Hazleton-based Brandon’s Forever Home awarded $25,000 grant

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected] | October 24th, 2017 11:13 pm

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 McGlynn Center is seeking to develop a coordinated family engagement and outreach program. Sister Eleace King, director, said The Learning Center is available at no cost to all school-age children and teens who reside in the two family developments of the Wilkes-Barre Housing Authority. Currently, it serves 130 children and teens from 75 families. She said the center would like to expand to serve the 47 families currently residing at the Boulevard Townhomes or Mineral Springs Village.

• Guardianship services of the Family Service Association of NEPA are provided to adult individuals who are found by the Orphans Court of Luzerne County to be incapable of exercising decision-making on their own behalf, and who are in need of an ethical substitute decision-maker. Mike Zimmerman, executive director, said referred cases are often those where no responsible relative can be located to make financial or medical decisions for the individual, or cases where local relatives have taken advantage of the client’s finances and estate.

• Neil Oberto, of Catholic Social Services Greater Hazleton, said the need for emergency sheltering and other residential services has gone unmet in the community for numerous years. In response to this need, Catholic Social Services is developing a comprehensive shelter/residential center that will include an emergency shelter, and transitional youth housing. Current services offered by the agency will also be based at this center and be enhanced to better meet the needs of those served and the community at large.

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.

Lorine Ogurkis, co-founder of Brandon’s Forever Home in Hazleton, speaks during The Luzerne Foundation’s Millennium Circle annual luncheon at Genetti’s in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday. Brandon’s Forever Home was awarded a $25,000 grant.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/web1_TTL102517MillenniumCircle2.jpgLorine Ogurkis, co-founder of Brandon’s Forever Home in Hazleton, speaks during The Luzerne Foundation’s Millennium Circle annual luncheon at Genetti’s in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday. Brandon’s Forever Home was awarded a $25,000 grant. Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Charles Barber, president and CEO of the Luzerne Foundation, speaks at the Millennium Circle annual luncheon Tuesday at Genetti’s in Wilkes-Barre.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/web1_TTL102517MillenniumCircle5.jpgCharles Barber, president and CEO of the Luzerne Foundation, speaks at the Millennium Circle annual luncheon Tuesday at Genetti’s in Wilkes-Barre. Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Lorine Ogurkis, co-founder of Brandon’s Forever Home in Hazleton, speaks during The Luzerne Foundation’s Millennium Circle annual luncheon at Genetti’s in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday. Brandon’s Forever Home was awarded a $25,000 grant.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/web1_Ogurkis.cmyk_.jpgLorine Ogurkis, co-founder of Brandon’s Forever Home in Hazleton, speaks during The Luzerne Foundation’s Millennium Circle annual luncheon at Genetti’s in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday. Brandon’s Forever Home was awarded a $25,000 grant. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.


NATIONAL VIDEO
POLL