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Changing the World

30-A Businesses Unite for Abandoned Children

Written by Kirsten Reed

Each year brings a sense of fresh hope—hope for improvements to be made within ourselves and the world around us. Hope—it is a four-letter word that can change lives and the way in which we live our lives each day. But how do we implement it? Through words of encouragement? An embrace? Perhaps it’s more than that. It is through change.

We all have visions of a better world. Patricia “Sister” Barnes had a vision too—one that would change the lives of several little children who had nothing to hold onto but hope.

On November 1, 2007, Gina Shiflett's Second Annual Salon Twist Change the World Fundraiser was held at Alys Beach, located in Walton County between Seacrest Beach and Rosemary Beach. Although some time has passed since the event, the vision of a loving home for abandoned Ukrainian children had not faded a bit from the mind of Patricia “Sister” Barnes.

Barnes, founder and owner of the famous “Sister Schubert” yeast roll company, has been working through her foundation to raise money to build a home for abandoned Ukrainian children. Her dream is to have a place for these abandoned children to live, for an alternative to the state-run institutions where all abandoned children in Ukraine are now mandated to live. Barnes's proposed complex will encompass seven separate apartments, each with five bedrooms. The children will live with guardians to love and nurture them until they are adopted into “forever families.”

“My vision is to have a place where these abandoned children have the opportunity to move out of hospitals and live in an enriching, loving environment,” said Barnes.

“My vision is to have a place where these abandoned children have the opportunity to move out of hospitals and live in an enriching, loving environment,” said Barnes. “Right now, the system in Ukraine channels these abandoned children to crowded state-run orphanages, where conditions are poor by any standards, not just Western standards. We are renovating an old building to be a brighter, warmer facility for the children to live in while they wait for their forever families – and it will be called Sasha’s Home.”

The Second Annual Salon Twist Change the World Fundraiser, raised $110,000 for the Barnes Family Foundation and for Sasha's Home. The event was a community effort organized in part by Salon Twist and Cornerstone Marketing & Advertising, Inc. (both located in Grayton Beach) and was held at the Caliza Pool within the grounds of Alys Beach. Barnes was thrilled with the support and overwhelmed with the generosity of the community.

God has just started this ball rolling and I am continually amazed at the generosity of the people of this community. There are truly wonderful people out there everywhere you go.

“Three weeks after the event was over, I walked into Salon Twist to have my hair done where I met a lady who wasn’t able to attend the fundraiser,” said Barnes. “After talking briefly about the event, she wrote a $5,000 check to help Sasha’s Home. God has just started this ball rolling and I am continually amazed at the generosity of the people of this community. There are truly wonderful people out there everywhere you go.”

Barnes, who has visited Ukraine several times, has special ties to the children of Gorlovka, a city of 283,000 people located approximately 120 miles west of the Russian border. During one of her visits, in 2003, she was listening to her translator speak with a nurse at the hospital. The nurse began to cry and Barnes asked the translator to tell her what they were talking about. It was about a beautiful boy who the nurse feared would never be adopted because he had two clubbed feet. The operation to treat an impairment of this kind would not be performed on an orphaned child, and he would, most likely, spend the rest of his life in a state-run institution. Barnes was touched by the story and insisted on meeting him in person.

“As soon as I laid eyes on him I knew he would forever be part of my life, I just wasn’t sure how,” Barnes explained. After researching several avenues, Barnes found that the only way to help the boy, Alexsey, was to bring him to the United States, under the care of a Ukrainian nanny, so that he would be able to undergo several surgeries to fix his feet. “I made arrangements for the nanny and Alex to travel to America for the treatment. Of course, I fell in love with him and ended up adopting him!”

Gina Schiflett, Patricia Sister Barnes, Lisa Burwell

The home will be called Sasha’s Home because of Barnes’ adoptive son. The name Sasha in Russian is the same as Alexsey—so, in essence, Barnes has given her own personal touch to the home, naming it after her Ukrainian-born son, Alex.

Although Alex is only five years old, he has a good idea what his mother’s work in Ukraine is all about. Barnes and Alex watched the video of the abandoned babies in Ukraine, where he used to live, and she explained to him her work there. As the video ended, he looked up at his adoptive mother with his sweet face, and said, “I want to go there with you mama. I will help you with the babies.”

Barnes cites the lack of housing as the biggest problem that she faces in terms of aiding abandoned children in Ukraine. “There are a lot of people who want to help,” explains Barnes, who is very fond of Ukrainian people, “but the one stumbling block is that housing is not adequate enough for these Ukrainian couples to take in two or three children, even though they may be ready and willing to become foster parents or adopt more children.”

Ukrainian law stipulates that an abandoned child cannot be adopted for 14 months during the time that he/she is under government care, in hopes that a family member will come back for him or her. After 14 months, the child can be immediately adopted. Ukrainian couples may legally take guardianship before adopting, an opportunity not available to foreign couples wishing to adopt.

The hope is that the families living at Sasha’s Home will support one another in this unique situation, helping with babysitting and providing a loving and nurturing environment for the children until they are matched with suitable families.

Sasha’s Home provides a place for Ukrainian couples to take guardianship of abandoned babies and to be foster parents for the children until forever homes can be found. In addition to providing foster parents, a place to live and to take care of these children, the staff will also provide counseling, donated clothes, diapers, and food. In keeping with Ukrainian customs, each family will have a “babushka”—a Ukrainian grandmother—to help the foster mother with household duties and child rearing.  The hope is that the families living at Sasha’s Home will support one another in this unique situation, helping with babysitting and providing a loving and nurturing environment for the children until they are matched with suitable families.

With a one million dollar price tag for Sasha's Home, Barnes continues to seek the support of generous people and businesses in America, with plans to promote the work of her foundation through fundraisers. Through the efforts of her Barnes Family Foundation website and past fundraisers, Barnes has raised close to $800,000. With each dollar raised and each brick laid, Barnes’s dream for Sasha’s Home is closer to becoming reality.

— V —

And, with projected annual costs to run the facility at close to $110,000, fundraising for the facility will be an ongoing effort. If you would like to help build Sasha’s Home, you can mail checks to the Barnes Family Foundation, 102 Country Club Drive, Andalusia, AL, 36421 or donate directly online by visiting www.barnesfamilyfoundation.org.  Donations are tax deductible.

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