Elena Barlow’s mantra has become her rallying cry in life. She started with so little, has achieved so much, and is dedicated to giving back and helping others. Her accomplishments thus far have been impressive, but her goals and passion for reaching them are awe-inspiring. She’s determined to take her charity to the next level and is looking for a little assistance to reach it.
Her life story is truly one of triumph over tragedy. From impoverished beginnings growing up in an orphanage in the Republic of Moldova — forced to live under deplorable conditions — to being fortunate enough to be adopted at age 16 by an American family in Arizona, Elena has worked hard to achieve the American dream. She learned English and attended college, earning both an undergraduate degree and a Masters in Real Estate Development. She paid off her student loans right after graduation using the real estate skills she learned to buy and flip a home, worked as a senior analyst at Goldman Sacks for three and half years, and is now an asset manager at a real estate company that develops assisted living communities.
Grateful for her American family and the opportunities seized since coming here, Elena could never forget the years spent as an orphaned child in Moldova. Still known as Europe’s poorest and least visited country, Moldova has been in severe decline since the fall of the Soviet Union.
In Moldova, most people have very little, especially those in government-sponsored facilities like orphanages. After Elena’s mother died, she learned first-hand what it feels like to live without life’s most basic necessities.
From age eight to sixteen, she slept in a room with 19 other girls. There was little food; she was always hungry. With no running water, she showered in a bucket and washed what few clothes she ever had by hand. She had one pair of shoes, and no feminine or even personal hygiene products — not even a toothbrush or toothpaste.
Elena considers herself one of the lucky ones. She was the last child adopted from that orphanage; it shut down soon after she left. Vowing that no child should have to endure the same hardships she experienced, Elena has been passionately committed to helping needy people in Moldova since her first year of college. At age 18, she traveled to an orphanage there carrying suitcases filled with games and clothing.
Her friends and family pitched in soon after, collecting boxes and boxes of clothing, school supplies, games, and more. Her college apartment soon filled with generous donations, and Elena worked for six months — while still a full-time student — to raise the $9,000 needed to ship all the boxes to the orphanage. With donations ever-increasing, she realized she needed more space and a better, less expensive way to get everything to Moldova. She rented a warehouse, looked into the cost of getting a shipping container, and officially started her charity, Stella’s House, Inc.
For the past eight years, as donations have continued to pour in from individuals, groups, charities, and companies, Elena has been able to fill a 40-foot container every year. She is not only helping her chosen orphanages now, but a nursing home, orphanages for disabled individuals, and an animal rescue group.
Located about four hours away from Chișinău, the capital of Moldova, Elena found a nursing home in desperate need of medical supplies. They had one wheelchair for thirty people. Last year, Elena was able to get a company in North Carolina to donate a substantial number of wheelchairs, hospital beds and mattresses, and other medical supplies.
The animal shelters she is helping in Moldova currently feeds and cares for 260 dogs. Elena adopted three of them when she first visited the facilities. It took six months for the paperwork to be processed, and the dogs spent 33 hours in crated traveling here, but they are happily living with her now.
Up until this point, everything Elena has done has been piecemeal. She’s rented space, received donations and gotten volunteers to unload, sort, and reload boxes and trucks to fill up that one container. Her goal, starting in 2020, is to streamline and simplify that process, improve her capabilities, and increase the number of donations sent. She continually works at building relationships with various charities, hospitals, assisted living communities, groups, and companies to get needed supplies.
Through Stella’s House, Elena provides much-needed help to those who cannot care for themselves. She has seen what is possible. For the last five years, Elena has been able to fill one 40-foot container easily. And her donations have increased to the point she’s needed turn many of them down — something she doesn’t want to continue to do.
Stella’s House, Inc., has proven to be fully-sustainable. Elena just needs to raise the additional funds need to build her own warehouse space and implement the shipping and distribution methods required to effectively channel all the overstocked, short-dated, or gently-used clothing and supplies received. With your help, Elena can get these donations to the people and facilities in Moldova who desperately need them.
Her vision for the future includes:
Building her own 10,000 square-foot warehouse, divided into five sections. One section will house the donations and her office space. The other four will be rented out to other businesses.
Increasing donations to the point the charity can ship 10-20 containers to Moldova every year.
Elena exemplifies the word tenacity. She has proven time and time again that once she has an idea, she will make it happen, no matter what it takes. It has been an incredibly fulfilling and emotional journey—one she hopes more individuals, companies, and groups will join and take the next steps with her.