After half a century of providing a nurturing home to over 200 children in Central Florida, Mary Pangle is retiring.
She learned of her desire to help children as a teenager, when she attended a church retreat that spoke of homeless children. At the time, she told her father she felt her path shifting and that she would help children in some way as an adult.
“Fostering is my calling,” she says. “It is in my life plan.”
Pangle and her late husband began their fostering journey after noticing that children were being left alone on Orange Blossom Trail in the 1960s. She recalls sitting in a coffee shop when a homeless boy wandered in looking for food. He ran away when they offered him a meal and a place to live. Later, a different boy led her to an old, abandoned building where other homeless children were living. She says the experience opened her eyes, but she was unsure of how they could do more to help.
“We prayed about it, and one day at church our pastor mentioned a building for sale that was large enough to have our consignment and carpet cleaning business downstairs and several living space apartments upstairs,” she says. “We soon began helping other youth and families in need.”
Soon after, the couple opened a group home called Seminole Children’s Village through the state of Florida. Her life calling paved the way for them to eventually become the first group home parents for Devereux
Advanced Behavioral Health Florida. After seven years, the Pangles became therapeutic foster parents to help children and adolescents heal from years worth of childhood trauma.
“Mrs. Pangle has been one of Devereux’s most compassionate foster parents for many years, and her dedication is undeniable,” Devereux Florida Executive Director Lisa Kroger says. “We are extremely grateful for all foster families and the meaningful work they do each day. Mrs. Pangle’s story is unique just like most foster parents, nonetheless she is truly exceptional and we proudly honor her dedication and support.”
Pangle still keeps in contact with almost all of her foster children. While Facebook has made it easy to keep in touch, some continue to visit her on a regular basis, even bringing their own babies to meet her. She will honor her husband and their passion for helping children by remaining with Devereux as a mentor and continuing to advocate for more foster parents.
“Being a foster parent is the most exciting life you can live,” she says. “You just have to abandon the way of life you feel comfortable with and just go along with the ride.”
Pangle’s fostering journey may be coming to an end, but her legacy will live on in the lives of the hundreds of children she has touched.