Baffled by bagels, but grateful for kindness: Rancho Santa Fe intern spreads the love to Tijuana kids


Anyone who’s traveled outside the U.S. for any length of time knows the longing for familiar comfort foods from home. For Rancho Santa Fe resident Lauren McMillen, this meant bagels from her favorite bagel shop, Garden State Bagels in Encinitas.

McMillen, a senior at Vanderbilt University spent her summer interning at Niños de Fe, a home for orphaned, abandoned and foster children in Tijuana. Lauren was their first “missionary” intern and a welcome extra set of hands. For six weeks, Lauren was part caretaker, part camp counselor, and part schoolteacher. She was able to experience first-hand how the orphanage operated and also begin a summer English program for the children.

When the summer grew to an end, Lauren had an idea: Why not say goodbye to the kids she’d grown to love by surprising them with “farewell bagels”? She had her mother, Angela McMillen contact Steve Amster, owner of Garden State Bagels. Her request: four dozen chocolate chip bagels with cream cheese. Amster was happy to help and even donated all leftover bagels from the previous day. As it turns out, he employs several other generous folks. When the bakers in the kitchen heard the shop was sending bagels to an orphanage in Tijuana, they pooled their money and added another dozen to the load.

After six weeks of rice, beans, tortillas and tuna, Lauren was thrilled to see the bagels arrive. The children — not so much. Most had never seen a bagel before. They examined them closely, poking fingers into the cream cheese. In the end, about half of the kids were brave enough to try their “farewell bagel.” Regardless, it was a warm gesture that will remain a fond memory for Lauren and the kids alike.

Lauren returned to Vanderbilt in mid-August. In April she will complete a double major in the top-rated elementary education program at the Peabody School, along with a major in human and occupational development.

Niños De Fe is a private Christian children’s home supported by donations. The children’s primary need at this time is a larger home. They house 38 children in an 1,800-square-foot residence. Donations are accepted in two ways: directly to Casa Hogar Niños de Fe, Col. Juarez, #2850 Av. Television C.P. 22040, Tijuana, BC; or via check payable to Coastline Church, 2215 Calle Barcelona, Carlsbad, CA 92009. Please write Niños de Fe in the memo line. For questions, contact Marsh Moore: