Sundance Vacations Employee Spotlight- How Kelly Helps Brandon’s Forever Home
As Sundance Vacations HR Generalist/Charity Coordinator, Kelly Valovich sees every day how generous and passionate our employees are when it comes to giving back to charity.
But there are always certain causes that are special to each person, and for Kelly, her soft spot is helping children.
It is no surprise then that one of Kelly’s favorite charities strives to help children who are in need of some tender loving care.
Brandon’s Forever Home (BFH) is a charitable organization in Hazleton, Pennsylvania created to raise awareness about the need for children in foster care to find loving, permanent homes in Luzerne County.
The house welcomes children in the foster care system, as well as families who have adopted and is a safe place for them to play, bond, and grow.
Kelly had heard about the program from her friend and co-founder of Brandon’s Forever Home, Lorine Ogurkis, but was never involved until her son Michael got into some mild trouble at school.
Kelly tells Sundance Vacations that she and her family went to BFH in early April to help clean and paint in hopes that Michael would gain a greater appreciation for those less fortunate.
After a hard day’s work at the home, Michael gave his own Easter present, a gift card, to a foster child who he felt could use it more than himself.
Kelly tells us volunteering their time and effort at Brandon’s Forever Home has changed all of their lives and that they all have a greater appreciation for their blessings.
How Brandon’s Forever Home Began
When Lorine went to pick up a young 6 year old boy in need of temporary shelter, he ran up and embraced her as if he had known her his whole life.
The social worker walked up and gave her the boy’s belongings in a trash bag.
“It was then Lori’s mission to create something for children in the foster care that made them feel safe and a part of something,” Kelly remembers after Lorine told her the story, “that these children weren’t just being torn out of their homes with a garbage bag and tossed out and forgotten about.”
Lorine organized a duffle bag drive to ensure that foster children had a special place to store their belongings. She also requested the agency create a policy to stop children from using a garbage bag in the child welfare system and was able to stop its use with children entering foster care in Luzerne County.
But Lorine did not stop there.
With the help of her husband and friends, she was able to run other collection initiatives from her own house until it was overflowing with so many generous donations for children in crises that she was ready to expand.
With the help of Lorine’s best friend, Tarah Toohil, who inspired her first adoption, and numerous donors who supported their vision, the team bought a 1907 Georgian mansion in early 2015 for children to feel at home in Luzerne County.
How Does Brandon’s Forever Home Help Foster Families?
When new foster children come to the home, Lorine asks them important questions about themselves in order to discover how they can make a difference in this child’s life.
The people at BFH work to make these children’s dreams come true. From organizing a trip to the shore for young adults that never saw a beach before to getting a young girl a violin to finish the music classes she never had a chance to complete, Brandon’s Forever Home volunteers do all they can to help these children find happiness.
In addition to helping the children achieve their dreams, BFH also helps their foster families by providing the essentials they need.
The house is comprised of four special rooms for children based on their age and gender: rooms for a young girl and a young boy and two more for teenage youth.
Each room is stocked with donations from the many people who generously support their cause.
The rooms offer fully stocked wardrobes for children to choose from. In addition to clothing, each room is filled with shoes, accessories, and more for children whose foster family cannot afford such articles.
It was brought to their attention that some foster families are simply struggling to put food on the table, and Brandon’s Forever Home took some steps to help.
Brittany Ogurkis, the adopted daughter of Lorine, tells Sundance Vacations that about four weeks ago they started a food pantry to feed children and families who visit the home and to send meals back with families in need.
This new program is rapidly filling their kitchen space, and they are planning a remodel this upcoming March to accommodate more supplies.
How You Can Help Brandon’s Forever Home
Kelly and her family were touched by this charity, and she hopes that others see how important the cause is to children in Luzerne County.
She is so inspired by the way Brandon’s Forever Home has impacted her family that Kelly is hoping to skip an upcoming holiday so that the four of them can serve dinners to those less fortunate.
Brandon’s Forever Home is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon to accept open donations.
The charity is constantly collecting clothing and accessories, bed sheets, and nonperishable goods to give foster children and their families the basics to raise a healthy, happy family.
For those who are interested in making a donation or how you could support BFH, please visit Sundance Vacations.
Please share Kelly’s story to encourage others to lend a hand to foster kids in the area.
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Jennifer writes for Sundance Vacations’ Charities, Blog and News site. As our Digital Marketing Coordinator, she is the mastermind behind our YouTube videos and generates online content for our travel company.