The Thursday morning was graced with beautiful performance pieces by the Life Story Trio of First United Methodist Apopka, spoken word poet Shawn Welcome and professional singer Michelle Amato.
Speakers from Family Services included Grant Lacerte, Chairman of the Board of Directors; Gregory Kurth, Chief Executive Officer; and Michele Jordan, Medical Foster Parent. The speakers delivered key messages about the different ways people and organizations can “Get in the Picture” by being involved with Family Services to give every child in Central Florida a childhood.
Three groups of individuals, each with distinct and fascinating stories came forward to share how Family Services of Metro Orlando have touched their lives.
Jose Candelario stood on stage with his three sons to publicly thank Family Services and partner Deveraux for their active roles in reuniting him with his boys after they were removed from their mother’s home. With the Family Finders program, caseworkers were able to reduce the amount of time the boys spent in foster care by bringing their concerned father back into their lives after a nine-year separation.
Marvin read some poetry of his own inspired by his time in foster care. His twin brother, Martin also spoke to the audience about his experience in foster care and the importance of adopting older teens.
“Adults like to pick the little 5-year-olds – the cute, young ones,” said Martin. “But what about us teenagers? We need love too. We need people like you to adopt us and show us that the world isn’t really as bad as we think it is.” Both boys are currently going though an adoption together.
Finally, Christina LeBarron moved the audience to tears with the account of her struggle to be the mother her son needed her to be nine years ago. She told of the addictions which caused her son to be born prematurely and placed immediately in foster care. She told of the foster mother who worked with her to get her clean and into her son’s life.
“I wish Family Services had been around nine years ago. What you do could have really helped me,” Christina said. “If I had had this kind of tremendous support system, I might not have missed my son’s first smile or hearing his first word, and it could have been my arms that my son fell into after taking his first step.”
The event coincided with the release of the newest Family Services video, “Get in the Picture”, featuring the great work of Deveraux, One Hope United and Children’s Home Society. It also shows how community partners such as Jeff Hawkins Photography, Brick & Fire Pizza and Westgate Resorts have been able to “get in the picture” to give every child a childhood.
The efforts of many Family Services staff and volunteers made this event an overwhelming success. Wendy Wolfswinkel and the Finance Department, interns Tiffany Winsett and Matt Heim, AmeriCorps* VISTA volunteer David Fain, Communications Specialist Kristin Schendel, Anissa Mercado, Jean Hartsaw, and many other staff members supported event preparations and the execution of the event. Bart Mawoussi, Director of Communications and Grants, and Janice Brodie, Corporate Relations Manager, both oversaw and managed the various teams, volunteers, processes, supporting details and final details for the event.
Family Services also thanks Robyn Kurth for her many hours of production work on the video, Alex Dano for handling production of various personalized communications, and Julius Mawoussi, who logged many volunteer hours supporting every step of the way.
Thanks to all those who served as volunteers on and before the day of the event.