One from the Heart
Laraine Mancini-Unik has what every mom wants-the love and admiration of her daughter. When I was contacted to write Laraine's story, Nicole Burnett, Laraine's daughter, asked me to interview HER, not her mother. It wasn't that her mother is completely incapable of speaking for herself; it's that Nicole wanted this article to be a surprise tribute to honor her loving mother. So, dear Laraine.SURPRISE!
Laraine's family first started coming to Hilton Head in 1994, and finally settled here in 2000. As an Air Force brat with a dad who was a pilot, Laraine traveled the world as a young girl. She saw such places as Athens, Israel, Egypt, and Morocco. It's no wonder she developed a lifelong love of travel with tremendous respect and value for other cultures.
Among the many things that have claimed Laraine's heart since coming to Hilton Head Island is an active involvement with the Department of Social Services. Working with foster children is her passion. When she gets a call to help a child, they may come into the home and into the family for an unknown period of time and usually with a set of complicated "baggage." The child's best interests are put first and each child is treated as one of the family. Hargray has also donated backpacks filled with donated necessities for these children. Local families donate items and they are greatly appreciated. It is gifts like these from caring people that keep the program going.
Laraine also works with special needs children. Whether it's a child with emotional problems, physical challenges, a neonatal baby-the scenario does not matter. Laraine has an open door policy and all are welcome, regardless of their situation or time duration requirement.
ABRO (American Belarusian Relief Organization) is also one of her commitments. She takes in orphans and non-orphans who have been affected by the nuclear accident in Chernobyl. They come to the US for six weeks and receive free medical and dental care. Coming to Hilton Head reduces their exposure to radiation and gets them healthy enough to return to Belarus. Laraine and her husband were local directors and asked neighboring churches and their members to sponsor/host a child. Local doctors also provide medical check-ups and lab work. Local businesses provide food, entertainment and a gathering place for the children. What an amazing undertaking!
In addition, Laraine is also a volunteer at The Pregnancy Center, which offers free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, STD testing, prenatal care and parenting classes. Laraine started there as a volunteer over five years ago and she is involved in administration and clinic work. Just for fun, she also teaches the clients all about the fine art of couponing as part of her work with parenting classes. She is actively involved in the safety, education, and well being of these young women.
As if all of that were not enough, Laraine recently became a paralegal. She realized as a foster parent that it was important to understand the court system. She found herself in many situations where she had to stand up for the best interests of the children in her care. She felt the need to be an avid fighter for the rights of these kids and to be a part of decisions that affected the rest of their lives. She made up her mind to go to Technical College of the Lowcountry, starting in summer of 2009 and graduated with honors in December of 2011.
Laraine's work is very serious, but she has a fun side, too. She likes to bike and walk on the beach. She loves to be with her friends and she really enjoys playing Bunco with the girls. She is also actively involved with First Baptist Church of Hilton Head and with women's Bible study classes. As you may have already gathered, she is an avid couponer and a great baker.
In the words of her daughter Nicole, "She has spent her life being a mom to her own family and to others who needed a positive role model and mother figure. It is people like her that give hope to others and inspire them to impact the lives of others, too.