Today marks the beginning of a new journey for Refugee Services Director Kay Trendell, who will be retiring from Lutheran Services of Georgia after 30 years of service. To honor her immeasurable contributions to the agency, we look back on the road that led Kay to LSG – a road that will continue to lead her to new experiences and adventures in the years to come. In her senior year at the University of Arkansas, Kay Trendell made a decision that would send her on path of service that continues to today. She heard about a Red Cross called Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas, and in 1967, she began her first tour of duty inVietnam. While working as a “Doughnut Dollie,” Kay saw first hand in the streets of Saigon the plight of refugees as the Vietnamese who had fled to the city for safety tried to scratch out a living on the sidewalks of the city.
After two tours of duty in Vietnam, Kay decided to take a break and travel to Europe. She’d had enough of aircraft, so she booked a ticket on a freighter, which is where she met a young merchant seaman named Harry Trendell. Seven months later they were married and came to Atlanta, where Kay accepted a position with the YWCA.
But Kay’s experience in Vietnam continued to call her, and in 1980 she volunteered to help a local agency resettle refugees. Then she heard about a new agency that was looking for staff for its refugee resettlement program, and in 1982, Kay joined Lutheran Ministries of Georgia. For the next 16 years, Kay worked in refugee employment, and in 1998 was named Director of Refugee Services, the position she holds today with Lutheran Services of Georgia.
Working with refugees brought Kay’s life full circle, from first encountering those displaced by the Vietnam War in their home country, to then helping them to rebuild their lives here in Atlanta. She has heard many stories of incredible suffering, and marveled at the strength of the human spirit that helps them conquer it and move ahead. She has seen the sacrifices parents made to come here for the sake of their children, and then rejoiced as the children flourished. She has experienced moments of grace with refugees who barely had any food in the house, but would never let a guest go without a bite to eat.
Kay is bidding LSG farewell today, but her legacy will continue on through the more than 16,000 refugees whose lives were changed because of her decision to go to Vietnam to serve her country. Kay and Harry, we wish you the best in retirement!