Father, daughter team up with local church to lift spirits

Savannah Gagliardi stands with her father, Mike, outside their home. On Friday night, they were singing and playing for a weekly online church ministry that has brought in thousands of views and can be viewed on Facebook. Savannah's interaction with her father has been a great boost to the program.

Savannah Gagliardi loves to sing. Thanks to a local church live stream, her voice is lifting spirits far and wide.

Savannah, 20, has been blind since birth. She lives at a boarding school for the blind through the week and comes home on weekends. On Friday nights, she can be seen live-streaming on the Pendleton Center United Methodist Church’s Facebook page where she, her father and other performers are a part of the church’s online service.

“She loves it and she’s great in front of people, but I don’t know what her aspirations are. They kind of change, as a 20-year-old, they do change,” her father Mike Gagliardi said. “She’s wanted to be a pastor, and she’s wanted to be a nurse. She’s got a great positive attitude, and the sky’s the limit of what she can accomplish.”

Savannah’s favorite song is “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, her nickname is “Hollywood,” and when she sings with her father, she said, “It’s amazing!”

Savannah’s journey with the Pendleton Center United Methodist Church started last year when Lori Jagow started an online service as its minister at the advice of her pastor. Jagow said she turned to the community once the coronavirus hit.

“We are here on a mission to spread hope faster than the coronavirus,” Jagow said. “That became our slogan.”

The Gagliardis worship at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, but someone in Jagow’s church recommended Mike and that’s when the story got interesting.

Jagow asked Mike if he’d be willing to go on Facebook Live, and he loved the idea, but wanted to know if Savannah could come too.

“I had never heard her sing, or him for that matter, but we just wanted people to help out and bring some encouragement to the community, because people were so down and stressed out at the time and they couldn’t come to church,” Jagow said. “They went on, and I don’t even know how many people joined that night, but the response was overwhelming.”

Jagow said people really responded to the interaction between father and daughter.

“The smiles and the passion and just the uplifting spirit and joy these two people brought,” she said. “What these two people brought that night was just overwhelming and before you know it we were having thousands of people join in to listen to Mike and Savannah.”

Since that time, the online ministry has grown, Jagow said.

“It’s not restricted to denomination,” she said. “Savannah began receiving fan mail, she’s a big fan of Ellen Degeneres, she loves sunglasses, so, people are sending her things, she gets sunglasses in the mail all the time.”

“People have sent in dozens of comments on how encouraging they are,” Jagow concluded. “Week after week, and how they helped them through this difficult period.”

To the Gagliardi’s, the experience has been wonderful and feel that everyone involved is like their family.

“It’s a joy to sing with Savannah,” Gagliardi said.

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