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January 3, 2012 > OneChild Brings Smiles to Local Children

OneChild Brings Smiles to Local Children

Hospital Staff's Donations Support Local Children's Organization

Bernadine Dutra's nonprofit organization OneChild, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, provides new school clothes and supplies to hundreds of local children every year. Yet, Bernadine, the wife of former Assemblyman John Dutra of Fremont, admits her efforts sometimes don't feel like enough. And she says on occasion she has to remind herself of how OneChild got its name.

"You do sometimes have that feeling of being overwhelmed-there are so many requests-and I think, 'I can't do it all,'" she says. "Then I remember, if you just start with one child-my daughter Cindy helps a lot by saying, 'We started with the goal of helping one child.' You build from there.

"We've been blessed to serve over 3,500 since we started, and that's wonderful, truly wonderful."

OneChild, whose headquarters operates on the Washington Hospital campus, partners with other community organizations to identify children in need and provide free, private "shopping trips" for them and their siblings.

According to Bernadine, the experience of seeing children get the clothing and supplies they need for the new school year is a reward in and of itself.

"My daughter and I got to the shop early on a Saturday to volunteer, and there were two children with their mother, just leaving, and they said thank you. The mother didn't speak much English. Then, in a few minutes the girls ran back through the doors saying, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you!' and the mother was crying.

"Helping children like this, it just fills your heart."


Community support

Nevertheless, the work that OneChild does requires the faith and support of many different organizations and individuals, she says. One of those organizations is Washington Hospital.

"Community support is very, very important," according to Bernadine. "Washington Hospital's CEO Nancy Farber and the hospital have just been wonderful. One of the biggest costs of a nonprofit is what you pay for rent, and Nancy offered to bring OneChild onto the hospital grounds. I told her that we couldn't afford that. She said I wouldn't have to pay anything. I asked here why she would do that, and she said that they are always looking for something that is good for the community. She brought it to the board, and it was approved.

"Each year the hospital's management staff members picks a name of a child, and they are given information such as the age, type of clothing the children want, sizes, and a list of what the children want. Then they go out and shop for a specific child. And it's so rewarding for them. This year there were 12 bikes, and the whole corner of the room was filled. It's just incredible. It's a wonderful experience for both the children and the adults."


Inspired to help children

Bernadine herself was inspired to help children in need based on her own experiences growing up, experiences she said left her self esteem broken for many years. As the children of an alcoholic mother, she and her brothers were teased, shunned-and even spit on-for coming to school dirty and without new clothes. And despite receiving good grades in school, Bernadine says a feeling of shame followed her well into adulthood. It wasn't until she was 37 and began achieving personal success as a real estate agent in a company that her husband and she started, that she finally felt self-esteem.

Today, when she sees a child smiling and able to pick out new supplies and clothing, she says it reminds her of how much difference just one person can make in the lives of children.


Make a difference

"As a child, because of my circumstances, I didn't know about volunteering, but now I know that if people would just go volunteer, they could get so much out of it," Bernadine says. "This season I want people to think of what they can do for these children-or by working for another nonprofit organization in the community.

"Recently, I gave my daughter a crossword puzzle, and on the other side were letters to Santa. One letter was written by a child asking Santa to help her mother and sister. She asked for clothing for her baby sister and shoes for her mother, but nothing for herself. There were so many letters like this from people. We have so much to be thankful for, and I think we lose sight of that sometimes."


Find out more

To learn more about OneChild and the difference one person can make in the lives of local children and their families, visit www.onechildca.org.

To find out about volunteer opportunities at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com/giving.

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