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Meet Autumn Strier of Miracles for Kids in Orange County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Autumn Strier.

Autumn, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I grew up on the receiving end of charity, and because of that, I’ve always had a deep appreciation for those who give back. One memory I have is during the years I played tennis in high school. I had these old, worn-out sneakers with holes in the bottom that I would wear to practice every day. I’ll never forget opening my locker to a brand-new pair of tennis shoes.

I tried to keep my personal situation private and did realize that others saw that I was in need. Not only had someone noticed, but they took the initiative to do something about it in a way where I didn’t feel singled out or embarrassed.

Months later, I found out it was my tennis coach who bought the shoes and put them in my locker. That simple act of kindness made all of the difference to me. It is one of many stories I recall from my childhood. I wanted to be able to make a difference like that in someone else’s life. Since then, it’s always been a priority of mine that I spend a significant amount of my time giving back to those in need. I began volunteering at the age of 10 by helping on a bus for special needs passengers at my church. While in school at UC Santa Barbara, I eventually figured out how to make a profession out of it – at 19 years old, I worked for Transition House – a local nonprofit that supports battered women and children. I worked for UCSB’s Alumni fundraising money for the school, and then for the City of Carpinteria, learning how to run budgets, present ideas to City Council that benefited communities in need, and do it all at minimal cost with public dollars. After graduating, I helped launch the Nonprofit Support Center of Orange County, which offered mentorship and training to other nonprofits.

A year later, I set off to New York, where I worked for Mayor Giuliani’s team, helping to oversee and manage budgets for uniformed agencies. Following a four-year stint on Wall Street with Morgan Stanley, I started advocating for those with disabilities as a Statewide Public Policy Manager for the New Jersey Chapters of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Ultimately, this road led me to Miracles for Kids. I took the assorted knowledge from my experience and applied it to building this organization into what it is today.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We faced the issues that most nonprofits do – lack of funding can always be challenging. This results in not only being unable to serve everyone who needs our help but also not being able to pay our staff what we feel they are worth, not being able to properly staff events, etc. – but we have always persevered. We have a dedicated team that understands there are a lot of hats involved in what we do.

A personal struggle I face is the overwhelming burden of knowing that not only my staff but over 350 families are depending on me every day. While this can certainly cause anxiety some days, it also helps keep me driven and determined. Early on, a mentor of mine told me when I’m asking for support from potential donors or sponsors, to keep in mind I’m not asking for myself but rather on behalf of these families who cannot ask for themselves, and that has been a helpful reminder along the way.

We’d love to hear more about your organization.
Miracles for Kids is a Southern California-based nonprofit, and one of the only organizations on the West Coast providing financial and emotional support to children facing life-threatening illnesses and their families in need. Miracles for Kids currently supports more than 300 families throughout Orange County, Los Angeles County, the Inland Empire and beyond.

We provide families with long-term support including financial assistance, household essentials, mental health services, wellness programming, healthcare and even housing. In fact, one of the things I am most proud of is opening Miracle Manor 5 years ago. Miracle Manor is our 12-unit subsidized housing complex in Orange, which allows the families who live there to focus solely on ensuring their child’s needs are met.

Overall, I’m truly proud of the unwavering amount of support Miracles for Kids has received from our board members, sponsors, donors, volunteers and staff. Over the past 16 years, through the ever changing economic climate, Miracles for Kids’ fundraising has only grown. We expect to close this past year at $3.4 million – if you would have told me that back in 2004, I would have never believed you!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
We have them all. Miracles for Kids is fortunate to have created such an extraordinary community of advocates over the years. We’ve proven this through the success of our year-round programming and events. Our Basket of Miracles program, which provides our families with much needed household necessities, groceries and home goods, continues to receive an abundance of donations from corporate sponsors, community partners and volunteers. The annual Night of Miracles Gala seems to be breaking new records year after year, and our annual Golf Invitational is reaching new heights. The community at large shows up for our families and we are so thankful for their years of generosity.

We also have our Board Members who are all extremely dedicated supporters and advocates for the cause, as well as our devoted staff, generous sponsors and donors, and hardworking volunteers to thank for the success of Miracles for Kids. Together we are changing the lives of the families we serve.

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