Summer Newsletter

Dear Friends,

We hope that this letter finds you well given the circumstances of the past few months. Like many of you, our team has been staying connected virtually and thinking outside the box to fulfill our important mission. Our Fellows continue to impress us and overcome the complex challenges of our current world and we could not ask for more dedicated Mentors, there every step of the way.  

The priority of The R.J. Leonard Foundation is the health and safety of our Fellows, Mentors, supporters and communities. The truth is there is no way to tell how the coronavirus will continue to progress through the area. As a result, our team has made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of our in-person events for 2020, including our September Celebrity Bartender Event and The Heart for Change Gala. In place of these events, we will be hosting a Virtual Gala on October 9,2020. Please be on the lookout in the coming days for a save the date with more information. 
During these trying times the RJLF team is committed to finding ways to build stronger communities to support and empower our Fellows. We believe that this is an opportunity for regrowth and a chance for our communities to build a better support network for young people aging out of foster care. We are so grateful for your support and belief in our mission and look forward to being able to see you all again.

Be well,

Joelle Pitts
Executive Director
Take a moment to read about all the great work happening at the
R.J. Leonard Foundation in our 2019 annual report.
Fellow and Mentor Updates
The COVID-19 stay at home orders have prevented our Fellows and Mentors from seeing each other in person, but that has not stopped them from continuing their relationships. Even more, they have not stopped us from matching new pairs. Over the past two months, the R. J. Leonard Foundation matched two new Fellows with Mentors. 

 Amy (Fellow) , a young adult thinking of pursuing a career with animals, was initially matched with Victoria (Mentor) in February and was scheduled to meet with her again in mid-March. Victoria is active in rescuing and caring for animals, and has her own pet sitting company. Though the shutdown prevented their second meeting from happening, Amy and Victoria have been texting and video chatting, connecting over their shared love of animals.

Laura (Fellow) was a freshman at Penn State Abington this past school year and will be a sophomore in the fall. She was scheduled to meet with her Cindy (Mentor) in early March. Cindy is a physical therapist and mother of three. Unfortunately, their meeting was canceled, due to COVID-19. Despite having never met in person, Laura and Cindy have already begun connecting. They text about school, housing and the day to day of lockdown, and have video chatted, as well.
Both sets of Fellows and Mentors are looking forward to meeting in person, and the R. J. Leonard Foundation looks forward to connecting even more young adults with community members who can make a lasting impact on their lives. 
Fellow Spotlight
The adjectives used to describe the past several months have been largely negative: isolated, exhausting, trying. However, at RJLF, we have a different set of adjectives: awe-inspiring, dedicated, strong. This is how we describe our Fellows and how they have persevered through the statewide lockdown. 
Several of them are essential workers. Those who haven’t been at work in-person have continued to work from home; students completed semesters online; and moms found out what it’s like to juggle everything without school or childcare. Here are just a few of the highlights: 
Essential Workers

Nearly all of our Fellows have been fortunate enough to continue working through the stay at home orders. However, only a few have continued working in person. Joseph works at a youth residential facility, Theresa as a home health aide, Amy at a grocery store and Ana as a nanny and restaurant employee. They have taken the changes to and risks of their jobs in stride. 
College Students

Four of our Fellows completed their spring semester in May, with a fifth Fellow entering her third trimester at Drexel University. She will be finishing out the traditional school year this month. Also this spring, one of our newest Fellows completed the coursework and passed the test to receive her certification as a Veterinary Assistant! 
Working Moms

Five of our Fellows are working moms and have spent the past several months not only doing their jobs but helping to facilitate their children’s education as well - all from home. They have proven yet again that they are impressive women ready and able to do anything they can for their kids. 
Community Partner Spotlight
One Simple Wish has long been a trusted and valued partner of the R.J. Leonard Foundation. The past few months have served as a reminder of why that is. 

As schools moved online and stay-at-home orders were put into effect, the needs of young people everywhere were both changed and exacerbated. One Simple Wish is dedicated to making sure those needs are met and has already raised more than $20,000 for their COVID-19 response fund. These funds will go and have gone to supplying young people with groceries, gas cards, laptops, tablets, games and medical supplies not covered by insurance. 

RJLF’s Fellows are among those who have benefitted. Every wish submitted by RJLF in the past few months has been granted. Our Fellows have received gift cards for gas, groceries and spring essentials, as well as sneakers and a pair of bicycles. One Simple Wish has been instrumental in helping our Fellows better navigate the many challenges of today.