A mid-winter career change moving from the Bahamas back to Brainerd may give most people pause.
"Flip flops for muck lucks," Randy Lee said of trading in his hospitality career with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines to return to Minnesota. "A lot of people were saying 'you dummy.'"
After a year managing a private island for the cruise line, Lee had the option of returning to Alaska where he first joined Royal Caribbean or going to the cruise line's corporate offices in Miami.
But a third option proved more enticing - if a little more low key. And the change didn't mean a climate shift alone. Lee took a pay cut to join an organization that helps orphaned and abandoned children in Mexico, Central and South America and Haiti. Lee is manager of special projects and fundraising in northern Minnesota for Friends of the Orphans.
Friends of the Orphans provides financial support for Nuestros Pequeos Hermanos, Spanish for Our Little Brothers and Sisters and its network of orphanages in Latin America and the Caribbean. These children are from Haiti. More information about the organization is online at www.friendsoftheorphans.org.
"And to move back to Minnesota - Brainerd - was a great opportunity," Lee said. "It's definitely a change from the hospitality business, but when you are helping kids it's pretty easy. You are making a difference."
Lee spent about 35 years in the hospitality industry. He worked for Madden's Resort and later had his own business in Pillager. Then four years ago, a friend who worked for Princess Cruise Lines suggested Lee join the company in Alaska. The idea of moving to Alaska appealed and Lee went to work for Princess Cruise Lines before joining Royal Caribbean there.
When Lee was working at Madden's, Joe and Phyllis DeRosier kept telling him about Friends of the Orphans, a fundraising arm for Nuestros Pequeos Hermanos -Spanish for Our Little Brothers and Sisters. Lee sponsored a child. But it would be years before he visited Mexico, saw the organization first hand and met the child he sponsored. He now sponsors three children.
Lee recently spent six months living at NPH's orphanage in Mexico.
"What they do is incredible," Lee said. "I've seen the good this does."
The first child he sponsored came to the orphanage at age 2 along with seven other siblings. Now the child, Pedro, is a young man who is going to college to become a veterinarian.
Lee's coverage area includes St. Cloud and all of northern Minnesota. But his Brainerd ties made this an easy choice for a centrally located home base. Minnesota has given strong support in funds and volunteers.
The majority of financial assistance for a hospital built in Haiti came from Minnesota donors. The hospital opened in December 2006.
"We have quite a few people in Brainerd who sponsor kids," Lee said. In his new post, Lee plans to be available to talk to groups interested in learning more about NPH.
Since its founding in 1954, NPH has helped provide food, clothing, shelter, health care and an education to more than 15,000 children. The organizations outreach programs like hospitals and clinics serve more than 30,000 children and adults annually.
NPH is currently the home of more than 3,100 children in Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru.
On April 24, 19 children from NPH's home in Mexico with its international director and director of Mexico will be in Brainerd. The children will offer a ballet folkloric performance throughout the day in St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School and the Noon Rotary Club. The group will end with a public performance 5:30-6:30 p.m. April 24 at Central Lakes College, sponsored by the Spanish Club to go along with a 7 p.m. performance by the Mixed Blood Theater.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.