Says Joe Maddon: “The volunteers are the unsung heroes. Without them, none of our efforts occur.” Every month, the Respect 90 Foundation will salute a distinguished volunteer from the communities of Tampa, FL, Chicago, IL, Mesa, AZ, Southern California, or Joe’s Hometown of Hazleton, PA. Respect 90 will present a $1,000 grant to that volunteer’s charity. Should you have someone who is deserving, please let us know.
Anna Tran | Grandma’s House of Hope (Orange County, CA)
Anna Tran never asked for help. She didn’t have to. It was always there in the form of family, friends, medical staff and strangers. And it wasn’t forgotten by the youngster with cerebral palsy.
“People willingly helped me and I was inspired by that and with people helping me that way, I wanted to give back,” says Anna “I have always felt I had a duty to help people in any way.”
That’s why you can find the endearing 25-year-old with an infectious laugh and a degree in Psychology from Cal-State Fullerton at Grandma’s House of Hope in Anaheim every week. Their mission? To empower the invisible populations of Orange County by providing housing, food, and education for adults and at-risk children, a journey that began in 2004.
Anna and her group of fellow volunteers help bag food items as part of the Nana’s Kidz program which provides meals to children living in motels or doubled and tripled up with other families when the free meals at schools are unavailable.
“I have the disability but I’m pretty mobile,” proclaims Anna. “I can pretty much do everything myself, of course I am limited to lifting anything too heavy. But,” she adds, “there is one thing. It’s bizarre and it freaks people out when I tell them, but I physically cannot run,” she giggles. “In my mind, I don’t know how to run.” And, what’s more, she was denied the chance to learn.
“I walked on my tippy toes when I was young and the surgery to correct that – to keep my feet flat on the ground- is actually what caused me not to be able to run,” she explains.
It was one of many challenges Anna faced growing up in Southern California’s Garden Grove. “I used to be like ‘why are these people looking at me? I don’t like that.’ But I have grown past that and realize that sometimes people just can’t help themselves. I’m OK with that. I have a really great support system behind me. I couldn’t be more grateful to have people be there for me and to love me. I feel I have been blessed.”
So does the staff at Grandma’s House of Hope. “Anna would tell us to call her anytime we needed her, and she has risen to the occasion with every phone call we’ve made,” says Food Pantry Coordinator Crystal Tesoriero, “She has near perfect attendance to our regular Wednesday food packings, attends volunteer events for our other programs, and was even willing to show up on a Saturday morning to help us sort through food donations. Anna is humble and kind in every sense of the word, and it’s volunteers like her that make the Nana’s Kidz program the helpful and nurturing place it is today.”
It was during the winter of 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic at its peak, that Anna discovered Grandma’s House of Hope. “The world felt kinda lonely. It felt different and we couldn’t do anything during that time,” remembers Anna. “I wanted it to feel like the holidays I woke up one day wondering if there any volunteer opportunities for me that would lift up my spirits. I just stumbled across Grandma’s House of Hope. I had never heard of them before. I looked them up and researched their mission and I applauded them.”
Anna went to one of the non-profit’s holiday events and found what she was looking for: joy.
“I had a really great time and the kids still had fun. For a brief moment, it felt like we weren’t’ in a pandemic,” she says thoughtfully.
“People come and go but I have created really great friendship bonds with some of the people who I think I will continue to be with friends in the long run,” adds Anna who hopes to start a job in merchandising with Disney soon. “I love kids, I love Disney, so I am hoping to create magic for them,” she says sweetly.
Her concern isn’t just for kids, however. Anna also spends time volunteering with Initiate Justice, a Los Angeles non-profit aimed at supporting the rights of the incarcerated.
Rick Vaughn | Executive Director, Respect 90 Foundation