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Princeton charity has international impact

Posted: Tuesday, Apr 30th, 2013


Theresa and Tim Oloffson, back row, pose with Romanian children, Piri and Noemy, at a Vacation Bible Camp held in the mountains of Romania during a recent mission trip. (Photo contributed)


PRINCETON – A simple pair of children's shoes may not look powerful but Tim Oloffson, founder and executive director of Another Child Foundation, knows they can make a big difference in the lives of vulnerable children and orphans around the world. It was one of many lessons that Oloffson learned during a 2006 mission trip to Romania and it changed his life forever.

A Bureau County native, Oloffson had worked at LCN in Princeton as a quality manager for 28 years. Although he loved his job, after visiting Romania in 2006 he began to wonder if there was something else he should be doing. “I went on that mission trip, saw the needs of orphans and at risk children and I really felt a call to help other people,” Oloffson explained.

The decision to answer that call was not easy, however, and it was not made quickly. But three years later, when Oloffson’s employer decided to downsize and asked for volunteers to retire early, it gave him the perfect opportunity to change direction. After much prayer and discussion with his wife, Theresa, Oloffson still was not convinced what to do. “I told my wife, ‘I don’t think I can do this. I’m too scared.’ She said, ‘You have to do it. It’s something you’ve wanted for a long time,’” he recalled. “She put me over the top. That was 2009 and I haven’t looked back. It’s been great.”

Another Child Foundation received its certification as a 501(c)3 non-profit in 2010. Since that time, Oloffson and ACF co-founder, John Frank Reeve, have worked tirelessly to “reach, teach and transform” the lives of orphaned and at-risk children in Romania. Oloffson said people often ask why they focus on Romania when there is so much that can be done here. “We work with children who basically don’t have a voice,” he explained. “I think most kids here are being heard. Yes, they need support but I was called to help kids who don’t have a voice – and they don’t have a voice in Romania. There is tremendous need and nobody hears their cries, even their government.”

Oloffson admitted that the plight of Romanian children may be difficult to understand until one sees it firsthand. “You have to see it, feel it and smell it to really understand,” he said. “We come back and share pictures and tell stories but often it still doesn’t quite connect with people. With some people it does, though and they want to be involved.”

The history of Romania, which is located in Eastern Europe, helps to explain the plight of so many of its children. Although communism fell in 1989 and they now have a democratic government, Oloffson said the spirit of communism remains. “They had outlawed abortion and birth control for a long time under communist rule, so when communism fell, people were having babies and couldn’t take care of them financially so they sent them to orphanages,” he explained. “That’s why Romania is known for their orphanage problem. So, 1990 came and they opened the doors of these orphanages and found out they had tremendous problems.”

Oloffson said the children who were orphans in 1990 have grown up and the problem is repeating itself. “They’re uneducated, abused, neglected kids who are now having kids,” he said.

The main mission of ACF is education, which is hoped will stop the cycle from repeating itself. Oloffson said they work to build up community by finding leaders from within and developing those people. “We are part of that but it’s mainly up to the Romanian people to do it themselves,” he emphasized.

Although relief efforts are only a small part of ACF’s mission, Oloffson said Romania is a very poor country with no natural resources so some aid needs to be collected and distributed. “You have to meet the immediate needs of people,” he said, “but then you have to help them develop themselves.”

One way ACF assists with relief is by supporting the “Shoes for Orphan Souls” shoe drive held in July. Although well supported in Bureau County, Oloffson hopes to expand his effort to Mendota and other area communities. “Some Mendota churches have helped us in the past - St. John’s Lutheran and Zion Evangelical Lutheran - and I’ve talked to the Mendota Lions Club,” he noted. “We have had some support but we are trying to get a broader base of community involvement in this area.”

Reflecting on his decision to change careers, Oloffson said the past three years have been a whirlwind of activity. “I am the only staff member, so I always have a list of 20 projects I need to work on,” he laughed. “But it’s fun and challenging. I had never done anything like this - I’ve learned a lot and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

One thing Oloffson knows for certain is that people who go to Romania are changed when they come back. “They might stay involved with this ministry or maybe they’ll volunteer to coach a little league team or something else here - but they will do something,” he said. “People who return from missions have a big effect on our communities and that’s ultimately most important. They are a catalyst for doing more community work.”

To learn more about Another Child Foundation, the Shoes for Orphan Souls shoe drive or volunteer opportunities, call Oloffson at (815) 303-1725 or visit www.anotherchild.org.












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