ASHLAND, Ky. (WSAZ) -- As the story goes, it all started with a chance encounter in the part with a girl named Jamie. She was overheard saying her wish on Christmas was to have a "forever family"-- she was a foster child.
Lee Ann Gollihue overheard that conversation, and the impact it had on her has been dramatic. She founded "For Jamie's Sake", and strives ever since to see every foster child in a forever family of their own.
In their own words
Lee Ann Gollihue: It was August 31st, 2004 ... I was traveling, and I was saying that there's something I'm supposed to be doing in this arena ... Being the big mouth for children that needed to be adopted ... I was talking with my husband and he saying that "God will give you a sign" ... And no sooner did he say that, that there was a purple billboard on the highway we were driving on that said 'Hallelujah'. We looked at each other and he said, "There's your sign"... There was no turning back ... When we got back I gave my job one week notice that I was leaving.
People didn't think there was a need for this resource ... we're like a clearing house really ... If people want to adopt a child, we're not a placement agency but we can give them the information on where to start the journey.
It takes everybody, not just me ... I'm nobody special ... I just show up. It's just like baseball ... you can't have a good team with just a pitcher...
You know the line from the old hymn: "Surely the goodness of the Lord is in this place"... Well, that is this place ... Everything here has been donated ... We don't receive state or federal funding That's confirmation that you're doing what you're supposed to be doing. Not everybody in their life can say that they have been doing what they were supposed to.
I think all of us need one person to believe in us ... if we've got that, it's unbelievable what we can do ... if I can be that person for somebody, then it was worth it. I can remember my parents telling me it was no accident that I was here ... that God had a plan and a purpose for my life, and that I had better make it count ... I guess I have made it count, to this point.
My goal is for every child to have a forever family. You're never too old for your family, never. When we first opened, my husband asked me, "How long am I going to do this?"-- Well, until every child has a forever family, or until I'm dead. He's never asked that question again.
I want every child to know how special they are, and that they're not an accident ... That there's a plan and a purpose for them.
I hope one day to be finished with my counseling degree and be able to move past the hurt into what they're meant to be doing for their life ...
A forever family means that no matter what, you're family. It means if a child makes a bad grade, you're not sending them back to the system. It means if a child creates some sort of criminal activity, that you're not sending them back to the system ... That no matter what, that child is yours forever...
We've somehow become this disposable society -- and that includes our children ... Children are a gift from god and we're not seeing that...
This isn't a job; it's a mission. God without a doubt called me to do this ... We make it on fundraisers and church support, and doing that, we can pray with families. We give a Bible out to everybody that walks through our doors. We just get by, and there's always been a way. Some days I've worried that they're going to cut the phone off ... but it's worked.
Do I consider myself a hero? Oh, gosh no. Just like a baseball team it takes nine -- it takes all of us. God's the real hero -- He did this. No one is smart enough to pull all this off. To God be the glory. The other heroes are the ones that are here every day. I want to change the name on this award and put "For Jamie's Sake" on it, because that's what it's all about.
Pat Ross - Office Manager (For Jamie's Sake): It all started with children that needed a permanent home -- a forever family. They need something, and we try to provide what they need. And they are so thankful. A lot of times they come through here and they're so needy, but they also need to talk too. In Kentucky alone there's more than 500 foster children in the system.
Lee Anne is very special-- she's funny, she's so giving. I've never met anyone as giving as she is. One day she brought in this man ... I never seen him before: She passed him on the street. He was homeless, and she brought him in. She gave him clothes, money, and he stuck around and helped us for over a year. The winter before-last was pretty harsh. If anyone needed anything and we had it -- they've got it.
She doesn't get paid, not monetarily anyhow. She's got a heart for people. She's so many people's hero.
Melissa Rymer - For Jamie's Sake: "Inspiration". People who are heroes in the eyes of society have inspired people to be better and to do better. Lee Ann is the type of person that will drop everything, even in the midst of her own crisis, to tend to a child if that child needs assistance. She's the voice for the voiceless -- children can't stand up and say what they need to say to the people who need to hear it. She's outgoing, dedicated, very bright. Honest and true and very loyal. She's truly one-of-a-kind. There's not enough words that can be said about her.
There are so many children out there, just wanting to be adopted. They want someone out there that will say, "Good night, I love you." It's an awesome thing to see when these kids meet their forever family. Now they know they will have someone to walk with them down the aisle when they get married, or to make sure they have everything for Prom, or to be with them when they're at the hospital having a baby ...
Lee Ann wants to find a "Forever Family" for every one of those children. She will not stop until every child has a forever family or until she goes to heaven.
When children come through our doors, we give them a package of five outfits, and some toys, whatever we can. Everything is donated to us. These five outfits are what these children can wear to school -- it will be their way of fitting in. Sometimes when a child is taken from a dangerous situation, they leave with absolutely nothing.
Jeff Castle - Adopters through the program: We tried to have children, but there were infertility issues. We went through the phone book and found a place called "For Jamie's Sake". We came up here and found Lee Ann. She's a good Christian lady. Very helpful to us. She got us on the right track to an adoption agency. Lee Ann believes in what she's doing and we also believe in what she's doing. We wanted to do anything and everything to help her out. There are loving parents that desire children and can't have them, and there are children out there that need a family-- so what she's doing is invaluable.
With all the things going on in this world, it's refreshing to see that there's someone with this level of dedication -- Her love for humanity really. When she says shes going to do something until there's no breath in her, I believe it.
A hero to me is someone who gives back to the community and helps others. It is very fitting that Lee Ann has been recognized as a Hometown Hero because she's an inspiration to us. She's done so much good for other people. She'll never be forgotten. She's done so much good and continues to do so.
There's a large tree painted in the middle of the office of "For Jamie's Sake", with the help of hand-prints of many of the people that have been touched by her operation over the years. Every hand print tells a story. There are some of young children, others now as adults who have aged out of foster care and still call Lee Ann "Mom." As Lee Ann runs her fingers across the wall, each print instantly flashes her memory to their story, and it is clearly emotional, with happy endings but also reminders that there is still so much hurt and so much need -- the work is not finished.
You can help
For eight years (and counting), "For Jamie's Sake" has helped hundreds -- thousands of children, all without a single paycheck. If you would to get in touch with "For Jaime's Sake", whether interested in adoption or wanting to offer support -- they want to hear from you. You can find out more information by going to their website at www.forjamiesake.org