A Seminole Voice Article By Brittni Larson August 7, 2013 8:43 p.m.
The gap separating Robert Green from his family was already hundreds of miles wide when his life took a turn for the much worse. He moved to Florida to be with his mother while she was sick. But when the sickness took his mother, all that was left was him. His family felt distant and he had no friends to lean on. He needed to start his life over, to get a job, and to lift himself out of the sadness.
But Green didn’t know where to start — he’d been on disability and not working for four years because of hip replacements. An Internet search brought him to The Forgotten Ones (TFO), a charitable organization located at The Vine Thrift Store in Oviedo that offers, among many other services, an emergency food pantry, guidance about getting food stamps and identification, and job search help.
He thought he’d stop by one of their monthly events where they serve lunch and give free haircuts; maybe they could help him. He didn’t know how much of an impact Cindy Shadron, executive director for the nonprofit, would have on his life.
“It was like God had showed up,” he said.
It’s been a month since he met Shadron and her team, and he’s already got a job as a shuttle driver. They also helped him get glasses — vital for a job as a driver — a uniform for his new gig, and most importantly, a lighter heart.
“That just changed my whole outlook,” Green said. “That gave me the energy, the strength, the confidence that I’m not alone.”
Shadron opened the thrift shop as a way to start a non-profit, and to eventually get an idea called the Shiloh Ranch off the ground. The ranch, which she hopes to open next year, would aim to help former foster children aged 18 to 25 aging out of the foster care system, or who are runaways or homeless. The ranch would give the young adults a place to live, with people to encourage, support and teach them life skills, while they enrich their lives by helping rescue animals.
The non-profit has expanded its services each time someone has asked for something new, be it assistance with submitting food stamp forms to getting a hearing aid. They do whatever it takes, Shadron said.
“The Forgotten Ones goes the extra mile for people,” said Brooke Payne, Outlook Director for TFO. “We do what others won’t; we’re here.”
When people started asking for job help, Shadron used her community connections to find job openings. While the economy and unemployment rate still suffer, she’s only seen job placement by TFO raise, because those who reach out to her looking for new employees know what she does to help people get back on their feet. They trust her.
But she’s also discerning in who she’ll recommend for jobs, and those people many times get her cell phone number to call when they need her, too. She can sense a real need and a drive underneath to succeed.
Payne was one of those cases. She’d come to volunteer and get some help while her mom was there doing community service. She wasn’t in a stable home situation, and had been looking for work for a while. And then her volunteering turned into a paying job as the outlook director at TFO, with her graphic design degree working to create the new Web site for the organization. Before, Payne said she’d nearly lost all hope. But Shadron has watched her go from gazing away with a broken spirit, to being completely confident in her position.
That’s what she sees in many people who have found their path in life again through TFO’s help.
“The light in their eyes changes,” Shadron said. “I hope that everybody leaves with more of a purpose in their life.”
They also make it a priority to not only be there to offer encouragement and guidance about job interviews, but also to follow-up and make sure their client gave it their all. Many tell them that it was the push from people at TFO that made them actually fill out the application or go to the interview with a positive attitude.
“They get alone again and they can’t get themselves to do the first step,” Shadron said. “We help them stay on it.”
That was what Green said got him the job — the motivation from Shadron. Grieving for the loss of his mother took a lot of his own zest for life away, but the team at TFO instilled a faith in him that everything would be alright, and that he’d get a job. And now that he has one, he hopes to get his own place and make some time to volunteer at the non-profit when he’s not working.
Shadron said TFO employees’ personal interest in those who come in for help is the key to everyone’s success. They lift people up.
“They need a person that believes in them, that can get them to believe in themselves again.”