This was the beginning of Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, Spanish for "Our Little Brothers and Sisters," which has come to be supported by St. Isidore Parish in Danville through an organization known as Father Frank's Kids.
Father Frank Colacicco came to live at St. Isidore after he retired at 65 due to health problems. He attended a conference of Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, where he met Sister Phyllis Kelleher, who asked him to develop support at St. Isidore for her children in Nicaragua. He threw himself into the project and began to spend three to five months each year with the children in Nicaragua.
"Father Frank loved the children in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico," recalled Francesca Dunbar, an Alamo resident who is active at St. Isidore, where her 9-year-old daughter Sabrina attends school. "He used to travel back and forth."
Through his efforts, containers were sent to the orphanages in those countries; St. Isidore Parish now sends on average 16,000 pounds of goods such as bicycles, school supplies, food and clothing to the orphanages each year.
Father Frank died Feb. 15, 2006, when he was visiting Casa Santiago Orphanage in Nicaragua to attend the dedication of its amphitheater, which he helped fund. The dedication continued, honoring Father Frank, who was buried in front of the church. And Father Frank's Kids lives on.
Last spring Danville residents Barbara and Patrick McGovern visited one of the orphanages in Mexico, where 600 children were living in a compound with classrooms, dormitories, grassy soccer fields, an expansive garden where they harvest their own produce, a barnyard where they raise their own pigs and chicken, and a chapel.
"We were delighted to personally meet so many well cared for children," said Barbara McGovern.
"They were wearing uniforms very similar to the ones worn at St. Isidore Catholic School," said Patrick McGovern. "These children are clearly living wholesome lives, are being provided a strong academic education and practical life skills."
Those children are all given a high school education plus an opportunity to learn a trade or continue their education at the university level. They also dedicate a year or two after high school providing leadership and service to the younger children at the orphanage.
"This organization is … a series of miracles happening before your eyes," added McGovern.
For the last two years, St. Isidore volunteers have held Father Frank's Fiesta in late September to raise money for the organization. The fiesta includes carnival-type games, music, a buffet dinner, auction and entertainment by children visiting from Nicaragua who have been helped by Father Frank's Kids.
The visiting dancers, who ranged in ages from 9 to 25, also went to St. Isidore School while classes were in session.
"They visited each of the classrooms and performed Folklorico dances," said Dunbar.
This year, she sponsored two of the group at her home - Maria, 18, a dancer; and Johana, 20, the maestra of the troupe. The visit lasted eight days.
The fiestas have raised more than $60,000 each to continue Father Frank's good work for orphaned and abandoned children in Central America.
Dunbar said her family used to entertain Father Frank and other priests from St. Isidore in their home and they all would have a wonderful time.
"When I had Father Frank here with the other priests, little did I know that four years later I'd be part of this committee," said Dunbar.
Last year Father Frank's Kids donated an industrial washer and dryer to the home in Guatemala, where the laundry was being washed by hand.
"These machines are a great relief to our workers providing them more time to care for the children," wrote Matthias Hinz. He also said the children were amazed by the donations of clothing, sports equipment and school, art and sewing supplies that arrived at the same time.
"They asked me, 'Is that all for us?' It felt wonderful to answer them, 'Yes, these gifts are all for you,'" Hinz said.
Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos has helped more than 15,000 children during the last 50 years, and now operates homes in nine countries: Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia and Peru. Today the homes are helping more than 2,800 children grow up well cared for, loved and educated.
Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos in 2007
* 3,223 children being cared for in nine NPH homes
* 177 under the age of 5 years
* 442 arrived in the last year
* 798 in secondary or vocational school
* 478 in college or taking college prep courses
* 368 child care workers are caring for the children