Samantha Rodriguez is 20 years old. She lives in Orange County, Florida, and for the past three years, she's been taking care of her younger siblings -- keeping them clothed, fed, and going to school each day. All without a car. Samantha's parents died in the past five years, and her siblings, now ages five to 17, were in danger of heading to the state's foster care system. She knew she could not allow that to happen. She moved the family to Orange County because her grandmother lived there, but money was scarce and Samantha had to grow up fast. "It can be tough knowing when to be a parent, and when to be a sister," she says. "Sometimes it can feel like I'm alone."
Last December the Orange County Sheriff's Department learned of Samantha's unusual family and how they were sticking together through tough times. The officers invited the kids to visit the station. When the kids arrived, they found a room filled with Christmas gifts for them. The department posted a video of the party online, and folks began to call, asking to help. Recently the Sheriff asked Samantha to come to his office. She thought it was just a meeting, but he showed her a picture of a shiny new Nissan Versa. Anonymous donors had purchased it for her. He helped her get insurance, and took her to the dealership to pick up the car. "It really didn't sink in until a few days later," she says. "Everything I plan now for the kids is so much easier."