I ran into a former neighbor a couple of weeks ago when I played in the Fenton Chamber’s annual golf outing at Coyote Preserve Golf Club.

 At one of the holes, Olivia Nagel was volunteering and promoting Whaley Children’s Center in Flint. She graduated from Lake Fenton in 2014. She has three brothers, Alexander, Vincent, and Joseph, and says her mom, Linda, is her best friend and biggest supporter. She graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint in 2018 with a degree in business administration and marketing.

 When I asked Olivia how she got involved with Whaley Children’s Center, she said, “In my senior year of college, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work in my degree field at Two Men and a Truck as their marketing director. A huge value of Two Men and a Truck is giving back to the community. We did charity moves for Whaley Children’s Center events.”

 Whaley later offered her a development coordinator position. “That’s when I truly learned the importance of sincere relationships and how vital they are to opportunities,” she said. At Whaley, Olivia’s team handles donations, fundraising, events, and volunteers. “I specialize in the event planning portion. They call us the ‘fun aunts’ of Whaley.”

 She’s learned just how important Whaley is to children, many from other counties. “All of our kids have been severely abused and neglected, so to house them in the same area as their perpetrator would be unsafe. I know I have learned a lot, not only about our kids and the foster care system, but about myself.” 

 Whaley is 80-percent state funded. The remaining 20 percent is from fundraisers. “The things that let our kids be kids and have the childhood every child deserves,” she said. “We heavily rely on support from our community.”

 Olivia has many positive stories to share about Whaley. “My favorite story is about a 14-year-old boy who I was very close to. He was having visits with his potential foster family. I still remember exactly what he told me — that he is proud of the person he will soon call his brother. He proceeded to thank me for working at Whaley and caring for him. I had to hide my tears. For a 14-year-old boy, who has been through hell and back, to speak words so mature and unselfish blew me away.”

 Whaley is in need of mentors and volunteers. She added that they accept donations for anything 5- to 17-year-old children may need. They have three major fundraising events a year and tours of the facility are available.

 As much as Olivia wants to travel the world and experience everything, she wants to stay involved in the Flint community and contribute to its comeback. Visit whaleychildren.org for details.

Sharon Stone is the editor of the Tri-County Times. To contact her, email her at sstone@tctimes.com or call her at (810) 433-6786.

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