PITTSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — If you’re driving along Main Street on the north side of Pittston there’s a very special fire hydrant that you might miss if you’re not looking for it. For some it’s a beacon of hope and others, a call to action.
“I say all the time that this was started for completely selfish reasons. It was a way for me to heal. It was a way for me to get out of my head, a way for me to keep up with busy work. It was a way to meet people,” said The Max Harper Foundation founder Sarah Kozloski. “I’m a people person and I like to talk. I could talk forever, but now I see Max’s name on everything.”
On Christmas Day in 2015, Kozloski got the joyous news that she was expecting. With two healthy boys already in the family, she had no idea what going into labor just four months later would be like.
“By the time I got to the hospital there was a very kind doctor that leaned by the bed and said “You’re going to have her and she’s not going to make it,” she recalled.
For 47 minutes, Kozlosi held her newborn close and would cherish it before life became a nightmare.
“Obviously, afterwards, I just lost my mind. These things don’t happen. I’ve gone through a lot of trauma in my life. A lot of loss — I lost my father when I was 16,” she said. “Lots of things, but this was something that I never even thought of.”
As work-oriented as she is, there was little she could do to move on, initially. Friends, family and co-workers offered support but she was not in the right frame of mind.
“Pity is not something that I know how to take, even when it’s meant in a great way. It was true love and compassion, but I couldn’t stand it,” she said.
The loss almost cost her everything as Kozloski tried to take her own life before reaching out for help.
“I didn’t want to die. I wanted it to stop. When you have a hurt that just doesn’t stop, day in and day out, you just want it to stop,” Kozloski said.
But she bounced back and found determination.
“On my actual due date, which was August 24th, I was upstairs. I said ‘I have to do something,'” said Kozloski.
That takes us to late 2019 and the foundation named after her late daugher, Max Harper.
Kozloski has spent the last five months collecting donations, partnering with local businesses and helping mothers in need — whether it’s an unexpected pregnancy, a premature child that survives, or mothers on hard times.
“It means so much to us, and having a premie — especially with the foundation being about her daughter,” said Megan Derby, of Pittston. “Having that bond with her and being able to help. We also reach out to a couple people too, like when I see friends needing help — I bring Sarah up.”
Kozloski spends hours a day in her truck from Scranton to West Nanticoke, no matter the day or night, answering the call on the foundation’s Facebook page.
“Sure enough, she was out delivering diapers,” said Chareeda Yancy, of Wilkes-Barre. “Although it was maybe 9:00 that first night, I might have been the last person. She made it and she brought diapers and wipes for my baby.”
Mothers like Yancy face some uphill battles but can’t speak enough of the work the Max Harper Foundation does.
“Moms who have those unexpected pregnancies, who hit a hard spot, may not be working or anything; to have someone who’s going to reach out to you like ‘Hey, I can help just this little bit,'” said Yancy. “That little bit counts.”
Kozloski says maybe some day she’ll be able to get more people involved and more thoroughly serve those in need from the valley and beyond, but those lives she’s touched are amazed with the work she’s already doing.
“I think it’ll be awesome for it to grow bigger and have a lot more people know about the foundation and her daughter,” said Derby.
“I’m a firm believer that God does things for a reason and that was the reason for her to come into my life,” added Yancy. “For me to be a part of that, I’m forever grateful for it.”
There is one caveat the foundation has.
“I need people to understand that if they’re not really in need and they take those diapers — and then somebody reaches out to me who is truly in need and I don’t have them, that’s not what this is about,” said Kozloski.
Any day or night, she is either packing, delivering or ready to help and that’s how she honors Max Harper.
“My daughter passed away and has changed my life. Being a mother, whether she’s here or not, has changed my life. There is a reason. I know that now.”