At a fundraiser for the Casa Hogar Los Angelitos orphanage in Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico, in January Steve Stout heard his named called.
He was surprised and couldn’t figure out why his name was called.
“When she [Nancy Nystrom, director of the Children’s Foundation in Colorado, and director of the Casa Hogar Los Angelitos orphanage] first started talking, I was trying to think I remembered we left in 2009 and that we were at that 15 years [of volunteerism] but didn’t realize she was talking about me until halfway through,” Stout said. “I thought there was no one else she could be talking about that was there.”
Stout was presented with the Dedicated Service Award from Nystrom for his years of service to the orphanage.
“When I came off that stage and there was about 100 people there. Even Regan my granddaughter said, ‘Poppa, you look like you’re about to cry,’” Stout said. “When I turned around and all of these people are clapping it was very moving to me, because a lot of these people clapping I brought into the orphanage [to help with fundraising for the children’s education].”
Nystrom said this is the first award the foundation has given out but it was important for them to do so.
“We felt that it was time to officially recognize Steve Stout and his wife Diana for their dedication throughout the years during difficult and good times,” Nystrom said, “their dedication helping the children of Mexico in the U.S. and Mexico, giving of their time, money, and efforts timelessly.”
The Stouts journey with the orphanage began after a family vacation to Manzanillo in 1998. Steve and his wife, Diana liked the area so much they bought a condo.
A few days after living in their new condo Diana noticed a lady leaving food at an orphanage called Casa Hogar Los Angelitos, funded by the Children’s Foundation in Colorado.
“In January of 1999 we decided to stay in Manzanillo and we met a mission group down at the house where they’re at now that was painting and cleaning,” Stout said “We cleaned, we painted, and I helped with the wash.”
The award wasn’t necessarily for the work during the 10 years they lived in Manzanillo, Stout said. It was for the volunteers they brought to the orphanage.
“The orphanage was suffering a little when we got started and that’s why I think God put us there,” he said.
While Stout was living there he got tourists from Canada and the United States involved with helping the orphanage. In 2010, they decided to move back to the United States in 2010.
“It was funny because when we left Manzanillo, Diana and I worried who’s going to run the open house and the fundraiser, but I lined up three other people to take my place and they’ve done an excellent, great job,” Stout said. “I think it was just time for me and Diana just to move back.”
For two years they traveled by motorhome across the Midwest and spoke at Rotary clubs, which sponsor children and their educational expenses.
“The West Liberty Rotary club was the first one, and right now they do an educational grant every year because right now we have 60 some children in the orphanage and you can imagine what it costs for them to go to school,” he said.
The grants buy the children’s books, shoes, and uniforms while they’re at the orphanage, he said. Every time he goes to the orphanage he sees children excelling with education and through the arts.
One of the children, named Brenda, came over and asked to speak with Steve while he was giving tours of the orphanage. She is 19 and attending college to become a dentist.
“Brenda comes up and she says ‘poppa come’,” Stout said. “I followed her and she took me into the dental office and she said ‘me, one year I be dentist here.’ It was very cool.”
The orphanage has grown to three casas, the Spanish name for home, with 60 children. The average age of a child who leaves an orphanage in Mexico is 14, except for Casa Hogar Los Angelitos, Stout said.