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According to UNICEF, there are currently 153 million orphans worldwide.

153 million children who live without one or both parents.

If these children made up a country of their own, according to UNICEF, they’d be the 9th largest country—even bigger than Russia.

By any account, that’s a huge problem.

And it’s one that Laura Roberts, director of Starfish Orphan Ministry, came up against when she started her organization with the only mission to serve God by caring for vulnerable children.

“Quickly we found out that people, when they hear about the huge numbers of children that are not being well-cared-for, they’re sad at first, but immediately after that, they are overwhelmed,” she recalls of the beginnings of that mission.

The solution that Laura found, through a great deal of prayer, was to stop trying to solve the problem and start caring for the people affected by it, effectively chipping away at the larger issue through many acts of love.

“We figured out that if we give people easy avenues in which to help, that they will.”

More than a decade later, Laura and the team of volunteers that make up Starfish Orphan Ministry dedicate themselves to these small acts and easy avenues every day.

Just like the day that Gloria Brinson arrived in Paducah after a move from Chicago with her then three children and into a home with no furniture…not a single bed for her or for her kids.

After a referral from her church, Gloria was the recipient of furniture for her home from Kendra’s Kloset, the Starfish outreach that provides supplies–from furniture to clothes and toys–to families in need. From Kendra’s Kloset, Laura estimates that the organization provides more than 400 beds alone each year to those who have no place to sleep.

Since then, Gloria’s family has grown from four to seven with the addition of three nieces that she took custody of a year ago. Now, she is the sole provider for six children that range in age from only one to 14 years old.

As her family has grown, so has the love from her friends at Starfish Orphan Ministry. Last year, Gloria was the recipient of a Thanksgiving basket, which included everything she needed to have a proper day of thankfulness with her family.

“It helped me out a lot because, of course, I really needed it,” she recalls.

“I have six kids, so it really helped me out a lot.”

When Christmas came around, Gloria struggled. Starfish Orphan Ministry, once again, answered the call, providing Gloria’s children with a full Christmas.

“We are truly blessed to have them in our lives and to have them help us out this past year, because I didn’t know how I was going to do Christmas for six kids,” she says.

Those who receive help from Starfish Orphan Ministry may look like a great deal of things. It may be a single mom or dad doing their best to care for their children. It could be a couple who wants to share their family through adoption or foster care but has no idea how to start or how to navigate that arduous process. Or, it could be a child in El Salvador, Brazil or Uganda who receive love from one of the thousands of missionaries that the organization has shuttled overseas to care for orphans in other countries.

Just as the recipients all look different, so do the donors and volunteers that reach out to them.

“We have had a second grader who did a fundraiser after coming here with her school and she raised $2,222,” Laura says.

“And we have a woman who is in her 90’s who has sewn literally thousands of pillowcase dresses for us to take on mission trips. She has sewn and prayed over each of them.”

“There are things that people can do no matter their financial status or their age.”

“There are things everyone can do.”

And maybe those things will not help 153 million children, Laura knows, but they will be appreciated by a few, like Gloria and her family.

“We’re more than grateful for Starfish,” she says.

The Starfish Orphan Ministry team is completely non-profit. According to Laura, this allows every dollar they receive to go totally toward helping a child or family. If you are able, the organization needs you.

Monetary donations can be mailed to their office or given on their website at www.starfishorphanministry.org.

Donations of items for Kendra’s Kloset can be delivered to the office at 1000 Broadway in Paducah during regular hours. Information about needed items can be found on their website.

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