She moved governments to action, helped change federal immigration laws and pioneered single-parent adoptions in the United States.
As a result, Lorri Kellogg earned her favorite title of the many she has received over the years: Mother.
“Everyone called her mom even if she wasn’t their mother,” said her daughter Jillian Kellogg-Malka.
Kellogg adopted Jillian from Korea when she was 5 1/2. Today, she’s 41 with an adopted daughter from Russia and has worked alongside her mother, traveling to orphanages the world over.
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Kellogg, who died at 80 on May 7 after suffering a brain aneurism and stroke, made history in 1976 when she adopted her first child, daughter Jaime Kellogg, a Korean orphan. The little girl is credited as the first foreign-born child admitted into the United States for adoption by an American single parent.
The process took years. Kellogg, a divorced real estate agent who was born in Queens, New York, had already become Jaime’s long-distance foster mother in 1972 after she happened upon an Art Linkletter program on television. The TV star was seeking sponsors to help support Korean orphans.
The $12 monthly check Linkletter urged wasn’t enough. That little girl needed a mother, Kellogg decided, and she was ready to assume the role. However, there were no means for a single parent to adopt foreign children and bring them to the United States.
“I promised God, if I could be Jaime’s mother, I would help other children,” Kellogg said in a 1995 Miami Herald story.
Kellogg, a 1963 graduate of Bert Rodgers School of Real Estate Law in New York, helped change the laws when she obtained the backing of Florida Rep. William Lehman and Sen. Lawton Chiles who signed a bill allowing single people to adopt foreign-born children.
As a result, in the mid-1970s, she chaired the Subcommittee on Child Nurturing and Growth where she worked as a trouble shooter for South Florida’s underprivileged, abused and orphaned children. By 1977, Kellogg founded the Fort Lauderdale-based Universal Aid for Children, Florida’s first adoption agency licensed to help people adopt orphans worldwide.
Lehman entered Kellogg’s name into the congressional record in 1991 when he nominated her for the Outstanding Citizen Award. By that point, Universal Aid for Children had helped place nearly 2,000 children from 20 countries in American homes.
“There are thousands of people in our community whose lives have been miraculously changed because of Lorri. … Most important, innocent children who were brought out of the world’s worst conditions and given the greatest gift — hope, improved health, and a loving family they can call their own,” Lehman wrote.
Over the years, Kellogg flew to Bucharest, Honduras, Colombia, Jamaica, Vietnam and other places, including dozens of trips to war-torn El Salvador, to bring supplies and rescue orphans in refugee camps as well as to facilitate adoptions.
“My mom was a pioneer. She changed the laws for single parent adoptions through Congress, but that’s not what made her special. What makes her special was her drive and passion and the way she wanted to help children,” Kellogg-Malka said. “She saved my life. She was my role model and I’m following in her footsteps.”
Clara Pascal has also followed Kellogg’s lead. Pascal became an executive with Universal Aid for Children and founded its Ukrainian division.
“I came to her wanting to adopt a little baby from Odessa, Ukraine when there was a moratorium. She absolutely told me, ‘Don’t worry, honey. We’ll be able to get him out of there. Take a deep breath and I’ll help you.’ She did. And she became my mentor, my friend and my confidante.”
Pascal adopted her son Luke, now 20, in 1997.
“Lorri,” Pascal said, “drew strength from love itself and that’s what she spread around to everyone else.”
Kellogg is survived by her children Jillian Kellogg-Malka, Jaime Dreichler, Tarabeth Kellogg, Sara Ventura and Marilena Lida Torres, seven grandchildren, and her sisters Toni and Penny. Donations can be made to Universal Aid for Children, Inc., 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd., Suite 125, Fort Lauderdale, FL., 33304.
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.