Last Christmas, a group of Santa’s surprised 5 teenage group homes in Central FL with unexpected gifts including large screen TV’s, ping pong tables, kitchen ware, furniture, video games, brand new beddings and many other items donated with the purpose of making the homes feel more like... home.
Lorena Delgado is a member of “Foster Friends of Florida”, a grassroots volunteer group with 1,400+ members from Oviedo and Central FL. The group was started in 2017 when a few ladies found out about a foster home with teenage girls in their neighborhood. Realizing that some neighbors were concerned about cop cars coming in and out and the teenage foster kids were getting in trouble, they decided to rally the community to organize a BBQ to get to know the kids and offer to help out. The result was an outpouring of support, donations and interest to provide community parenting by tutoring, cooking and having meals together, celebrating milestones such as birthdays and graduation to make the kids feel that someone cares, not just during Christmas but all throughout the year.
The group now operates under iPrevail International Foundation, a 100% volunteer based non profit that helps disaster victims, the homeless and foster group homes including 5 teenage foster group homes managed by Friends of Children and Families, with volunteers like Lorena working together to make the kids feel welcome, loved and cared for. This year, Lorena, whose family business, local favorite Cafe Panuzzo has been providing free meals for one of the group homes, asked how else she can help the kids feel special and came up with the idea of rallying her entire office, an Insurance company, to donate and personally shop for a wish list that would upgrade the amenities of the homes.
The kids and staff were blown away when Lorena and her office mates came to bring items that are not necessarily a “charity necessity” , but significantly elevates the kids and provides a sense of normalcy. Before they left, the kids came out beaming and calling out to say THANK YOU.
“Efforts like this by regular people versus big corporations really make a significant impact in the lives of these children,” says Todd Marinshaw, iPrevail Co-founder and a neighbor to one of the homes. “Cops have told us there’s been a significant decrease in calls since the group started and the kids are definitely responding to the sincerity and consistency of their “neighbors” rather than feeling like they’re just in a system”.
“My office was incredibly excited and grateful to be able to do something together that really made a lot of impact. It was a great bonding experience and it was definitely worth it seeing how the kids lit up when they saw everything”, says Lorena.
For more info on how to help, please visit iwillprevail.org to see our other programs.