didn’t even give him anything, but our attitude made him feel better. You don’t have to do that much to help someone. You can be nice and that can change someone’s day.”

Farber, the daughter of Robert and Rhonda Farber, was on edge the first time she volunteered to go into the city in the van to hand out food, clothing, blankets and toiletries to the needy. She heard bad things about Harrisburg after dark.

The trip not only dispelled stereotypes, it reinforced a desire to help Farber’s plans to carryover after graduation into the Schreyer Honors College of Penn State.

Farber has been active for years in the youth group at the First United Methodist Church in Mechanicsburg. She went on her first mission the summer after her freshman year to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

There she put on a protective suit, mask and goggles before sliding into a crawlspace to work on insulation in a home damaged by Hurricane Sandy that had been abandoned.

“It was really stretching my comfort zone going down there,” she said. “I felt like I was in ‘Ghostbusters.’ Once I got over that fear, it was just awesome to see that. We met the person whose house it was. They came by.”

The sight of the person crying and expressing gratitude really touched Farber, who later went on a mission trip to Taylorsville, North Carolina, where she helped to run a vacation Bible school for needy children and build a side porch for Habitat for Humanity. This summer she plans to go to Wasilla, Alaska to do a vacation Bible school there.

Closer to home, Farber has participated in the Mini-Thon at Cumberland Valley High School all four years. She helped with the entertainment committee the night of the event and the finance committee in the fundraising leading up to it.

As the current student council president, Farber worked with other students to coordinate homecoming week along with the five days of giving events held in the high school during the holiday season.

“It was cool to see how it all came together,” said Farber, adding it was good to hear all the opinions and views of council officers and members. She also enjoyed bringing student concerns to the building principals.

Always fond of singing, Farber started playing the flute in the fifth grade. Her love of music carried over into high school where Farber was involved in band, choir and the annual musical all four years. She was part of the Symphonic Winds.

“Music has been a happy place for me to go,” Farber said. “I have it in the middle of my day. I look forward to a break from my stressful classes.”

Aside from stress relief, music is a way for her to express herself and to challenge herself into learning more difficult pieces. She plans to continue music in college by maybe joining an a cappella group or auditioning for musical theater.

Email Joseph Cress at


News Reporter

History and education reporter for The Sentinel.