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Feb. 27, 2024
February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate the central role African Americans and the Black community have played in making society better throughout U.S. history. Throughout the month, we highlighted Embrace Families partners who are serving their community today in that same spirit. Here are their stories.

Making sure every child has a family

 Gay Brielle Crawford wasn’t content to help 30 children as a foster parent. She adopted four and started Love Made Visible, a large-family foster home for teenaged girls. “My journey in the realm of foster care has been profoundly shaped by both my personal experiences and professional endeavors. [caption id="attachment_3947" align="alignright" width="394"] Gay Brielle Crawford and family.[/caption] “Over the course of 11 years as a foster parent, I have been blessed to nurture approximately 30 children, four of whom I’ve joyfully adopted, while also providing a stable environment for another through a long-term guardianship. “These experiences have granted me a deep understanding of the challenges and needs faced by foster children. Combined with my academic background in early childhood education and my ongoing doctoral studies at the University of Central Florida, I am equipped with the knowledge and expertise to advocate for these vulnerable children. “My commitment to their well-being will remain steadfast and until every child has a family. I know that I am called to this work. “Most recently, I left my teaching and school administration career to serve as executive director of Love Made Visible and program director of The Vineyard, where I endeavor to provide love, stability and opportunities for a brighter future for teenagers in need of a family setting. It is the connection of my personal passion and professional dedication that fuels my calling to be a caregiver and mentor, propelling me to tirelessly champion the cause of foster children. “Through it all, my Christian faith serves as a guiding force, inspiring me to extend compassion, hope and unconditional love to those in my care, both at home and in my career.”

Helping those ‘lost in the shuffle of life’

[caption id="attachment_3949" align="alignright" width="289"] Felicia Sherman[/caption] Felicia Sherman’s commitment to her community crosses the age spectrum. She has served as a mentor and is now committed to making a difference in the lives of seniors as a Florida ombudsman. It’s born out of a passion for helping those who don’t have a voice and “are lost in the shuffle of life.” “I have always had a passion when it comes to helping others. The reason behind me mentoring is to make a difference in a child’s life — to help him (or her) to become a productive person. “I am a Black American and in my 60s. During my childhood, it was always said it takes a village to raise a child. I live and instill this in my son and family. “As a kid, my grandfather used to call me little mama because I always was in charge, or thought I was in charge. If you can help someone, help them.”

A light in the dark

Daija Brewer serves her country as a member of the United States Air Force, but she’s also serving her community as a mentor for kids experiencing foster care. She says it’s a calling. [caption id="attachment_3950" align="alignright" width="260"] Daija Brewer[/caption] “Becoming a mentor for me was not much of a choice but a calling that has aligned with my purpose. I am a firm believer in being the light that I wish I had during my darkest times, especially as an adolescent figuring out life for herself in the concrete jungle known to many as New York City. “Being born and raised in the Big Apple had many perks, and I do not regret much of any of the mistakes turned lessons that I made growing up, for they have all made me the woman I am today. In sharing my story, and being a mentor, my goals are always to let the youth know that although you can be anything in the world, always choose to be kind, for it is priceless. Additionally, I take pride in providing a safe space and a listening ear in a world where there is so much background noise that it may feel hopeless at times. “My passion lies in the field of counseling, which aligns with my role as a mentor. I adore adolescents and take pride in giving them inspiration, motivation, and courage for them to live their truth and know there is no limit to being all you can be. “One shut door only gives another opportunity to an open door, and no matter how hard things may seem, it is only temporary.”

Support that goes beyond the basics

Since forming its charter on Oct. 27, 1954, the Epsilon Epsilon Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. has been committed to improving the lives of Orlando’s residents. That includes children experiencing the foster care system. [caption id="attachment_3951" align="alignright" width="395"] Members of the Epsilon Epsilon Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.[/caption] “In 2022, acknowledging the pressing needs within the foster care system, the chapter initiated the foster care committee as part of the national Z-HOPE program, embodying the essence of Zetas Helping Other People Excel. This endeavor has evolved into a source of compassion and assistance for foster youth and their caregivers. “Forming meaningful partnerships with organizations like Embrace Families, the chapter actively engages in events such as Embrace Families’ Back-to-School Drive, Holiday Magic and Fore Our Kids Golf Tournament. “Beyond volunteering, the chapter has directed its focus toward essential support, distributing duffle bags filled with vital items through the Bags of Dreams initiative, launched in 2020, to ensure comfort during transitional periods for those facing the challenges of foster care. The chapter also participated in the Curls for Confidence initiative, providing hair products to individuals in foster care to enhance self-esteem and overall well-being. “The commitment of the Epsilon Epsilon Zeta Chapter extends beyond material assistance, aspiring to empower youth and promote self-esteem. Moreover, the chapter endeavors to raise awareness by hosting informational sessions for foster care parents in the community. “As the chapter continues to script its narrative of compassion and influence, the unwavering dedication to fostering positive and enduring change in the lives of foster children remains paramount in its mission.” Embrace Families’ Legacy Mentor Program matches teens and young adults ages 13-23 who are experiencing the child welfare system with positive role models. Adults who are interesting in making a difference in a child’s life through mentoring can learn more at make-a-difference/mentor. Those who want to learn more about becoming a foster caregiver should visit make-a-difference/foster or contact Lisa Walters, Embrace Families’ foster parent recruitment and training manager, at recruitment@embracefamilies.org.