Former Foster Youth Gives Back

We often receive calls from individuals and organizations inquiring about hosting a donation drive to benefit The Villages. And of course, we are always appreciative of the donations and the people who wish to make a difference in the lives of the children and families we serve each day. But a recent inquiry was extra special and lead to a rare reunion.

Adam Knight, a maintenance technician at Peterman Brothers Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, contacted our Development Team. He asked if he could host a toy and book drive to benefit children in foster care. He shared that he is participating in the Peterman Leadership Academy, a program that encourages team members to improve their leadership skills both in their personal and professional lives. One aspect of the academy encourages participants to lead a philanthropic activity.

Adam went on to share that he was in foster care with The Villages from age 7 to 13, along with his older sister and younger brother. Fortunately, the three were able to stay together and placed with foster parents Janet and Randy, who had four grown children of their own but felt called to help care for other children in need of a loving and safe home. The three siblings spent the next six years with their foster family, while receiving support from The Villages’ staff.

When Adam was in 7th grade he and his younger brother were officially adopted by their foster parents. By this time, their older sister had been emancipated and moved to California with her boyfriend, but she remained in touch with her brothers and former foster parents. Adam shared that his childhood was not easy by any means and that he definitely experienced trauma, but he is so grateful for the caring individuals from The Villages and the foster family that The Villages placed he and his siblings with, ultimately his forever family.

When Adam called The Villages, he asked if case manager, Ellen Trader, was still with the organization. He could recall several team members who made a positive impression on him, but Ellen’s name was the only one he could remember. Although Ellen had retired from The Villages in 2013, after 20+ years in social work, she had remained in contact with her Villages family and was beyond thrilled to learn Adam had inquired about her. And when asked if she would be willing to meet Adam at the donation delivery, she responded “without a doubt I will be there. Just tell me when and where.”

Adam’s toy and book drive was an amazing success. Family, friends, and coworkers supported his project with financial donations and gently used books. Adam and his wife, Cali, were beyond pleased with the generosity of their community and were able to go shopping, filling up the entire back seat of Adam’s car with toys and books.

On the day Adam delivered the donations he was not only greeted by several Villages team members, but also his former case manager, Ellen. It was a beautiful and very special moment. Once Ellen got over the fact that Adam had doubled in height since the last time she saw him, the reminiscing began. Adam caught Ellen up on his siblings and his adoptive parents. Ellen gave Adam updates on a few of The Villages’ staff who worked closely with Adam and his siblings. Ellen said, “The young man you see now is the same boy 18 years ago – easy to talk to, a big heart, and a great sense of humor. He was also a little mischievous,” Ellen then winks. Adam responded with, “well yah, I was a typical boy.”

Reunions can be so very special. This one, in particular, was heartwarming. It exemplifies all that The Villages strives for – building brighter futures for children and those who care for them. Emily Metheny, from Peterman Brothers shared, “we are so proud of Adam and all the work he did to organize this donation drive to give back! And Ellen is completely right in everything she said about Adam. We are so fortunate to have him on our team.”

With the past support of The Villages and his adoptive family, and now Peterman Brothers, his wife, and community, Adam’s future continues to look brighter and brighter. We can’t wait to see what is in store for Adam in the coming years.

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