Upcoming event: Heart for Change celebration
Have a heart for change? Join us at our largest annual fundraising celebration on October 6, 2017 at 7:30pm at the Cedarbrook Country Club in Blue Bell, PA. Expect delicious food and drinks and fabulous auction items while supporting our mission to intentionally perform miracles.
Miles: From an RJLF Fellow to an RJLF Board Member
Miles Hanley is an R.J. Leonard Foundation board member. Previously in foster care, he was our first Fellow. While the challenges Miles faced as a child empowered him to focus on the positive aspects of his life, Miles told us he is an exception to those who face similar childhood circumstances. Miles will be sharing his experiences at our Heart for Change Celebration.
Featured Fellow & Community Partner Spotlight
RJLF Fellow Emily* is currently a full-time nursing student who also juggles parenthood and working part-time. Previously, Emily found herself homeless after she aged out of foster care. As a single mother, she knew she had to pursue her education in order to make a better life for herself and her daughter.
Two months ago Emily's car broke down. This put a tremendous strain on her education, job, and getting her daughter to daycare. Within 48 hours, our new Community Partner, Discount Auto, stepped in and saved the day.
When she was referred to RJLF, Emily relied on public transportation and her friends to get to class, work, and transport her daughter to day care. In addition to the stressful demands of her class requirements, each day transportation was a challenge. With the support of Discount Auto, we were able to purchase a used car for Emily.
“Right before I met with the R.J. Leonard foundation, I was stressed out to my capacity… I am in awe of your generosity and compassion towards helping me with my transportation issue that was wreaking havoc in my life.” Without a car, Emily was at risk of losing her job and her school program. “I am motivated to complete my goals for my daughter so that we can live a better life, and I can have a career.”
Thanks to the generosity of our donors and to Community Partners like Discount Auto for your ongoing support that allows us to carry out our mission.
*Name has been changed to reflect anonymity.
Interested in empowering young adults like Emily to succeed?
In the News: Foster Care, Aging Out, and Mentorship
Have a heart for change? Join us at Cedarbrook! Heart for Change, our largest annual fundraising celebration, will be held on October 6, 2017 at 7:30pm at the Cedarbrook Country Club in Blue Bell, PA. Mark your calendars, and look forward to delicious food and drinks, fabulous auction items, and support our mission to intentionally perform miracles.
Monthly gifts of any amount allow RJLF to provide sustainable resources to our Fellows, summertime and beyond! Talk to us about how you can become a supportive constant in our Fellows' lives, and read on to see the value in a donation to the R.J. Leonard Foundation.
RJLF Workshop: Networking and Building Relationships
Featured Fellow: Carl*
In the fall of 2015, Carl was uncertain how he would pay next month’s rent or make payments on his car. He felt his dreams to continue his education and make a better life for himself slipping away.
When Carl was referred to RJLF in October of 2015, he worked closely with his new Mentor and our team to establish steps towards his goal to pursue a career in technology and achieve a stable income. We referred Carl to Zip Code Wilmington, assisted him in the application process for this competitive and rigorous coding program, and provided Carl with a grant that assisted with his living expenses. This support enabled Carl to focus on his studies and start his career.
RJLF is proud to share that Carl successfully completed the program in December of 2016, and currently works for JPMorgan Chase as a technology analyst! The support of generous donors and invaluable Mentors allows us to carry out impactful work and empower our Fellows to succeed.
Carl sums his achievements up well in a recent note to RJLF: “A year ago this month, RJLF was helping me keep food in the fridge and supporting the insane undertaking which resulted in my attending Zip Code Wilmington and eventually winding up where I am now. You all helped make that happen, and I hope you savor the positive changes you make in the lives of individuals who desperately need a shot at doing more."
Featured Mentors: Barb and John
John Ortolf met RJLF founder Jo Leonard in 2012 and quickly became a believer in our mission. A year later, he was on the board, using his experience as an advisor for Wells Fargo to improve the lives of young people aging out of foster care.
When RJLF needed a Mentor for Theresa* in 2015, John asked his wife Barb if she would become her Mentor. Barb agreed, but wanted to share the responsibility, and a mentoring partnership was formed between them.
We asked about how their mentoring experience impacted them, and how they have impacted their Fellow. Their response was inspiring:
“It is rewarding to work with our Fellow, and interesting to see her grow and mature over the years. She is a talented and very motivated young woman who just needs guidance to see all the opportunities available to her… We have been very impressed with her motivation and resourcefulness. She bought a house last year which is quite an accomplishment for any young person in their early twenties. She was able to do this while working, attending school, and caring for her young son. She is a remarkable young woman.”
*Names have been changed to reflect anonymity.
Upcoming: Cedarbrook 2017
Read on if you love stories. We love stories, especially ones about A-Mazing-Mentors, Fabulous Foster Care Fellows, and our Brilliant Board Members! You'll learn about how your donations are directly benefiting local youth in your community, and how to join our efforts if you're interested.
April is RJLF Planning Month, so a great time to join our board!
When my dad died in 2006, it felt like someone had removed a part of me. It was as if my foundation had crumbled away, and I had been left alone. Who was I going to call when I was in trouble? Who was going to talk to me logically about my heartache, my house flooding, the career decision that I needed to make, etc.? Who was going to come and look at the house that I wanted to buy and give me advice?
Lucky for me, my dad had given me an internal fortitude, a solid foundation. He was an incredibly competent and capable man, and I learned from watching him and working hard in his business. And as it turned out, I was not alone; he had helped me become a capable and strong adult, and for that, I feel blessed.
Robert James Leonard, my dad, was a successful teacher and entrepreneur who had passion for knowledge and education, as well as the tenacity necessary to build a successful business from very little. His passion, the decisions that he made, and the opportunities that he grabbed have inspired me throughout my life and still do today.
In August 2008, motivated by both his passions and the support that he offered to me throughout his life, I launched the R. J. Leonard Foundation (RJLF) in the memory of him.
It may come as a surprise to you that in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, which have a reputation for being affluent suburbs, there are approximately 125 young adults who are in the process of aging out of the foster care system. Their foundations are nonexistent. Their families are gone or unknown to them, and they are left to fend for themselves at 18.
Many of these young adults have overcome obstacles that would upset, frighten, and/or startle you. They have been forced to bounce from foster family to group home and back again, more times than they can count. At 18, they are emancipated, often unable to afford and insufficiently qualified to continue their education. They are let out into the real world to fend for themselves without any kind of support system.
Our mission is clear. While we are supportive of government programs to assist the underprivileged, we are dedicated to providing our Fellows with the resources that will put them back on a level playing field with their more privileged peers. In this way, they will live their own lives and raise families without government assistance. Self-sufficiency is imperative.
It is our hope that our Fellows will pay it forward, helping others like themselves in the future. It is my hope that they build a career and a family – a life after foster care – so that their past does not define their future.
With love and gratitude,
R. J. Leonard Foundation