In a few months when summer winds down, you’ll find a mountain of school backpacks and hair.
For the past 13 years, Karla Radka, and her husband Michael Radka, have been leading hundreds of volunteers to provide back-to-school essentials and services for thousands of Central Florida children.
Their nonprofit, HopeNow International, provides the children with free health, vision and dental exams, and haircuts.
“The mountain of hair is as tall as I am, and I am about 5’6”, Karla said. “By the service of all the volunteers who really come together – hairstylists, doctors, dentists – it’s just very powerful to see.”
The organization also provides students with backpacks filled with school supplies – last year more than 10,000 backpacks were given out.
“It relieves the pressure of families to have to decide between buying school supplies for their children or having to pay the electric bill,” Karla, an immigrant from Honduras, said.
At a young age she helped her mother on mission trips. On the small island of Roatan, off the coast of Honduras, Karla would move supplies between rooms, assemble hygiene kits for the locals, and anything else to support the community. Years later, Karla returned with her husband to Roatan where they provide clean water to residents.
“We are part of an ecosystem, and when we help others, we are contributing to their wellbeing and building better communities,” Karla said. When it came time for her to select a career path, it was obvious her calling was to help others and help individuals lift themselves out of poverty.
Most recently, she was the Chief Operating Officer at Goodwill Industries of Central Florida.
“Our mission of nonprofits in the community is to ensure that our neighbors – especially those with the fewest resources – can access the opportunities they need to succeed in school, their jobs, and life,” Karla said.
On top of her work with HopeNow International, she also founded Public Allies Central Florida, an organization which helps young leaders who come from underprivileged backgrounds gain the job experience, access to professional networks, and resources that they need to build their careers.
“I have seen so many incredible careers flourish using Public Allies as a springboard for success,” Karla said.
Karla’s passion to serve the Central Florida community is shared among her family, including her three children, one who is a research scientist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“Our contributions continue to empower generations, and it started with that desire to build a better life, helping families, communities, and countries achieve long-lasting benefits,” Karla said. “It’s part of the ripple effect of immigration.”
HopeNow International is always looking for volunteers, donations, and sponsors for local projects in Orlando and other efforts in Roatan, Honduras.