Ramon Retirado, El Centro de Amistad accounting manager, grew up with a father who was in the Philippines military and provided his family with what they only needed—nothing more and nothing less. Education was the priority and toys were not even in the picture, at least not like the ones in advertisements or stores. Ramon recalls constructing his own toys from makeshift items he could find.

The education he received paved the way for Ramon to land prominent banking positions such as a regional manager, a highly sensitive and political position, for one of the biggest banks in the Philippines that handled the sugar industry stakeholders. “Most of my clients were sugar traders, sugar mills, sugar farmers, and multinational corporations. Sugar was the third contributor to the GOP [gross operating profit] in the Philippines at that time.”

Then he migrated to the United States and started as an accounting clerk. Ramon said, “I remember my first boss at a bank and the first words he mentioned, ‘Forget where you came from. You have to start all over.’ I understood that he meant whatever position and privileges you had, you have to start all over again.”

He took his boss’s advice and started as an accounting clerk to assistant vice president, accounting for all foreclosed assets of the bank until the mortgage crisis of 2008 when he transitioned into the nonprofit sector.

The transition of his job function in finance was relatively smooth and on a personal side Ramon found it meaningful and satisfying.

“I felt I was helping people with the work that I do in the nonprofit sector, especially when you read and hear the stories of families who are struggling with mental health and kids who experience certain circumstances like their parents having challenges that affect them,” Ramon shared.

He asserted his willingness to take on the position of helping clients at whatever the cost. Direct staff can fulfill the mission by empowering them, while he handles the financial side. What inspires him to do more are the testimonials he hears at board meetings or clinicians that share a story.

Last year during the holiday season he felt the need to contribute and make a difference. Ramon would hear and see employees reaching out to the community trying to collect items for the Thanksgiving weekend yet they were limited as to how many families they could serve.

“I felt there was a tug at my heart and I thought that I could help out on a bigger scale,” Ramon said. He applied to My Stuff Bags Foundation for the agency to be the recipient of bright blue individual duffels filled with brand new, age- and gender-appropriate toys, books, a stuffed animal, school supplies, clothing, personal toiletries, and a warm, often hand-made “security” blanket for children who have been removed from their homes and have experienced trauma. They received 320 My Stuff Bags to deliver to children. He also applied online to the Marine Toys for Tots program and the agency received 800 unwrapped toys and gifts to distribute to the clients.

Ramon said it was a combination of a blessing and times in life when you believe something in your heart that you can help other people and it’s granted. Unexpectedly, the delivery of Toys for Tots and the distribution of these gifts to children turned out to be a healing experience from his childhood.

“My job with El Centro de Amistad is so self-fulfilling to me,” Ramon said. “It’s a blessing to be here.”