A Letter From an Olive Crest Kid — Diana Alvarez, Former Resident Teen

A Letter From an Olive Crest Kid — Diana Alvarez, Former Resident Teen, Olive Crest, group home, at-risk, kid, teenager

Diana with her boyfriend, Jorge, and Nicko the dog.

It took me 25 years to finally be able to really, really appreciate Olive Crest.

I hated the structure, the well-balanced meals, the grading system that determined our rewards and consequences…most of all, I resented the staff. I blamed them for everything!

I know most of us kids shared more than being “in the system” in common. It was a much deeper connection and bond we had. We were all so broken. Speaking for myself, there was
never known such things as a healthy, balanced diet or dinner time…shoot…some of us were
lucky to even have a warm meal or meal at all.

We didn’t come from a family or support group that motivated us to do better and rewarded us with a weekly allowance, or field trips. Most of us were ignored, rejected, and had to bring money home, rather than to expect our families to actually spend money on us.

Currently, as a more mature, middle-aged mother of two children, people that have gotten to know me constantly ask “how did you turn out so normal?” I chuckle because I don’t think “normal” is the right adjective or question… The right question should be “Where did you learn how to be more ‘normal’?”

The answer is Olive Crest.

Olive Crest instilled in me the things I would’ve never learned from my dysfunctional and broken background. From teaching me the simple things like how to set a dining room table, use a steak knife, have a balanced meal, say please and thank you, do my own laundry and prepare a meal. When we got in trouble or grounded, it was always followed by a reason and explanation of the mistake committed, the consequence and the lesson.

Olive Crest showed me what the tradition of Christmas and gifts were, as I had never celebrated one when I arrived as a teenager. I remember experiencing my first baseball game, hockey game, and movie theater with Olive Crest, due to the donations they would receive. The best was when we were invited to attend Christian camp in Hume Lake, where I first realized believing in God and bonding with others was actually fun!

I can never thank God enough for putting Olive Crest in my life. For creating such a strong, organized, powerful organization that consists of individuals that really do care and taught me so much, that I am able to apply it all to my adult life and successfully raise two children: my son, a sophomore at Northern Illinois University, and my daughter, a high school freshman.

Thank you, Olive Crest, for making a difference in my life, making me the woman I am today.

With love and appreciation,
Diana Alvarez

News Flash from the Kids at Our Group Home

News Flash from the Kids at Our Group Home

Your support provides fun—and educational—activities for Olive Crest kids. Some of the kids in our Inland Communities group home even write, edit, and publish their own newsletter.  A recent article, excerpted below, talks about experiences at Forest Home Christian camp this past summer:

We went to Forest Home to extend our faith for God…When we were at the lake there was a giant water slide which was really fun to go on and there was pedal boarding…which was a blast to do…I saw a bear….and everyone came running…and the bear was scared so it ran away. I would [go back again] because it was the best experience that I ever had.

Thank you for giving generously, so our kids can have life-changing experiences like this one—the best experience this teen has ever had!

It’s Easy to Support Kids and Families!

It’s Easy to Support Kids and Families!

Here’s a great way to make your grocery shopping easier and support Olive Crest at the same time: Buy a reusable Olive Crest bag at your favorite store. The bags are now offered at Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions, Northgate Markets, Gelson’s, and Numero Uno — and 8 cents from each bag purchased is donated directly back to Olive Crest.

It’s a great way to support Olive Crest’s work in your community. Look for the Olive Crest bags in your neighborhood store, and help us move toward our goal of ending the cycle of child abuse and neglect.

Smart & Final Shows Compassion for At-Risk Kids and Families

Olive Crest, kids, at-risk kids, at-risk children, families, Smart & Final, donate

You probably already know that Smart & Final is a great place to shop for quality groceries at great prices. But did you know that the company’s management and employees care very much about the children and families in the communities they serve? Case in point, this summer they presented a $400,000 check to Olive Crest from their most recent in-store mobile campaign! This fantastic donation will greatly impact the children and families of Olive Crest. We can’t thank Smart & Final enough for their passion and contribution to the ongoing fight against child abuse.

 

Let’s Hear It for the Ambassador for the Children Award Winners!

Let’s Hear It for the Ambassador for the Children Award Winners!

 

Mickie Sharp-Villanueva and Dave Grosse from The Performance Group have been selected as the 2018 Ambassador for the Children award recipients.  These outstanding individuals were honored at our recent An Education for Every Child luncheon, where they were praised for their “strong servant leadership and selfless dedication to Olive Crest and the families that are supported.” Their personal investments and service for over 20 years has greatly impacted the children and families we serve. Thank you, Dave and Mickie! What a blessing you are!

To At-Risk Kids, Camp May Seem Too Good to be True

To At-Risk Kids, Camp May Seem Too Good to be True

A story that our Chaplain, Frank Fried, shared demonstrates how life-changing summer camp really is. Camp is fun…really fun! But what if fun is something that you’re not familiar or really comfortable with? Camp can be a challenge; it can even be traumatic.

As a camp counselor, when Frank returned to the cabin one day, he found a 14-year-old Olive Crest camper sitting on the stairs to their cabin…crying. Frank sat down, comforting him, and asked what was wrong. The teen wasn’t really sure why he was crying, but as they talked for a little bit, they figured out that he was feeling very un-nerved by how wonderful camp was.

As they talked, Frank learned that the vast majority of the teen’s upbringing had been very traumatic. He was comfortable with conflict and expecting the worst. However, camp was amazingly safe and delightfully fun…and had to be too good to be true from his perspective. It was a Christian camp, and he couldn’t believe that there could be so many happy, nice, and friendly people there.

Many of the kids that come to Olive Crest experience a way of life that they had never let themselves dream of. They experience real family, real love, real patience, and real forgiveness. For those who’ve grown up in a safe and loving family, it’s hard to appreciate how foreign that can be to a child, teen, or an adult.

Your support is helping make a drastic change in the lives of so many children and youth. Thank you!

Read more about Chaplain Frank’s thoughts on at-risk youth and camp.

Young Adults Start on a Path Toward Financial Independence

At-risk teen, at-risk youth, life skills, finances, Inland Empire, Olive Crest

Young adults who are at-risk often do not have families to teach them about handling their finances. Fortunately, many young adults at Olive Crest actually saved several thousands of dollars for their accounts through lessons made available by the United Way and the Assistance League of Temecula. Annually, our young adults getting life skills training take a six-week course on financial literacy, budgeting, and savings. The classes were offered by the United Way, and additional support was provided by Assistance League. Olive Crest had the joy of hosting the graduation this spring at our Inland Empire office.

Thank you, United Way and Assistance League, for the generosity and participation to provide Olive Crest children with valuable lessons!

Savers Hosts a Donation Day for Our Inland Communities

On April 7, Savers in Riverside hosted a donation day for our Family Preservation program participants. Savers arranged games and prizes, in addition to donating furniture and clothing to families in need. Savers allowed the attending families to shop in a section where the furniture items were held, then they shopped the store at large for clothing. Thank you very much to Savers for all of their help and generous contributions, and a special thank you to the manager Rachel, as well as Brittney and Manny, who are employees in the Donation department at Savers.

Savers Hosts a Donation Day for Our Inland Communities

Your Support Helped Kayla in Her Journey Toward Independence

This month, Olive Crest in the Desert Communities celebrated Kayla, who just turned 21 and has successfully transitioned beyond our program for teenagers and young adults. She entered one of our programs more than two years ago and recently graduated into a completely independent living arrangement. Kayla has now maintained a job for over one year. Through our program, she gained valuable independent living skills, ranging from building credit, managing a savings account, and learning how to earn her driver’s license. Kayla even successfully saved thousands of dollars in Olive Crest’s saving program. The program that helped Kayla is an essential part of Olive Crest’s efforts to provide help for our transitioning young adults, thanks to your support.

The Numbers are In: Another Year of Easter Success Blesses Kids and Families!

It’s hard to believe, but some children, teens, and young adults never received an Easter basket before coming to Olive Crest—and now that we have had time to tally the Easter baskets given out at the beginning of the month, we are happy to give an update on our Easter successes! Here’s a rundown of the Easter goodies throughout Olive Crest.

Inland and Desert Communities: Kids in group homes and foster kids were gifted a total of 350 baskets. Group home youth received hygiene products, socks, gift cards, make-up, and nail polish; foster kids received books, candy, summer games, and beach towels. Baskets with board games also were given to families in our Family Preservation program.

Las Vegas: Big-hearted donations provided foster kids under age 13 with more than 60 Easter baskets, and older foster kids and young adults in Olive Crest programs received 40 baskets. Baskets for the older kids included make-up and gift cards for girls, and earbuds, cards, and candy bars for boys.

Los Angeles: Hundreds in community benefitted from generous Easter basket donations from individuals and companies, including Wells Fargo, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Topson Downs, Ralph’s, and United Healthcare. One very compassionate donor, Janet, recently lost her son, and to honor him, she did something special for the foster kids that we serve: She donated 58 baskets filled with tons of toys and candy.

Orange County: A whopping 1,809 Easter baskets came in during Orange County’s Easter basket drive! Every child and teen at Olive Crest—whether they are involved with us through fostering, kinship, group homes, family preservation, independent life skills training, or Olive Crest Academy—had a happy Easter because of your donations. Baskets from the drive also spread joy to foster kids in our San Diego office.

 The Pacific Northwest: Generous individuals and groups donated between 200 and 250 Easter baskets for the first few weeks of March. Olive Crest case managers and other staff delivered the baskets to foster kids and their foster siblings, and there were even enough to share some with a local Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).

Thank you for all the compassion that helped brighten Easter for Olive Crest children and teens!

 

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