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'I just built an orphanage'

Sterling woman raises $72,000 for orphans in India


That's how some described Debra C. Case of Sterling when she set out to raise $64,000 to build an orphanage in India.

A year later, Case did not meet her goal – she exceeded it by more than $8,000.

Crazy or not, the 33-year-old raised more than $72,000 for her cause – enough to build a facility and sponsor 20 orphans who will live there.

“I don't know what happened,” Case said with a chuckle. “It just happened. … “I feel like the whole thing was an accident, you know? I look back and I'm like, 'Oops, I just built an orphanage.’”

Case started fundraising in August 2012, after Bishop Marineni Jacob, an Indian minister and friend, told her that churches in India could no longer double as orphanages. Without new facilities, the law would put 1,400 innocent children back on the streets.

Many would die of starvation, go to jail, or be forced into child labor, he said.

Sensing a divine calling to act on their behalf, Case set a goal to house 100 orphans. Her friend, Stacey F. Avelar of Rock Falls, was blown away that she raised enough money within a year.

“That's crazy,” the 31-year-old said. “She is such an inspiration to me.”

The response from her community and others made it possible.

Case hosted a banquet last November at the Latin American Social Club, which raised more than $28,000.

She hosted another banquet June 7 in Phoenix – where she had lived before moving to Sterling 6 years ago – and gave a presentation at her former church. She raised about $30,000 that weekend.

Other donations came through her website,, and random gifts. Children from Case's church, Sterling First Church of the Nazarene, also raised $600 during Vacation Bible School in June.

Jacob and the orphans are grateful.

“Please convey my special greetings to all our team,” Jacob wrote in a recent email to Case. “God bless you.”

'Makes me cry thinking about it'

When Gospel for Tribals Social Service Society selected a building site in Attapaka, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, Case realized she would need an additional $1,000 to build.

The money poured in, but unfortunately, so did heavy rains. Flooding, a cyclone, and extreme heat delayed construction of the building.

“However, the main work is already completed,” Jacob wrote. “So reaming work such as finishing, electricity, plumbing, water lines, etc., can be done before the first week of December.”

Fifty-eight children are slated to live there; 42 others will be rescued from child labor when more funding arrives.

Avelar can picture 100 children settling into their new home.

“It just makes me cry thinking about it,” she said.

The Gospel group cares for 3,300 children. Fourteen orphanages are needed. The government deadline for the facilities was July; however, no orphans have been kicked out of churches yet.

Thanks to Case and her supporters, the first and only funded orphanage will open in December. Case showed her former congregation in Phoenix a picture of the building's progress.

“Everyone was like, 'Wow, the building is already under construction? I thought you were just talking about this, but it's actually happening.'”

'God just provided'

As the new director of Hope Life Center, a pregnancy center in Sterling and Dixon, Case admits she has been too busy to devote loads of time to the project.

“[It's] like I woke up one morning and said, 'I'm going to build an orphanage,'” she said. “And a year later, lo and behold, with very little effort compared to what I think it should have taken, here it is. God just provided.”

Case, who has gone on mission trips to India, wants to return for the grand opening. Unfortunately – even though she raised more than $72,000 – she cannot afford the trip. It would cost less than $3,000.

“I will get over there [someday], mostly, because I just want to meet the kids,” she said, her voice shaking with emotion. “I've met them before, but I didn't know that they were going to be my kids.

“And I want to tell them that I love them, and that I am willing to put forth the effort to actually go see them and not just send money.”

The orphans love her, too. A recent email from Jacob touched her heart. He wrote, “These children pray for 'Aunti' Debbie every day.”

He also sent a picture of them outside the building holding a thank-you sign. That's when it hit her – “Those are the kids who are going to live in this home,” she thought. “That's crazy.”

For Case, however, it is not enough. Although greatly needed, the orphanage is “just a Band-Aid,” she said.

She wants to find a solution to India's orphan crisis – a way to provide needed health care so parents will not die and children can grow up at home.

“To me, it seems very little compared to what the need is; the need is so great,” she said. “This is just a drop in the bucket.”

How to help

Sponsorships still are needed for 80 children in the Attapaka orphanage. Cost is $30 a month to provide medical care, food, shelter, education, and other necessities.

Gospel for Tribals Social Service Society also needs money to build 13 additional orphanages. If the money is not raised, many children will return to the streets.

Donations may be made at

Checks may be made payable to “Christian Aid Mission.” Write “620GFT Operation Orphanage” in the memo line. Mail donations to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906.

For more information, contact Debra Case at or 815-441-5295.

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