“Food for Thought” Prepares Young Adults for the Future

“Food for Thought” Prepares Young Adults for the Future

Several times over the past year, Olive Crest’s Chaplaincy program* has worked to hold periodic “Food for Thought” meetings with young adults ages 18 to 22 preparing for life as self-sufficient adults.  They are invited to dinner and discussion about a topic related to successful independent living (e.g., anger management, dating, honesty/integrity, school shooting, finances).

It is amazing to see young adults open up about their dreams, values, fears and plans for the future.  Without fail, the group offers great insight beyond the discussion points prepared by the staff leading the discussion.

These young adults are survivors and are intelligent! When given a little nudge in a positive direction, we learn that they are very thoughtful and aware that their decisions greatly influence their success in life.

This is one of countless efforts taking place with children, youth, adults and families at Olive Crest. And we are grateful that through your support we can continue to truly “Make a Difference, One Life at a Time!” ®

See Chaplain Frank Fried’s full article about “Food for Thought.”

*Our Chaplaincy program at Olive Crest serves addresses and encourages the religious/spiritual needs of Olive Crest staff, as well as the children and families we serve. All Chaplaincy-related efforts are completely voluntary and receive no government funding.

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Volunteers Make All the Difference for Kids in Crisis

Volunteers Make All the Difference for Kids in CrisisThanks to volunteers at Eastside Church, our group homes and Olive Crest Academy now feel even more welcoming to kids and teens.

On March 9, more than 75 volunteers from Eastside Church spent an entire day sprucing up Olive Crest Academy and our teen group homes. They painted, replaced artwork and banners, and repaired rain damage at the Academy. The team also installed new closets at one of our other properties. These improvements and repairs will help our teens and students stay organized and focused on the road ahead, feeling confident that the community is supporting them. When the community surrounds children in crisis with practical support, they know they are valued and can achieve a rich and productive future. Thank you to all of you who bless our kids!

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“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.

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

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.

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Basic Needs Met Through In-Kind Donations

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In-kind donations can make a world of difference! Here, Ronic Tatum, Darylyn Farris, and Nia League of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Cerritos Alumnae Chapter, drop off baby items.

Do you ever wonder how you can get involved, and help abused and neglected children, and at-risk families? Well, consider providing for a family or child’s basic needs. These simple things all contribute to preventing abuse and keeping families stable. We want to give special thanks to some special supporters in Los Angeles: Girl Scout Troop 4006 for putting together 100 hygiene kits, Delta Theta Sigma for collecting pull-ups and baby wipes, and Girl Scout Troop 16085 for building a new bookshelf and donating books to our Family Resource Center. You are making a life-changing difference in our community!

Pastor’s Luncheon Tackles Los Angeles Child Welfare Crisis

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Attendees knelt in prayer at the luncheon to ask for guidance in making a difference for children in Los Angeles County.

At the end of January, 330 pastors and church leaders gathered at the Dream Center in Los Angeles to discuss the county’s out-of-control foster care crisis. The largest child welfare population in the country, more than 34,000 children are currently in the Los Angeles County system. The theme of this 2nd Annual Greater Los Angeles Pastor’s Luncheon was mobilizing church congregations to be a significant part of the solution. Anne Moore , Ministry Lead and Foster Parent, Parkcrest Church; Barbara Sunofsky, Families Pastor, Long Beach Christian Fellowship; Dr. Matt Jones, Pastor, Del Rey Church; Jen Toledo, Pastor, Expression 58; and Geremy Dixon, Pastor, Center of Hope shared what’s possible, based on how their churches are engaging in this effort. Nick Vujicic, guest speaker from Life without Limbs, called church leaders to take action, and Bobby Cagle, Director of Children and Family Services in Los Angeles County, affirmed the urgency for the community to get involved.

Thank you to the Dream Center, Stonefire Catering, Pacific Crossroads Church, Hope for LA, America’s Christian Credit Union, and Storyville Coffee for the support and contributions toward this event. To find out more about how your church can get involved, contact Rebekah Weigel at rebekah-weigel@olivecrest.org.

A Special Valentine’s Day Treat for Olive Crest in Los Angeles

A Special Valentine’s Day Treat for Olive Crest in Los Angeles

Did you have a Happy Valentine’s Day? We sure did! On that special day of love, our LA office received a welcome visit by members of the Cerritos High School National Honor Society, who created beautiful Valentine’s Day cards to encourage the children and families we serve. The result was dozens of happy smiles from our kids and families. Thanks to the Cerritos National Honor Society and all of you who share your love with us — not only on Valentine’s Day but all year long.

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

Kids and Families in Los Angeles are Thankful…for You!

Kids and Families in Los Angeles are Thankful…for You!

The holiday season may officially be over, but we are still overflowing with gratitude for all the ways the Los Angeles community showed at-risk children and young adults that they are loved. From the youngest little one to the oldest teen and young adult, we pray that a sense of hope, love, and family is felt in the hearts and minds of all involved in this special kind of joy.

Olive Crest in Los Angeles Holiday Party

Thank you to Park Crest Christian church, who not only hosted more than 200 Olive Crest kids & families for our annual Christmas party but also provided 31 volunteers. Every child went home with a gift and was given the opportunity to participate in fun activities and get their pictures taken with Santa. SoCal Helpful Honda even came bearing fun gingerbread houses for everyone to put together and take home. What a special day!

Operation Independence Christmas Party

We also can’t say thank you enough to all the churches that came together for our Christmas party for Olive Crest teens and young adults. On December 23, they gathered at Olive Crest in Los Angeles to enjoy a Christmas party crafted just for them! So many blessings took place this day!

  • Praise Church West Covina, Impact City, and Eastside Bellflower provided scrumptious food, cookies, hot cocoa and coffee for the evening.
  • Chung and Laura from King’s Church provided $40 Target Gift cards for all the Olive Crest young adults.
  • Oasis LA provided them with a $50 gift card and gift bags.
  • 7th Street Campus provided additional gift cards to really bless our youth.

We are encouraged that long past the swell of the season, this impact will be felt. Thank you for helping Olive Crest put smiles on so many faces! We couldn’t do it without you!

Countless Families were Blessed by Your Giving Over the Holidays!

Countless Families were Blessed by Your Giving Over the Holidays! 2

No child deserves to feel unloved or forgotten on Christmas. So from giving a single gift to adopting an entire family, members of the Olive Crest community outdid themselves during the 2018 holiday season! Through our annual Be the Miracle campaign, thousands of toys, gift cards, and Christmas wishes were granted for Olive Crest kids and families. For example:

  • In Los Angeles, 47 families in our Adopt-a-Family program received day-to-day necessities as well as gifts they otherwise would not have been able to purchase.
  • In the Desert and Inland Communities, generous donors like Agape Salon; Cypress Wealth Services; High Tower Advisors; Holstrom, Block & Parke; the Grove Church; and Monster Energy contributed to Be the Miracle. Plus, Toyota of Riverside, Hub International, and the City of Riverside went even further to bring joy by sponsoring specific families.
  • Kids in the Pacific Northwest wore bright smiles when they received hundreds of gifts donated from churches, companies, and individuals in the community. Special thanks to all the volunteers who helped make sure Be the Miracle events ran smoothly, as well as those from New Life Church. One foster mom mentioned, “It was special to celebrate with ‘sister families’….It was wonderful to see so many foster-friends who have given us supplies, prayed for us, or encouraged us along the way. It was a family reunion of sorts!”

 

Because of your compassion, Christmas was special for thousands of children and teens who need to know that someone cares, that they are important, and that their dreams matter. Thank you!