State Farm Employees Changing Children’s Futures
Remembering the forgotten ones
The number of orphaned children in the world is shocking. After going on several mission trips to Central America, Eric Teets and Michael Hawley, knew there was more they could do to help these children.
“Central America has one of the highest numbers of orphaned children,” says Eric, State Farm leader in Florida. “Most of them have been abandoned and many have gone through some horrific things.”
Compelled to do more after each trip, Eric and Michael, an agency specialist, started Living127, a non-profit in 2013. Living127 has grown from a conversation to an organization supporting more than 400 children in 11 homes located in five Latin American countries.
“I spoke with several people who were working in orphanages in Latin America,” says Eric about starting the organization. “Through Living127, we provide personal hygiene items, school supplies, and musical instruments for the orphaned children. This allows the orphanages to reallocate their budget for other things, such as additional staffing, building improvements, and housing more children. Plus, 100 percent of individual donations go toward purchasing supplies for the children.”
Living127 supports orphanages in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador. “One orphanage in Guatemala and one in Panama care solely for children with special needs,” Eric adds. “We also purchase 99 percent of our supplies in the host country which helps support their economy.”
“The most meaningful part of what I do is being involved in something that is far bigger than me,” shared Michael. “I believe in uniting with others to do something you may not be able to do on your own. None of this would be possible without the help and support of others. We are part of something so much bigger than us. We are seeing a difference, and it’s exciting.”
The small group of two to three volunteers typically visits each location twice a year.
“Residencia de Vida just opened a second home and hopes to add a third later this year,” Eric explains. “We are committed to helping these homes grow and, in turn, helping provide these children a stable environment. For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve consistently had clean clothing, food and been able to attend school.
“Living127 helps keep life in perspective,” Eric adds. “No matter what kind of day I might be having, when I think of these children, my problems suddenly become small. There is no greater joy than spending time with them.”
“This wall is located outside of an all-boys home in a particularly violent neighborhood in the Dominican Republic,” says Sales Leader Eric Teets. “When the boys step out of the home this is the first thing they see. The statement is: I can change the future. It reminds them to have hope.”