WILKES-BARRE — Brandon’s Forever Home, a charitable organization created in 2014 to raise awareness about children in foster care and their need for permanent homes, was awarded a $25,000 grant Tuesday from The Luzerne Foundation’s Millennium Circle.
The grant will be used to help fund the Forever Home’s after-school tutoring and family meal program.
“The membership has spoken and voted Brandon’s Forever Home to receive this year’s grant,” said Charles Barber, president/CEO of The Luzerne Foundation. “They obviously felt the services for foster care across the county and the community are very important and Brandon’s Forever Home is doing a great job.”
The Hazleton charity’s executive director, Lorine Ogurkis, gave a presentation in front of about 200 people gathered at Genetti’s in downtown Wilkes-Barre. The attendees listened to presentations by four finalists for the grant and then voted on who would receive the allocation.
The other finalists:
• Catholic Social Services
• The McGlynn Learning Center
• Family Service Association of NEPA
State Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, and Ogurkis, an attorney, decided to start Brandon’s Forever Home to assist children in foster care by offering services including mentoring programs, a food pantry, clothing and special events that these children would typically not have the opportunity to participate in. Both are foster parents.
Ogurkis said there are close to 500 children a year placed into the Luzerne County foster care system “who have been forgotten.” She said these children are at risk, abused and neglected, and some are homeless and runaways.
“Brandon’s Forever Home is working to end the hopelessness associated with foster children,” Ogurkis said.
Ogurkis said due to the nature of foster care, children can be moved multiple times and therefore lack routine, strong family bonds, and many experience educational delays. She said students are assigned to a tutor who best matches their area of need and the success is monitored to ensure that educational goals are being met.
As much as education is important to the overall growth of a child or young adult, Ogurkis said Brandon’s Forever Home believes that success comes when the entire family unit works together toward a goal.
Ogurkis said it is her organization’s hope that the children can participate in the tutoring program in a traditional learning atmosphere such as local colleges like King’s or Wilkes to inspire them while teaching them the skills they need in the present.
The Millennium Circle Fund of the Luzerne Foundation was created by a special group of donors whose gifts of $2,000 to the fund play a pivotal role in helping the foundation identify significant unmet community needs. The ultimate goal is to have 2,000 members and a fund that would present community grants totaling $200,000 or more each year.