“Thank You for Helping to Change the Course of My Life.”

Helen Says, “Thank You for Helping to Change the Course of My Life.”

At 24 years of age, Helen is one of those amazing people who seems to have it all. She is bright, happily married, and is starting her own business. And she’s a gifted artist — a talent that seems to come naturally to her.

Spend a little time with her, and you’re bound to come away asking yourself, “Is there anything this young woman can’t do?”

And yet, there was a time when she felt like she couldn’t do anything.

In the Shadow of Addiction

Sadly, when Helen was a child, her parents battled drug addiction. She and her younger brother were denied the loving attention that every child craves. Living in the shadow of her parents’ substance abuse, her early childhood was full of uncertainty and fear — she was shifted in and out of state foster care, separated from her baby brother, and struggling to understand what was going on.

Helen was full of potential…but as is often true of children growing up in unstable, abusive, or neglectful homes, her potential was stifled by fear and a lack of encouragement.

By Helen’s freshman year of high school, her family lost their home and her mom went to jail. When she was finally released, sadly, she relapsed. The family ended up living in a motel, struggling to make ends meet.

Undone by the Trauma

For Helen, this seemed like the final blow. She says that she and her little brother were “undone by the trauma of it all.” She says, “I was so exhausted from being in this constant state of survival and uncertainty.” She was deeply depressed and had lost her will to live. “My childhood best friend had just ended his life less than a year before this time, and the hopelessness I was experiencing led me to want to end my life, as well.”

On the night Helen was planning to end her life, a woman living in the motel reached out to her, feeling compelled to encourage her. The woman shared her own story with Helen and shared about God’s love, which was something Helen desperately needed to hear.

It was just the nudge Helen needed to find the courage to keep going. Filled with hope, she chose to live her life to share God’s love, as well. She prayed that God would provide a safe place for her and her brother to live, and soon, Olive Crest learned about Helen’s situation. She and her brother were placed together with a loving family, giving her mother an opportunity to get support, as well.

She had never experienced anything like the love and stability her Olive Crest family gave her. They were firm, but kind. They kept her to a schedule, helped her with her homework, and made sure she had food, clothing, and all the basic necessities to succeed in school and heal from her past. Helen says, “Our lives were being completely transformed. I remember hiding away in the bathroom, weeping with gratitude and relief. We had three meals a day, a safe, loving home, rides to school, new clothes, and a second chance at a childhood.”

Helen had a lot to work through, but leaning on God, her Olive Crest family, and her new community, she graduated high school with a 3.9 GPA — after starting with a 0.5 GPA. Her artistic talent blossomed, bringing her acclaim within her school and community. She earned an associate’s degree in child development from Saddleback College, and a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership for Christian ministry from Simpson University. Today, Helen is married, and is launching a business selling products she designs and that benefit foster children. She is also a frequent speaker at schools, churches, and other community groups.

Stories like this are only possible because of generous friends like you.

A Heart Full of Gratitude

Helen’s heart is beyond grateful for caring supporters who have reached out through Olive Crest to help impact and change the course of her life forever. She says that when she was married in July of 2018, she “was surrounded by all the Safe Families that my brother and I lived with in high school and even in college.” This is her “forever family” that she will always treasure.

Make this Easter one to remember for children in need.

Did you know some children have gone their whole lives without celebrating the joy of Easter? You can make a big difference for kids and families this spring by donating during our Easter basket drive for Olive Crest children and teens. We can only do it with the support of compassionate donors like you!

Please drop off a pre-filled Easter basket (or baskets) at an Olive Crest location near you.

Orange County

02/26/2019 – 04/12/2019
8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

2130 East 4th St., Suite #200, Santa Ana, CA 92705

For a list of Easter basket themes and ideas, click here.

For additional information, contact the Community Involvement department at 714.543.5437, x1290, or info@olivecrest.org.

Los Angeles

03/04/2019 – 03/29/2019
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

17800 Woodruff Ave., #F, Bellflower, CA 90706

Find out more about the Los Angeles Easter basket drive here.

For additional information, contact Nicholas King at nicholas-king@olivecrest.org or 562.977.6964.

Inland Communities

04/01/2019
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

42-580 Caroline Ct., Suite A, Palm Desert, CA 92211-0815

For more information, contact Laurel Henderson at laurel-henderson@olivecrest.org or 951.300.1189.

Desert Communities

04/03/2019
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

42-580 Caroline Ct., Suite A, Palm Desert, CA 92211-0815

For more information, contact Laurel Henderson at laurel-henderson@olivecrest.org or 951.300.1189.

Nevada

03/04/2019 – 04/04/2019
8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

4285 North Rancho Drive, Suite 160, Las Vegas, NV 89130.

For more information, contact Evelyn Kovacevich at evelyn-kovacevich@olivecrest.org or 702.835.1907.

Pacific Northwest

04/01/2019 – 04/05/2019
8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

2500 116th Ave. NE, Ste. 1, Bellevue, WA 98004

Easter baskets should be gender and age-specific, but could consist of items such as a coloring book and crayons, stickers, a small toy, a couple pieces of candy, bubbles, etc.

For more information, please contact Susanna Kind at susanna-kind@olivecrest.org.

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!

Inland Empire Teens Enjoy New Activities—and New Opportunities for Growth

Inland Empire Teens Enjoy New Activities—and New Opportunities for Growth

Every day, at-risk kids and teens get the support they need through counseling, safety, and more…because of your support. New activities can play a part in healing, as well—and some of our group home teens have been tapping into their creative side by writing and putting together their own newsletter, The Olive Crest Press. The articles share their learning adventures—as well as some insights they have gathered along the way.

One young man wrote about a mountain trip, saying, “The reason I went to this place was not because of how it looked, or if there were girls there…I went up there to meet God, to allow Him to find me. I was lucky to have the opportunity to go up to that mountain….He did find me.”

Another shared an experience on a boat trip: “The journey back is never a disappointment, but rather a lesson in disguise and everybody for one reason or another seems to understand that at the end.…The crazy thing is even though we’re going to do the same thing next month, the experience is gonna be totally different. That’s because sailors adjust their sails.”

These experiences and the opportunities for growth that they offer would not be possible without your support. Thank you!