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Helping the forgotten ones

Luisa Perez cuts Dean Moscato’s hair at The Vine Thrift Store’s free lunch event where they also offer free haircuts.

Luisa Perez cuts Dean Moscato’s hair at The Vine Thrift Store’s free lunch event where they also offer free haircuts.

Brittni Larson

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The stories about the “forgotten ones,” even in our own backyard, are endless. The mom of three whose husband has been out of work for six months, the man who lost his job and can barely scrape up enough money to get groceries, the good guy who let his tough life lead him to drink too much — all just snippets of the daily struggle that many just don’t see.

But Cindy Shadron is one of the few who not only knows their stories in detail, but also helps to change them into something better.

“People are hurting everywhere … the people right here,” Shadron said. “A lot of them are starting over and they don’t know what to do.”

Shadron, a native of Oviedo and resident of Geneva, started The Vine Thrift Store in Oviedo when she wanted to create a way to give back. She spent 11 years as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem, a person who is court appointed to represent children who have been taken out of their homes because of abuse or neglect, to make sure they find a safe and caring permanent environment. After seeing what those children go through, she knew she needed to do more. She started The Forgotten Ones Inc., which is a nonprofit that encompasses her thrift store and an outreach center.

“She’s dedicated her life to others,” said Linda Moscato, who used their food pantry to provide for her son when he lost his job.

Shadron’s goal is to start a working ranch for young adults 18-25 who are aging out of the foster care system, being released from a juvenile correctional facility, or are homeless or runaways. They’d be able to learn love, leadership and hard work while being mentored by people who truly care about them, Shadron said. Not only that, the ranch would be home to rescue animals and offer horticulture classes for the public. She hopes it will be up and running next year.

But she had to start somewhere, and for her The Vine was the beginning. Right now, it’s her whole life, but she never stops looking toward her ultimate goal.

“I got so busy here, it’s absorbed all my time, but it didn’t absorb my heart and goals,” she said about her dream of starting the ranch.

So far, The Vine has spawned The Resource Center there, where Shadron, her husband Mike and volunteers help those in need become self-sufficient. Their services include an emergency food pantry and referrals to organizations that can assist them. They also pay for and assist in paperwork to get identification, such as Florida State ID cards and social security cards, which are required to get help from many food pantries and to gain employment.

Most of all, they offer support and encouragement. Many lose their vision and goals or have never had anyone ask them what they are in the first place. Shadron gives hugs, and tells people she loves them. Some can’t remember the last time they’ve heard that.

“I’ve seen that light they had that’s kind of gone,” Shadron said.

For more information about Cindy Shadron’s The Forgotten Ones, located at The Vine 98 W Broadway Street in Oviedo, visit www.theforgotteno... or call 407-495-5100. The last Saturday of every month they serve free lunch to the public. They also have an emergency food pantry for those in need.

Shadron needs volunteers and funds to continue helping locals in need and to get her ranch off the ground. Email info@theforgotten... or call 407-495-5100 if you’re interested in helping.

She tries to kindle that fire with hope for the future. People like Mike Sykes of Oviedo are helped every day. Sykes, who was homeless and an alcoholic, finally asked them for help after attending their free lunch event a few times. The Shadrons took him to the hospital for detox, got him into a program to recover from his alcoholism and let him stay with them for a couple weeks. In reality, Sykes was a stranger when they helped him through all that. Now, he’s part of their Vine family. He said he wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for them. He’s been sober for almost two years.

“It’s impacting lives and mine in a very positive way,” Sykes said. “They showed me how to care about other people and myself.”

Dean Moscato said he’s learned a lot from his hardships, too. When he lost his job, his mother got food from The Vine and sent it to him in Colorado for about a year. Once he got down to Florida, seeing all the good work they do made him want to volunteer his time while he looks for a job. The experience has changed his whole outlook on life and people, he said.

“I used to be a lot more judgmental,” Moscato said. “I’ve learned how to be a better person.”

Mother of three Shanti Suarez-Correa said that Shadron has been a blessing in her life, giving guidance, groceries and friendship whenever she’s needed it. And just like Shadron always says, God has put it on her heart to give this help. It was meant to be.

“Never feel ashamed to say you need help because God puts the right people in your path, and when you least expect it,” Correa said. “And that she was for me, definitely an angel.”