It Just Takes One: Debi Kroman Dedicates Two Decades To Supporting Parentless Children
In honor of Mother's Day, HuffPost Impact presents It Just Takes One, a series on children and the tutors, mentors, guardians and others who have made a difference in their lives. We'll be featuring a new story every day through Mother's Day.
When Debi Kroman and her husband moved to Altadena, Calif., in 1988, she wanted to get involved. It wasn't hard to make a decision as to where she wanted to make a difference. With no children of her own, Debi wanted to help young people who were growing up without love and attention. She discovered Five Acres, a nonprofit that advocates for children and provides housing and supportive services for children.
After being cleared by the organization, Debi became a "Special Friend," the organization's term for an adult friend and role model, to an 11-year-old boy named Steven*. Each week, Debi would take Steven to the movies or out to lunch. He was guarded at first, but Debi heeded Five Acres' advice not to pressure him and to allow him to open up when he was ready.
Debi was excited to discover things that Steven enjoyed; his passion for animals and airplanes led them to the Pasadena Humane Society and the Museum of Flying. The pair would "do things he liked to do, so it brought out his personality," she explained.
Steven eventually opened up about his difficult experiences with his father, then imprisoned. Debi was moved by "how much pain the kids [at Five Acres] have to deal with."
After several years, Debi began to focus on group events at Five Acres. She started working with Fives Acres' Children's Guild, a group of local adults who organize monthly events for the children.
Together, the Children's Guild members plan outings to nearby botanical gardens or children's museums, organize pizza and movie nights, and holiday craft projects. When a child has a birthday, the Children's Guild organizes a birthday party complete with a cake and an anonymous gift from the "special angels."
During Debi's years with the Children's Guild, she met a young girl named Tiffany* with a "smile that melted you." Debi and her husband decided to take Tiffany* under their wing as a couple.
Each time the Kromans hung out with Tiffany, Debi recorded their time together in a journal, keeping scraps like movie tickets to commemorate everything they did. For each entry, Debi would write a message to Tiffany, "something she could take with her to help guide her in life." The couple prepared crabs' legs at Tiffany's request for a Christmas feast and had presents waiting for her when she woke up on Christmas morning.
When Tiffany was taken in by a foster mother, and her time with the Kromans came to an end, Debi gave Tiffany the journal as a parting gift, hoping she would find comfort and advice with the wisdom in its pages.
Debi hopes to inspire others to work with children in need.
"There are so many kids in the system and it only takes one person to make a difference in a kid's life. Even if you only do it for one year, these kids need to have positive role models. I look at these children and they just want somebody to care about them. So many people have the time, but choose not too."
Now, almost 20 years since she first took Steven under her wing, Debi serves on the Board of Directors at Five Acres and stays active propelling the organization forward and continuing to serve children who need it the most.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the children included in this story.