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Baptist family volunteers home, help & heart at Winter Olympics

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–Thousands of volunteers participated in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, but few had such varied opportunities as Ruth and Bob Burch.

Among their February highlights: The Burches, whose three teenage foster sons share their spacious Layton, Utah, home, opened their doors to the family of Australian athlete Alice Jones for eight days.

The visiting family, including Jones’ mother, Helga Frolich, and her brother and sister, ate breakfast and dinner with the Burch family most days. Ruth Burch described their guests as “very down to earth.”

Months earlier, the Burch family, who also operate a hotel in Layton, received word that they were one of 1,050 applicants approved to host an athlete’s family through the Samsing Athletes Family Homestay. Only 400 requests were made, however, and the Burches concluded their home would not be needed. Only after Ruth Burch received an e-mail message of introduction from Helga Frolich did she check back with the committee in charge of housing to discover the Australian family would indeed be staying with them.

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The Burch family’s hospitality was part of 2002 Global Outreach, a partnership with the SBC North American Mission Board and state conventions of Idaho-Utah, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina and Woman’s Missionary Union, an SBC auxiliary. GO placed about half a dozen families but had homes ready for more than a dozen.

Without a host family, the Frolichs could not have come watch Jones compete in Alpine and downhill skiing and the Super G.

The Frolichs repeatedly expressed their gratitude for the hospitality, Ruth Burch said. In a show of support for his sister, 22-year-old Tim Frolich cooked dinner at the Burch home after Jones’ final event.

On the last day of the athlete’s stay, Ruth Burch gave them a New Testament, a “More Than Gold” pin and pocket guide conveying the gospel and a hospitality bag.

On various other fronts, members of the Burch family, including a Burch foster child, 14-year-old Carlos Hearon, worked with Global Outreach prior to and during the games to process volunteers and perform with a creative arts puppet team. Ruth Burch also coordinated big-screen television viewing parties at her church, Layton Hills Baptist in Layton.

The Burches additionally watched their two grandsons, ages 4 and 13 months, for a week after the children’s other grandmother did the same for the first week or so of the Olympics.

Speaking for the family, Ruth Burch said they were “tired” but pleased with their work.

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“It’s been an exciting time,” said Burch, whose husband is a deacon at Layton Hills. “Everyone is going to be a little deflated after working so hard.”
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Visit Going for the Greater Glory [3] for a complete collection of BP stories about the 2002 Winter Olympics.