When young adults leave their foster homes and venture out into the world alone, it can be scary. They face many challenges such as finding a place to live and being able to support themselves. But, what if they aren’t yet well enough equipped?
The Forgotten Ones, a nonprofit organization based in Oviedo, offers these teens and young adults a temporary safety net. Founder and Executive Director Cindy Cook recognized a need within this area of the community and took action by establishing an organization to help them transition.
“The system is challenging,” she says. “There are a lot of young adults out there. Some of the young ones are getting pregnant. There are independent living programs, but a lot of these young adults don’t meet the criteria. Ninety-five percent of these kids feel they are being let down by the system.”
The mission of The Forgotten Ones is to support these unsettled young adults, especially those who are aging out of foster care, and to guide them in becoming noble individuals through Christ. “We mostly focus on those ages 18 to 25 but anyone is welcome,” Cook says.
Services include providing basic items like food from the emergency food pantry; clothing, shoes, household items and furniture from the thrift store; and assistance in applying for food stamps and free cell phones. Supporters of the organization also aid in preparing young adults to enter the workforce by helping them to obtain an I.D., their birth certificate and bus passes to get to interviews, as well as offering free vision services and referral services. This guidance offers them a hand up in gaining employment and experience so that they can become confident adults. The Forgotten Ones also links individuals with opportunities for workforce programs.
“We want to help them find their purpose,” Cook says.
In 2014, The Forgotten Ones served more than 362 Oviedo residents in need of groceries as well as 787 Seminole County residents and 446 Orange County residents through an event called The Last Saturday of The Month (LSOM). During LSOM, free lunch, one bag of groceries per family and haircuts are offered.
A young man named C.L. has benefited greatly from his time with The Forgotten Ones. Cook explains that he moved to the area with family after being released from prison and needed help with paperwork. “I came here and they helped me get my food stamp paperwork together,” C.L. says. “Ms. Cook is a guardian angel. I would encourage others to come here.”
Through her work with The Forgotten Ones, Cook has been able to see these young adults who were once struggling able to grow. “C.L. is now willing to volunteer to work with young adults that we work with here,” she says. “The most rewarding thing about working with these young adults is that the ones I talk to now, their whole lives have changed.”