Good works manifest themselves in many ways—paying forward, giving back, volunteering. Imagine spending one’s career immersed in looking out for others, and then discovering a deeper desire to do more.
Meet Llavona Jolly, manager of Citrus Gardens, an affordable housing community in Orlando that’s managed by United Church Homes. Three years ago Llavona was battling cancer. She had no insurance. She struggled to pay her bills. Out of nowhere, a local agency paid her medical bills in full. Llavona was very grateful.
“I wanted to give back in a big way, but the agency that helped me didn’t accept volunteers. I asked myself, where could I make a difference, what was I good at? I love being a mom, so I decided to become a foster parent,” she said.
Opening up her home was no small decision, as she already had three children—Jelisa, 23; De’Andre, 11; and Eboné, 10. Th us far, she has welcomed more than 20 foster children into her home, usually two at a time. She adopted one of her foster children, Ty, now 9, and currently fosters Nayeli, 11 months, and Gage, 5 months. It really is a family affair. Llavona proudly explains that Eboné is a little mommy, diapering, entertaining and engaging the infants while dinner is being cooked, or homework is being reviewed.
Life is hectic, but Llavona is committed to providing her foster children a comfortable life with her family.
“Most of the babies come from families who struggle with addictions. I get so attached that they’re hard to give up, but there is satisfaction in knowing they’re going back to family placement,” Llavona says.
Llavona does not see her role as a temporary measure, but instead works hard to help her foster children bond with their family through holiday dinners at home, visitation and play time. It’s a full-time engagement.
By day, Llavona is assionate about helping seniors have affordable housing at Citrus Gardens. By night, she is super-mom, tucking in five children, focusing on her family and providing a sense of belonging to those who would have none without her. Llavona is just one example of the kind of people who help make United Church Homes a dynamic and giving organization. She understands that, by giving back to others when she was so graciously helped, is just one way of making her community a delightful place to be.