As a family of 12 and parents to 10 adopted children, including 7 former foster children from the same family, Donald and Rendy Orlando say their foster children showed up to the house with the clothes on their backs and not much else. Wanting to help other children in similar circumstances, the Hayward, California family has dedicated their volunteerism to supporting adopted and foster children in need.
Through the Alameda County Foster Parent Association, which helps to ensure consistent, safe, quality care for children, foster and adopted, in need of out-of-home placement, the Orlando family acts as a first responder team when a child or teenager is in need by organizing and providing donated clothes and other items. Since 2016, the family has helped hundreds of other foster and adopted children in the community so that they feel comfortable and cared for in their new surroundings. In recognition of their service work, the Orlando’s were finalists for Disney and Points of Light Volunteer Family of the Year, and received a trip to Disney World.
Points of Light spoke with Donald, Rendy and two of their older children who are both adopted, Gabriel and Gia, about their volunteerism.
What inspires you to volunteer?
Donald: The children that come into foster care don’t have anything with them. They come with the shirts on their backs and not much else. We help to give them something new to start their lives off so they have a fresh start and know that they’re loved and cared for.
Gabriel: Volunteering makes me feel like we are helping kids feel like they are somebody, when before they used to be a nobody.
How has volunteering as a family changed the impact of your service?
Donald: Volunteering as a family gives us more of a purpose. We are trying to instill in others a sense of working together as a team in order to bring back that community sense that we’ve lost over the years in our society. We’re teaching our kids certain moral values to help others.
Describe your role with Alameda County Foster Parent Association.
Rendy: Our family volunteers with the association and in addition, I am co-fundraiser on the board. As volunteers, our family sorts and itemizes clothing donated for children. Organizing the clothes by gender and size helps our youngest children to improve their reading and organizational skills.
Gia: I always ask mom if I can help her, I like to help organize the clothes. I organize and put stuff away so it’s not on the ground. I think volunteering is pretty fun because I get to help other people out.
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
Rendy: About three months ago, a home shooting occurred in our area, it was a horrible travesty. Two young boys from the home came into out-of-home care. Their pregnant mother had been shot in front of them, she lost the baby. Their father was shot and hospitalized in the intensive care unit. At that point the children had absolutely nothing as they left the house. We were called in to give them new wardrobes and new backpacks. After the fact, the children told a social worker that they loved the new blankets we’d given them because they were so soft and comforting. It is important to us that we have the ability to be on call for these kids and know that we’ve made a difference.
What’s one way you hope to inspire others in your service?
Donald: We want people to learn to be able to give back. Society is always a take, or getting something. We want to be able to give back and instill in others the sense to give back, especially to children that are less fortunate.
In one word, what does volunteering mean to you?
Gia: Helping. Helping out people.
What’s the most rewarding part of your service?
Rendy: We hold a backpack event for children because many of them have never received a backpack full of supplies. When they receive the backpack and start digging through it and laying everything out, there’s a look in their eyes, first surprise, and then joy. Many of them say thank you. That makes us happy.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
Gabriel: I’ve learned that deep down in me, I feel excitement when I volunteer, like a firework going up and exploding like joy.
Rendy: Just as our family continued to grow, we knew we had enough love to volunteer. If we have the time and energy to serve, we just keep pushing forward. We even volunteer just a little bit at a time, it doesn’t have to be the whole kit and caboodle.
What saying do you live your life by?
Rendy: We always say we’re blessed.
How can readers help?
Rendy: We are volunteering a little bit more now because of the coronavirus pandemic. The diapers and baby wipes flew off the shelves at stores, so we’ve been able to give those items to families in need. Please visit the Alameda County Foster Parent Association website for more information about how you can give back.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like the Orlando family? Find local volunteer opportunities.