When Sharon Velazquez was presented with Oprah's Pay It Forward Challenge, she says she was overwhelmed by the number of organizations she could help. After praying on it, she decided to donate the $1,000 to the local chapter of Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly in Miami, Florida, to help fund programs and provide Thanksgiving meals.
Little Brothers is an international organization dedicated to helping the elderly feel respected and not alone. It provides centers where seniors can have lunch, do activities or just visit with others. The organization also helps seniors with transportation and other services they might need. "I lost my grandmother about 12 years ago, and I miss her dearly," Sharon says. "And the thought of somebody being elderly and alone and not having anyone to go to just breaks my heart."
Sharon arrives at the center armed with a check, flowers, balloons and a subscription for O, The Oprah Magazine. There, she meets Evangelina, whose husband recently passed away after a battle with Alzheimer's. Evangelina says she's visited the center almost every day for three years. "This is the best medicine for me," she says.
Little does Sharon know, the seniors have a surprise for her! They present Sharon with red roses, just like their logo. The founder of Little Brothers used "flowers before bread" as his motto, and he would give the elderly a red rose before presenting them with food. Sharon is honored and promises this won't be the last the center sees of her. "We are going to be happy to adopt you!" one resident says.
Sharon calls the experience "life changing" and says she learned that even a smile can make a big difference. "I think this assignment helped bring out the best in people and helped us see how much need is out there," she says.