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OneChild Brings Smiles to Local Children

December 18, 2012

Hospital Staff's Donations Support Local Children's Organization

Bernadine Dutra's nonprofit organization OneChild, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last 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 we started with the goal of helping one child. Once we did that we set our sights higher and have accomplished helping more than 4,200 children since our inception. This has given us a lot of joy!”

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.

“Kevin was an 8 year old boy I was told never smiled,” recalls Bernadine. "I will take care of him, I said, and together we selected two new outfits that he liked.

“He came out of the dressing room wearing the first outfit and I made a gush over how fantastic he looked, but no smile appeared. As he came out wearing the second outfit, his hair was wet and he was scolded for playing in the water. He said he was trying to tame his curly hair to look even better in his new clothes.

“Again I told him how wonderful he looked and he responded with a huge SMILE!!  That is what OneChild is all about,” says Bernadine.  "Helping children like this, it just fills your heart."

Community support

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

"Community support is very, very important," says 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 her 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 pick 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. They provide for that child and still give much more. This year there were bikes, and a large corner of the room was filled with beautifully wrapped gifts. 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 life of a child.

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 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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