Samantha Rodriguez found herself in a tough spot after both of her parents passed away within a couple of years, leaving her responsible to raise her five younger siblings. As their primary caregiver, the young woman has had to make huge sacrifices to be able to continue to look after her brothers and sisters, the youngest of which is five, the oldest seventeen. The children were in danger of being placed in the foster care system where they would almost certainly have been separated.
“I knew what I had to do. I learned so much from my mom. I was like her sidekick. I learned what it meant to raise a family. It can be tough knowing when to be like a parent and when to be their sister. Sometimes it can feel like I’m alone.”
She moved with her siblings to Orange County, Florida, because their grandmother lived there. But resources were scarce, and Rodriquez had to grow up fast. Samantha has been juggling her education with running things in the family home. She has relied on Uber or public transport to get all six family members to school events, doctor appointments, etc. Quite a lot of responsibility for a 20-year-old, isn’t it?
Well, somehow this family and their situation came to the attention of the Orange Country Sheriff’s Department. This was in December, so the Sheriff’s Department invited the family to come for a visit. The kids were treated to a helicopter ride, and then taken into a room where there were stacks of gifts for each of them.
“We focused on clothes but also toys. We wanted to give them a good Christmas.” — Lieutenant Antorrio Wright
But the story doesn’t end there. The sheriff’s department posted a video of the Christmas surprise online. And people began responding, asking to help. Lieutenant Wright and his compadres put their heads together and, remembering that the family had hired an Uber car to bring them to the Christmas surprise, they collected the donations from the community, added some of their own, and …
Last week, Lieutenant Wright contacted Ms. Rodriguez and asked her to come to his office. She was puzzled, but … when the cops call, you go! When she arrived, he escorted her into a large room where she found all the officers from the Christmas event waiting for her. There was a board with a covering over it, and …
The lieutenant told her that the community had gotten together and wanted to do something to help her and her family, so … he pulled the cover off the board, and …The department had bought Samantha and her siblings a new car!!!
“When they told me the car is for us, I remember thinking, ‘They just took away all these worries and stresses.’ It was such a big weight off my shoulder and will help so much.”
Folks … this is what it means, or at least should mean, to be a part of a community. We look out for one another. My hat is off to the Orange Country Sheriff’s Department, to the members of the community who stepped up to the plate to help this family, and to this young lady, Samantha Rodriguez, for taking on the responsibility for her five brothers and sisters, putting her own life on hold to keep the family together.
Note: Pay It Forward Day is on April 28, a week from Sunday. I’m thinking about doing a post about things people did to “pay it forward” the Wednesday after, so if you see or hear of things that you would like to contribute to that post, please send me a short email. Thanks!