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Organization raises money to adopt orphans

Darren and Rebecca Maas and about two dozen friends spent Saturday cleaning, clearing and repairing a home on Meadow Lane in north Lexington.

Pauline Fuller, an 86-year-old widow and the home's owner, will now have a home set for winter's toughest weather.

Meanwhile, Darren and Rebecca Maas hope Saturday's work will help them raise the $10,000 they need to pay the remaining balance for an international adoption of two girls from Ethiopia.

"It's just a really unique way for us to provide service in the community," said Rebecca Maas.

Darren and Rebecca have two biological children and three adopted children — a daughter from China and two sons from Ethiopia. All of the children are under age 7.

The family was able to pay for the first three adoptions by scrimping, saving and downsizing to a smaller house. They also received help from friends and family and got some grants from organizations.

But when they started considering whether to adopt the two girls from Ethiopia, they knew they needed help. International adoptions can cost between $10,000 and $40,000.

"Our savings are drained," said Rebecca Maas, a former social worker.

So they turned to the Internet and found a unique way to raise money and help someone else — it's called Both Hands.

The Both Hands Foundation was started by a former headhunter in Nashville, Tenn.

J.T. Olson was raising money several years ago and asked a friend to sponsor him in a charity golf tournament. Olson's friend told Olson that if he was doing something for a widow he would give Olson money. But he was not going to give Olson money for playing golf.

That message stuck with Olson. Several years later, when a friend needed money to adopt four children, Olson thought of a unique way to do both — help a widow and an orphan.

Here's how it works: The adopting parents, their friends and family volunteer labor to repair a widow's home. Local businesses donate the supplies. The parents, friends and family get sponsors for the day of work. The money raised goes to pay for the adoption.

The Maas family is the 14th family to take part in the Both Hands Foundation concept, Olson said. Olson teamed up with Lifesong for Orphans, a group that helps parents find grants and other funding to adopt a child. The money is donated to Lifesong in the name of the family for tax purposes, Olson said.

For the Maas family, it's a way to combine two great passions — service and expanding their family.

"We just want to show other people who want to adopt that there are ways to do it," Rebecca Maas said.

The two girls — a 15-month-old and a 7-year-old — could be in the couple's home sometime in January. They know that the 15-month-old has some disabilities but will not know the extent of those disabilities until she arrives.

They already have one special needs child. Jacob, 2, also from Ethiopia, has cerebral palsy.

"This is our job and this is our mission," said Rebecca Maas. "Raising children and providing for their special needs."

Will they stop at seven?

"If God provides the finances and the housing... we're not going to say that we're finished yet," Maas said.