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Bitter Sweet Emotions for Milton Hershey School House Parents Retiring After 40 Years

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The Milton Hershey School is a perfect example of how a "village can raise a child" -- and since opening in 1909 as a private school for orphaned boys, house parents have helped raise thousands of boys and now girls. The school opened its doors to girls in the 70’s.

And for Randy and Julie Mladenoff, the students are their family.

That's why, even though they are retiring after 40 years as house parents - they will continue to make a difference in their lives.

Mr. and Mrs. "M" as they are affectionately called by their children - have had some 200 children assigned to them over four decades.

Samantha, Anjala, and Gabby are the latest students they are responsible for as house parents for the Milton Hershey School.

We caught up with them Friday, January 26 - the Mladenoff's last day with their current charges - a day filled with emotion.

Randy says the friendships created over the 40 years is beyond their imagination, dreams and expectations, that will be hard to replace.

Randy says, "We are parents away from home for them and help them have a great childhood and good memories and a good foundation for their future success."

Through tears, Julie says, "Lots of emotions we have always seen our students leave us, but this will be the first time we're leaving them.”

Randy even walked one of their kids down the aisle when she got married.

And they both say they will have more of those moments even in retirement.

Julie says their main goal is to see them graduate.

So what are they going miss most about each other?

Julie says she’ll miss tucking them in at night and saying prayers and for Randy it will be the close relationships, creativity and taking them to do things that they normally wouldn't experience.

For Samantha Bugg, Anjala Kater and Gabby Fumbah, it will be Mr. M’s sense of humor and Mrs. M’s cooking, sewing and teaching them how to do cartwheels.

And speaking of Mrs. "M's" cooking - a recipe that included chick peas was sent to former First Lady Michelle Obama and she replied with a letter of thanks to the girls.

Just another example of the incredible experiences the Mladenoff's have given their children over the years. And, another example of why it will be so hard to say goodbye.

But as they walk by pictures of the school’s founders for the last time at Madison house, a comforting thought is shared by Mrs. M.

Julie says, "I know Milton and Catherine are looking down on us and they're smiling and Milton Hershey is saying thank you guys for taking care of my children. I know he and Catherine know that we love and care for lots of their children.”

And even while they are on their retirement cruise and working on land that they purchased, Julie and Randy will continue to love the Hershey children as their own. By the way, they have 2 biological children and grandchildren. Another perk of being a House Parent is you can have your own young children live with you.

The Mladenoff’s retirement as well as expansion going on at the Milton Hershey School is opening up more opportunities for House Parent hopefuls. Check out this link for more information: mhskids.org

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