Readers of East Alabama Living may remember the story of Nolvia Yaneth Hernandez. Born in Central America, Nolvia spent most of her childhood in Orphanage Emmanuel in Guimaca, Honduras. Thanks to members of the Lee County community (specifically First Baptist Church, Opelika; First United Methodist Church, Opelika; and Covenant Presbyterian Church, Auburn), Nolvia, who demonstrated an exceptional work ethic and propensity toward learning, was brought to the U.S. to finish her high school education at Lee-Scott Academy. Her tuition was paid for with a grant from Lee-Scott, and she lived with Charles and Julie Ellis. Following high school, Nolvia lived with Ray and Becky Clifton while she attended Southern Union State Community College. At Southern Union, she not only advanced her education, she also met the love of her life, Terry Thor Brooks of Dadeville, Ala.
“It’s truly like a Cinderella story,” says Martha Tabor, who coordinated Nolvia’s wedding, and whose husband Rick is on the board of directors for Orphanage Emmanuel. “She was one child in the midst of hundreds who were at an orphanage
in a third-world country, and thanks to the efforts of a community, her whole life
Terry and Nolvia were married on April 25, 2009, at 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church, Opelika. With only two months to plan the wedding, Martha describes the process as a whirlwind of continued community support. The Tabor, Ellis and Clifton families sponsored most of Nolvia’s wedding day, including invitations, programs and flowers. However, many others who are familiar with Nolvia’s extraordinary life story volunteered to help. Listed on the wedding program were “parents of the bride,” David and Lydia Martinez, who are the founders of Orphanage Emmanuel. David and Lydia were able to travel from Honduras to be with Nolvia on her wedding day and give her away in marriage. Local photographer Marie Hughes took wedding photos, free of charge. Rick Lane, who is the youth pastor at First United Methodist, Opelika, and his wife Chona provided the couple with a three-tier wedding cake. Much of the food at the reception was donated by caterer Judy Sellers of A Little Taste of Home in Opelika. While in school, Nolvia would regularly spend Christmas with a family in Chattanooga, Tenn., Susan and Jack Simmons. The Simmons volunteered to purchase Nolvia’s wedding gown. Following the wedding, Nolvia and Terry honeymooned at a mountain cabin in North Georgia that is owned by Larry and Carol Murphy, who donated the romantic vacation.
“It was not any one family who gave Nolvia her wedding,” says Martha. “She is like a daughter to us, so everyone chipped in. It just goes to show what a community can do when they work together.”
Currently, Nolvia and Terry live in Montgomery, Ala., where Terry is completing his degree in Education from Auburn University at Montgomery, as well as serving part-time in the Alabama National Guard. Nolvia is looking for a job in the healthcare industry as a nurse’s assistant. The couple hopes that circumstances will eventually bring them back to Lee County so that they will once again be surrounded by the community, the family, which has adopted Nolvia as one of their own.
For more information on
Orphanage Emmanuel, visit the Web site at www.orphanageemmanuel.com.