Ellen Turner — a member of Bettendorf Presbyterian Church in East Iowa Presbytery — and fellow Girl Scout Bethanie Blake have been scouting out colleges to attend next year and service projects in which to engage right now.

After the earthquake in Haiti last January, Ellen and Bethanie wanted to help the relief effort as part of their Girl Scouts Gold Award project. They researched ideas online and they came up with a plan to put together backpacks filled with school supplies for Haitian children.

At Ellen’s request, Bettendorf Church hosted a fundraising event in the fellowship hall. Together with friends, family, and volunteers from their Girl Scout Service Unit, they raised $700 serving a spaghetti dinner in September. By early December, they plan to send 100 backpacks to Haiti.

The culmination of the dinner event was a cultural dance performed by three young women from Haiti attending Scott Community College on scholarship. Ellen and Bethanie met with them two weeks before the dinner and the three wanted to know how they could contribute to the fundraising effort. 

SEATTLE — At its Sept. 21, Seattle Presbytery celebrated the many years of service of Barbara Ranta as stated clerk and associate stated clerk of the presbytery. Ranta retires at the end of the year.

“Serving as associate stated clerk of Seattle Presbytery has been a defining experience of my life. I have indeed considered this work to be my vocational calling,” Ranta wrote in a thank-you note on the presbytery’s Web site. “While being detail oriented has been God’s gift to me, it has also been my highest purpose and goal to be of use to the congregations, clergy and elected leadership of the presbytery. Nothing made me happier than to go home at the end of the day knowing that I had been able to provide a timely (and reasonably accurate!) response to inquiries.”

Ranta will not be idle in her retirement. She was recently named to the General Assembly Commission on Middle Governing Bodies.

MAUMEE, Ohio — The Executive Search Committee for the Synod of the Covenant has announced that the Rev. Raafat L. Zaki is their nominee for transitional executive of the synod.

Zaki is currently associate executive and stated clerk of Synod of the Sun. He previously served three congregations, two General Assembly Mission Council offices and Habitat for Humanity International. 

A graduate of McCormick Theological Seminary, Zaki holds a Ph.D. from Chicago Theological Seminary. A native of Sudan, he has also studied in Egypt and Korea and speaks some Korean and is fluent in Arabic. 
The synod assembly will vote on his nomination when it meets Nov. 5.

URBANDALE, Iowa — The Des Moines Presbytery Annual Fall Youth Retreat will be held Oct. 29-30 at Covenant Presbyterian Church in West Des Moines.

Be A Hero: Living Like Jesus is for youth in grades 6 through12, Christian education directors and youth leaders.