COOPERSTOWN — Mary Ozarowicz has an eye for capturing nature scenes with her Nikon D80 digital camera. Whether it’s butterflies around her garden in Maribel, sunrises and sunsets over lakes around Wisconsin, or even a stunning rainbow right above St. James Church in Cooperstown, where she and her husband Dave are members, Ozarowicz seems to be in the right place at the right time.
“I’ve always taken pictures and I really don’t consider myself a professional photographer,” Ozarowicz told The Compass. “I just seem to get good pictures. Several people have said, ‘You just have the knack for knowing where and how to take them.’”
In 2008, Ozarowicz found a way to take her love of nature and passion for photography to help support mission work in East Africa. She creates greeting cards featuring her nature photography.
The cards benefit Living Waters International, a non-for-profit corporation based in Antigo. Living Waters was established in 1996 by Karen and Brian Prunty, members of SS. Mary and Hyacinth Parish in Antigo, and Mary and Stephen Zimmerman of St. Wencel Parish in Neva.
According to its website, the mission of Living Waters is to “support Catholic missionary and international development projects in Eastern Africa.” The organization, listed in the Official Catholic Directory published by P. J. Kenedy & Sons, works with Catholic missionaries in several countries to support education, building, water, food and health projects. Through Living Waters, donors can sponsor children and seminarians.
Ozarowicz is a strong believer in the work of Living Waters. It’s also a family affair. She and Karen Prunty are sisters.
“Karen and Brian are amazing. They are just such simple, holy people,” said Ozarowicz. “They are expanding into all different parts of Africa, building schools all over the place. This is just a couple of people from Antigo. All of the money they get from donations, it’s all for education and helping the children.”
Knowing that her greeting cards benefit such an important mission makes the hours spent creating them worthwhile, she said.
“The whole inspiration is knowing that these cards are going to benefit Living Waters. When I send my checks, I always designate it for the girls’ hostel. They built a hostel for girls who are orphaned and they give them a safe place to live, they give them food and a Catholic education.”
Ozarowicz and her husband enjoy traveling and the outdoors. Their travels have taken them to Glacier, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain and other national parks, where Ozarowicz has found plenty of scenes to add to her card collection.
“I’ve had the opportunity, traveling with Dave, to get some really good photos,” she said. “I guess that’s when you know that the Holy Spirit and God are saying this is what you should do.”
Her scenic photos are double-matted to greeting cards she creates for occasions like Mother’s Day, graduations, weddings and baptisms.
“When I first started out, I just made cards without any saying, but then through the computer I started making cards with sayings,” she said. “It takes me about an hour just to make probably eight cards.”
Ozarowicz said all the money she makes selling cards goes to Living Waters. When she needs supplies, she uses money she makes playing piano or organ for funeral services at St. James Parish.
“My mom is always saying, ‘Why don’t you take that out of your sales?’ and I say, ‘No, God will provide.’ And he does. I like to say that 100 percent of what I do is for charity.”
Ozarowicz isn’t the only one in her family who supports Living Waters. For the past 14 years, her parents, Richard and Bonnie Vanden Wymelenberg, members of St. Clare Parish in Wrightstown, hold a brat fry every summer at Dick’s Family Foods in Wrightstown, which is owned by Mary’s brothers, John and Rick Vanden Wymelenberg. Another couple, Don and Rosie Aerts, also help out. “My mom bakes 60 pies to sell at this brat sale,” she said. “They sponsor students as well.”
Ozarowicz has a display rack with her greeting cards at Dick’s Family Foods. She also has a display rack at Hello Beautiful Salon in Francis Creek, a hair salon owned by her daughter, Melissa Basken. She’s sold more than 7,000 greeting cards, which range in price from $3 to $4 apiece, since she started.
In addition to making and selling cards for Living Waters, Ozarowicz has sponsored a girl from Kenya, Mary Kathambi, for about 10 years. Knowing that her involvement with Living Waters is making a difference in peoples’ lives is the reward Ozarowicz receives.
“Brian (Prunty) always says, whenever he talks to (religious education) classes, listen to the Holy Spirit. He’s telling you what to do,” said Ozarowicz. “I guess I’ve had that little voice in me saying, ‘This is what you should be doing.’ I wish more people would realize that. Just listen to the Holy Spirit and if he tells you to do something, do it.”
To learn more about Living Waters International, visit their website, www.livingwatersinternational.org, or call toll-free, (866) 220-8981.