"I saw all of the children, and I was just broken. Completely broken," Laura Roberts says as she remembers visiting the orphanage in Guatemala where she adopted her son, Jonathan, in 2002. Laura and her husband John dealt with months of complications after the attorneys on their case committed adoption fraud.
Inspired by her difficult experience, in 2006 Laura founded Starfish Orphan Ministry, whose name comes from a parable about making a difference one life at a time. The non-profit organization, housed in a 20,000 square-foot building near downtown Paducah, provides resources for parents looking to adopt or foster a child. The ministry distributes everything from clothes to car seats to Christmas trees for families in need, as well as coordinating international mission trips that focus attention on children and orphanages abroad.
"Ms. Laura is a very loving person, and she works hard," says Vivian Jones, a full-time volunteer at Starfish who handles the clothing distribution. "When people come in here and they get things--not necessarily the newest or prettiest thing--but things they really need, they're happy."
Spending so much of her time helping others does not come without sacrifice to Laura. It's also hard for her 14-year-old son, Jonathan. "I get mad a lot about stuff like that," he says. "It's very challenging sometimes because I might ask her to do something and she waits until the last minute because she was busy with Starfish."
Laura's husband also feels her absence. "It gets a little tiring because she spends so much time down here, and we don't always get to spend a lot of time together," John says. "Don't get to have lunch, or go on big family trips."
The family remains close, however, and faith bonds them together.
"Well, our first date was at church," John says with a laugh.
For Jonathan, his faith helps him understand the work his mother does.
"I don't think I'd be as supportive if I wasn't a follower of Jesus," he says. "I know she's helping people who need it, and it's great to see what God can do."
John recognizes that helping others is Laura's passion. "If she's not doing this, she's not happy."
"I know we can't help all 150 million children at one time," Laura says. "But what an honor it would be to be even a tiny part of that impact, to make a difference in one child's life."