Karen Hodgson has found a second family at Parkview, she said.
As two young toddlers roam around the childcare center at Parkview Baptist Church, Karen Hodgson watches intently.
One of the boys moves his hand to his mouth, making the American Sign Language sign for “eat.” Hodgson sees his motion and immediately opens a snack for him. The other boy lets out a loud cry. While she doesn’t hear it, she sees his mouth move and hurries over to him.
Hodgson has been deaf since being born in Vermont, but her parents didn’t find out she was deaf until she was 18 months old.
She said it came as such a shock to her family; after all, none of her relatives at the time were deaf.
“It was challenging for my parents not knowing how to deal with me, but I learned to speak before learning sign language,” Hodgson said in an email. “When we moved to Michigan, my two younger siblings were born and found out they are deaf as well, so we learned sign language. My older sister and my parents can hear, as well as all my relatives do; Me being deaf was a shock for them.”
Growing up, she managed to read lips when in one-on-one situations, but anything larger than could be overwhelming. She and her two younger siblings, who were also born deaf, communicated by using Signed Exact English, but Hodgson didn’t learn ASL or about deaf culture until after high school.
Hodgson was immersed in a deaf community for the first time when she attended her last two years of high school at the Model Secondary School for The Deaf on the Gallaudet University campus, a renowned school for the deaf in Washington, D.C. She then studied for a couple years on the main college campus but didn’t complete her degree.
“I wish I could go back in time and finish college,” she said.
She moved to Palm Coast in 2004, and she got connected at Parkview Church when a friend asked her to attend six years ago.
“Immediately, I felt like I belonged here,” Hodgson said.
“She loves kids and has not let her hearing loss stop her from interacting with anyone. She is very outgoing and patient with people as they speak with her.”
- SYLVIA SHOWS, pastoral assitant at Parview Baptist Church
She went on to say that the church staff and guests have become her second family.
“Karen is a sweet lady with a big heart,” said Sylvia Shows, a pastoral assistant at Parkview. “… She loves her own kids and has worked diligently to provide for them.”
Hodgson’s house is one filled with sign language; It was the first language her children learned. Her oldest is deaf and autistic. As a single mom now, she parents three teenagers.
“It has its challenges,” Hodgson said. “I still have my daily struggles, especially financially, but most importantly I make sure I have a roof for my children and I to sleep. My kids are understandable about how tight my budget can be but I try hard to make sure I have my bills paid and get food.”
She oversees the church’s childcare department about 12 hours a week, as well as babysits for some of the church’s families and teaches ASL to homeschoolers from Parkview. She homeschools her oldest, while her two younger children attend First Baptist Christian Academy.
While Hodgson said the deaf community at Parkview isn’t large, there are volunteers who interpret the 9:30 a.m. Sunday church service, as well as at special services and larger group meetings she attends.
“She loves kids and has not let her hearing loss stop her from interacting with anyone,” Shows said. “She is very outgoing and patient with people as they speak with her.”
Hodgson has spent her whole life reading lips, so she’s adapted well here too.
“I work hard to fit in the hearing community,” she said. “I have my advantage that I’m able to speak and read lips, as well as using American Sign Language even when I cannot hear anything. ... I get through it because of my kids.”