Foss and Gill were two of six people from First Baptist Church who “took Christmas” to the orphanage Nov. 24 through Dec. 8.
Others making the trip were Joanne Swafford, Lynda Smith, Laura O’Dell and Tanya Mazzolini.
Samaritan’s Place is a “family-style residential care for kids and community services” program founded by Marc and Marilen Morris.
The facility’s motto is “building a hope and a future.”
Samaritan’s Place board members Kent and Susan Berry inspired the group from First Baptist to make the visit.
“Everything at Samaritan’s Place is pretty much established,” Foss said. “It is a unique place.”
“It is such a loving environment,” the two agreed.
“They have a group home system so they have houseparents‚ husband and wife — caring for the children,” Gill explained.
Samaritan’s Place has 27 youngsters and 12 staff members. It has two units with a husband-wife team and a separate unit with caregivers for the babies.
Foss noted, “You can feel the love throughout the homes for all the children — not just their houseparents. There is love everywhere.
“Marc and Marilen provide an example of God’s love and how all children should be loved,” she said.
“They seem like one big family,” Gill said.
When they began the trip, the group only knew they were going to share Christmas with the children.
They had shipped three crates of gifts and food in August to the Philippines in preparation.
Several families in the Cleveland church and community had given generously to the effort. Each child had a wish list, which had been filled with clothes, toys, books and more.
“They bought everything on the list,” Foss said. “They had a real nice Christmas.”
The children were probably confused, Gill and Foss noted. Before they celebrated Christmas, the ladies fixed them an American Thanksgiving with all the trimmings. Felt scraps were used to make pilgrim and Indian headwear for everyone.
They said the children really seemed to enjoy it.
After Thanksgiving, the group helped decorate for Christmas. The decorations were a bit worn, so the children made gingerbread and new ornaments to “spiff up the decorations.”
While the orphanage is in a very secure gated community, just outside is a “very depressed area.”
Samaritan’s Place has an outreach program for the children of the community twice a month with a Kidz Klub, which at present has from 24 to 25 families involved. The club is somewhat like a vacation Bible school.
The Cleveland group had brought money with them to buy food. On the day before the Kidz Klub, they took food to the homes of families already participating in the program.
“We walked through this very depressed area — all needed something,” noted Gill.
They told others a bus would be there the next day for children who wanted to come to the club. Some 95 children came.
“They are teaching the children to reach out to less fortunate,” Gill said.
“I think little children are learning a valuable lesson on how to reach out, to give back and how to help people. They have such wonderful role models in Marc and Marilen,” she said.
The children at the orphanage attend school in the village.
Foss said the classes have 50 students to every teacher. Because of the ratio, the children are a little behind.
Gill tested four of the children, who may soon be coming to homes in the Cleveland area.
Gill is preparing some materials to be used to help tutor the children as well as may be used by an onsite teacher in the future.
“They (the children) are prepared in so many ways,” she said.
“Samaritan’s Place ministers socially, emotionally, educationally and spiritually to the children. They prepare these children for a forever home,” Foss said. “Most important is to have an education.
“We would like to employ a full-time teacher. The children are learning, but not to their full potential because of the student-teacher ratio ... they would have more attention [with an onsite teacher].”
Foss and Gill noted the children were “sponges” soaking up information.
All of the local group were teachers with the exception of Mazzolina, who as an accountant helped Marc Morris with the books.
Another thing that impressed the duo was the behavior of the children.
“They are so well behaved,” Foss said.
“They have a very servant’s heart,” Foss said. “Those kids were right in their helping me.”
When told to line up, the children did so immediately and quitely.
It was also noted the youngsters have a routine. “They are engaged at all times with adults or each other.”
Even the babies by age 1 are feeding themselves. They get down from their high chairs and take the dishes to be cleaned.
Samaritan’s Place is debt free. They noted the Morrises “get the most out of a penny than anyone we’ve seen.”
They operate on a budget of $55,000 a year. “It’s a lesson on being good stewards.”
However, the orphanage wants to build a storage building for supplies, additional inside play area as well expanding the outside play area. They also want to purchase a strip of land for a garden.
Foss and Gill noted the orphanage always needs more fitted twin sheets, towels, washcloths and dish cloths.
Gill noted a group at Cleveland High School is already planning to sell candy grams at Valentine’s to raise money for the center.
The two want to create more awareness of the needs ot the facility. They are available for speaking engagements to local groups. Amy Foss may be reached at 303-0022.
Donations to Samaritan’s Place may be made through Friends of SPA, P.O. Box 2276, Cleveland, TINA 37329 (hoti://friendships. coma/).