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Making a Difference

Ever wonder what difference you make when you donate to a charitable organization? Listen to people who have been helped by your generosity. Video by Cathie Rowand, Chad Ryan, and Samuel Hoffman.

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Kendra Amaya Miranda gets a hug from daughter, Ciela, 5. Lutheran Social Services helped the Amaya Miranda family.

Changing lives through charity

3 recipients share stories of hardship, hope

Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Latena Davis received housing and guidance at Vincent House.
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Martha Grimes is totally blind and relies on the services of Northeast Indiana Radio Reading Services and its radio broadcast of local news items read by volunteers.

The kindness of strangers can be life-changing.

Three Fort Wayne residents and their families who shared their stories with The Journal Gazette have been touched by the kindness, volunteerism and charity of others.

They want people to know that volunteering and donating to charitable organizations makes a difference – a big difference – in the lives of others.

The Amaya Miranda family

Lutheran Social Services

Although 26-year-old Kendra Amaya Miranda and her family are now doing well, the family has weathered some rough times.

Amaya Miranda was a freshman at South Side High School when she discovered she was pregnant. She confided in a teacher, who referred her to Lutheran Social Services. The teen enrolled in the Education Creates Hope and Opportunity, or ECHO, program, sponsored by Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services in cooperation with Fort Wayne Community Schools and East Allen County Schools.

Through ECHO, the teen received counseling, prenatal care and education.

“They made sure I stayed caught up with my studies and graduated,” Kendra said.

She had her daughter when she was a sophomore. Two years later, Kendra graduated a year early with academic honors.

She enrolled and attended Ivy Tech, but her breakup with the baby’s father while juggling three part-time jobs and raising her daughter was too much.

“I got so overwhelmed, I dropped out of Ivy Tech after one and a half semesters,” she said.

She began dating Kevin Amaya Miranda – the two wed in February 2012 – and soon found herself pregnant with her second child, another girl.

Lutheran Social Services arranged for Kendra’s children to be cared for at Children’s Village, an early-learning center for children that offers vouchers and sliding-scale fees based on monthly incomes.

One day, as the young mom was dropping her children off at the center, an administrator suggested she apply for a job.

“I got hired immediately as a full-time teacher,” Kendra said.

Financially, things did not improve for the Amaya Miranda family for several years.

Last Christmas, Kendra was still working at the daycare, an enjoyable but low-paying job. Kevin had taken a pay cut in order to work closer to home, and the couple had added a son to their growing family.

“We were struggling,” Kendra said. The family of five was adopted at Christmas through Children’s Village.

“Volunteers loaded a truck with food, paper goods, toys, clothing and gift cards. Strangers had been so generous, especially to the children. It was life-changing,” Kendra said, choking up.

Kevin, who works at Salvatori’s Authentic Italian Eatery on Illinois Road, said it made him happy and thankful to see the look on the children’s faces.

Today, Kendra is working at General Motors and the family recently bought a new home. Things have improved dramatically, but they will never forget how strangers stepped in to lend a hand when they needed it most.

Just a few weeks ago, Kendra volunteered to help with the adopted families at Children’s Village.

“I was there when they came in to pick up the packages. I saw the look on their faces, and I remembered that feeling,” she said. “I cried right along with them.”

Martha Grimes

Northeast Indiana Radio Reading Service

Martha Grimes of Fort Wayne listens to the newspapers, she listens to the obituaries and she listens to the retail store ads.

Grimes is totally blind and is one of more than 5,000 listeners of Northeast Indiana Radio Reading Service. NEIRRS reaches listeners within a 50-mile radius by radio, TV and Internet.

Broadcasts are provided through WBCL-FM, which is picked up by special radios loaned to listeners at no charge, said Lisa Bordner, NEIRRS manager.

NEIRRS, a nonprofit agency, is organized and heavily supported through the Allen County Public Library Foundation. The library provides building space, staff support, utilities and other operational resources. But to maintain the service, the organization must rely on help and donations from the community.

Every day, around the clock, NEIRRS broadcasts readings by more than 150 volunteer readers.

“It is the most wonderful service,” said Grimes, who has been a listener since 1995.

“I listen to the newspapers, the obituaries and I really like the grocery ads,” she said. Grimes also likes readings of Reader’s Digest, Guidepost, Time and Diabetic News.

“I feel like I’m friends with Fran and Stan – they read every Monday,” Grimes said. “They read well together and have become so familiar to me.”

Grimes, who worked at J.C. Penney for 24 years, began going blind in late 1993 at the age of 59 after suffering a rare and severe reaction to an influenza vaccine, she said. She heard about NEIRRS through the League for the Blind and Disabled in Fort Wayne.

Grimes’ husband, Don, died 11 years ago, and her eldest son, Steve, died last year at the age of 58. Another son, Michael, who is disabled, resides in a nursing home, and her two grown daughters, Christina and Kathy, live out of state.

With her daughters’ assistance, Grimes will move out of the Fort Wayne home later this month and into an assisted-living facility.

When her son lost his life to cancer, Grimes was devastated. In the months following his death, listening to the readers on NEIRRS helped Grimes work through her grief.

Many times, when unable to sleep, Grimes would get up and turn on the transmitter to hear the voices of the readers, she said.

“NEIRRS readers keep me company,” she said.

“What the readers do is so wonderful,” Grimes said. “I wish there was a way I could thank each and every one of them for giving so much of their time.”

The Davis family

Vincent Village Inc.

Latena Davis, 24, is feeling good about the turn her life has taken. It has not always been that way.

In October, Davis completed her schooling and passed the state board exam to become a certified nursing assistant.

She is now employed fulltime at Canterbury Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Fort Wayne and will soon be moving into a new home with her three sons, Jamari, 7, Dawuann, 4, and Jaky, 2.

Since May, Davis and her sons have been living at Vincent House, a shelter on Holton Avenue that serves homeless families with children.

When she first arrived at the shelter, Davis was depressed and without hope.

“I did not want to be here,” she said of the Vincent House. “I felt I had let everyone down, especially my kids.”

But she had no choice. She was out of food, money and had no place to call home.

Davis had dropped out of North Side High School when she became pregnant with her oldest son.

A few years later, Davis moved to Indianapolis to be closer to an aunt and hopefully find employment.

She had discovered that without a high school diploma or job skills, her opportunity for landing a job that paid a decent wage was next to impossible.

Times only got tougher. When she lost her apartment in Indianapolis, Davis decided to return to Fort Wayne, but she had no money and no where to stay.

She stayed a short time at the Carriage House, an organization that assists people in recovery from mental illness and reintegration into the community, until there was an opening at Vincent House, one of three facilities that fall under the umbrella of Vincent Village Inc.

The shelter has three case managers, one each for Vincent House, Vincent Village Transitional Rental Home Program and the Pathways to Success program, Executive Director Denise Andorfer said.

Vincent House serves 12 families at a time by assisting clients in setting goals and helping them work toward reducing barriers such as child care, transportation and finding employment.

Vincent Village and the Pathways Program helps families find low-cost rental homes. Established in 1989, the organization has served nearly 900 families, Andorfer said.

When she arrived at Vincent House, Davis said her boys were just as confused and sad as she was.

“They acted out a lot at first, but now they are much better,” Davis said of her sons.

Caseworker Sue Todia took Davis under her wing, helping the young mother find direction.

Todia thought Davis would be good at caring for others and suggested she go back to school and become a certified nursing assitant.

“I would have never thought of it on my own,” Davis said. “Sue encouraged me. She showed me that I was not in the worst situation, that there were others much worse off than me.”

Todia helped arrange transportation and child care while Davis pursued the certification and later, when Davis got a job.

Now that she is employed, Davis has entered the Vincent Village Transitional Rental Home program and is in the midst of leasing a home. She is somewhat sad to be leaving her friends at Vincent House.

“We are just one big family, and we try and look out for one another and one another’s kids,” Davis said.

Exuding newfound confidence, Davis is not the broken woman she was just seven months ago. She is hopeful, excited and looking forward to her new future.

“Becoming a CNA is a big deal,” she said. “I never thought I would accomplish anything.”

But the best thing is knowing that she has given her boys a reason to look up to their mother and follow her lead.

“I try to teach them that anything is possible if they work at it and put in the effort,” Davis said with a shy, but proud, smile.