13-year-old Jenny (second from left) and her Olive Crest housemates
One of Jenny’s earliest memories was going into her parents’ room and discovering her dad beating her mother. “He had her down on the floor and was pounding her with his fists,” Jenny recalls. “Her face was all bloody.”
When Jenny’s parents divorced, things didn’t get much better. Jenny and her sister stayed with their mother. “She was a mean drunk,” Jenny remembers.
Desperately seeking safety
Home was not a safe place for Jenny. “I ran away from home for the first time when I was nine,” she said. Over the next few years, she ran away several more times.
Eventually, by God’s grace, Jenny wound up at Olive Crest. She experienced love and kindness for the first time. She even had her first birthday party there.
Just before she turned 13, Jenny went to summer camp. It was here that Jenny heard about the love of Jesus and was baptized in the lake. She was thrilled with her new life.
Jenny (now) with her husband and children
A new family for Jenny
Jenny’s experience in an Olive Crest home had a dramatic impact on her. This time helped shape the rest of her life, ins
tilling in her a sense of community and values. She learned that God loved her, and she began to trust people again.
Today, Jenny is married to a loving man named Tony. She gives Olive Crest much of the credit. “Olive Crest gave me so many tools for living a healthy life, and I will be forever grateful.”
For Ruby, memories of a childhood home were a vacant house her parents broke into. “It was not the kind of place where anyone should live,” said Ruby.
A heartbreaking childhood
Ruby survived on things like sour milk. She slept on a mattress on the floor, without sheets or anything to cover her when nights were cold. Her parents were addicted to drugs and alcohol, so she was often fending for herself.
By the time Ruby was 6 years old, she was caring for two baby sisters: Stephanie, who was 1, and Jessica, who was an infant. She remembers being so hungry she sometimes ate the powder that was supposed to go into their formula.
Then one day, a neighbor saw that the girls were outside, poorly dressed and barefoot, and called for help. That very day, the girls were removed from their home.
Ruby spent the next few years in and out of seven homes. “I was always angry,” she says, “and I took it out on the parents and the other kids.”
But finally, she was connected to Olive Crest.
Ruby’s forever family
One day, Ruby heard her Olive Crest parents talking about adopting her. “That’s when I knew they weren’t going to love me less because I was acting up.”
To Ruby’s delight, her family later adopted Jessica. Stephanie was also adopted by an Olive Crest family, and the sisters all see each other at least once a month.
Ruby is so thankful for her wonderful new family—and friends of Olive Crest, like you.
From April 1–12, our partners at Food4Less and Foods Co. raised awareness and funds to support Olive Crest through our Child Abuse Stops Here® campaign. Customers were given the opportunity to donate at checkout to help abused children find safe, loving homes. Nearly $202,000 was raised through the generosity and compassion of our local community members.
This will mean hundreds of children’s lives will be transformed, and the cycle of abuse will be broken. Thank you to our partners and donors for seeing the need and being a part of the solution!
Summer has always been a special season for Scott and Aubrey, who met at a Christian summer camp when they were teenagers. Fast forward a few years — they still make the most of the summer months now with their six adopted children.
None of these kids got off to a good start in life, but you wouldn’t know it when you see how happy they are now. Siblings Angelina and Jameson (ages 13 and 12) were abandoned at a public beach by their mother, who had serious mental health issues. And Jackson was horribly abused. Before Aubrey and Scott took him into their home, he had been in the hospital for two weeks with nine broken ribs and two brain bleeds. Aubrey’s voice drops to a whisper as she thinks about what he endured. She can’t stand thinking about what her little boy went through. The youngest three were left at the hospital after they were born to mothers with substance abuse issues.
With Olive Crest’s help — and yours — the Ashfords have loved these children back from the brink.
Surrounded by Prayer
There are also two foster children, Jason and Hudson. Hudson, who is 6 months old, was welcomed into the family several months ago and has been hospitalized several times since then. He has a number of health issues related to his birth mother’s addictions and his premature birth. Doctors are currently running tests to determine the best course of treatment to keep him healthy and strong. Meanwhile, the family is active in their church, and Hudson is surrounded by prayer.
Aubrey says she has known from the time she was a little girl that she wanted to adopt children someday, but she also wanted kids of her own. That wasn’t to be. After nine years of marriage and a number of fertility treatments, she discovered she could not conceive. Of course, this was deeply painful, especially for a woman who loved and wanted children. “But God had already planted the idea of adoption in my mind, so I felt He was preparing for me to adopt.”
The Ashfords first heard about Olive Crest through a promotion at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. Then when they called a friend in the Los Angeles area to ask for a recommendation, she also mentioned Olive Crest. Aubrey says, “It was faith-based, which meant a lot to us.”
She adds, “Olive Crest is so great! From the very start, they have been so supporting and comforting. If there’s anything we need, I can call them, and they are totally ready to help.” She starts naming all the people at Olive Crest who have been such a help to her. “There’s Christy…and Jessica…and Patty….”
She recalls one time when she was in the hospital with Hudson, who was in isolation. “Patty showed up with a Starbucks for me…put her mask and her gown on and sat and visited with me for a long time. We talked and prayed and laughed together. It was just phenomenal!”
When asked if she has one favorite memory of her experiences as an adoptive mother, Aubrey says, “There are so many.” After thinking about it for a moment, she says, “A few months after we adopted Angelina, she and I were alone one day, and I asked her how she was doing. She was only a little girl, but she said, ‘I’m good. You know, I really like having you as my mom. You make me feel safe and loved, and I’m getting all my needs met.’ How could I ever forget something like that?”
How indeed? Thank you for making such moments possible for children like Angelina, and moms like Aubrey. Every day, you are ensuring kids are getting the love and safety they so desperately need.
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!” ®
*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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Tiffany’s younger years were filled with abuse, neglect, and fear. Her parents had a crippling addiction to meth and Tiffany had to be removed from her home, spending most of her childhood in and out of the child welfare system. Tiffany was thrilled when, at 13, she found out she would be reunited with her mom. But her mother hadn’t changed, and soon Tiffany realized she would never get the love she needed. Instead, Tiffany said, “My mother showed me how to smoke meth. She popped it right in my mouth and lit it, and I was hooked.”
Desperate for a Way Out
“By the time I was 14, I was an everyday addict. When my mother didn’t have her drugs, she was angry and abusive. She’d beat me, physically. We were squatting, dirty, and homeless.” Tiffany attempted to end her life with an overdose — but she survived, and her addiction became even worse.
That’s when she met the abusive man who became the father of her two children. They lived in abandoned buildings with no running water or electricity. Tiffany was in and out of jail. In fact, when she gave birth to her daughter, she was handcuffed to a hospital bed with a corrections officer counting between contractions.
She wanted to get her life straightened out. But almost as soon as she was released from jail, she was back to her old habits with her children in tow: Charlie, 2, and her baby girl, Brianna.
She knew she had to change…for the sake of her little ones.
She called her grandmother, who explained there were two places she could get the help she needed. The first was a rescue mission that had a year-long program to help people break free from addictions. The second was Olive Crest.
Tiffany contacted Olive Crest, and staff connected her with a volunteer Safe Family that would take care of her kids while she enrolled in the mission’s program. She says, “It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, strapping my two kids into some strange man’s car and watching them drive away. But looking back, it was all for them.”
“ I started to learn how to be a mother.”
Tiffany’s Olive Crest team developed a plan to reunite her with her children. When she met with the family hosting her kids, she could tell immediately that they were on her side.
“I reached a real turning point when my host dad, Bill, asked me a question no one else had ever asked before: ‘Can I pray for you?’”
Tiffany also watched how Leslie, her host mom, showed love and compassion to her children. “And I started to learn how to be a mother to my own kids. They took me to church with them.
Along the way, Leslie taught me how to budget and save money, and about the importance of being self-sufficient.”
Finding a Family, a New Life, and a Future Free From Abuse
Tiffany says, “In Olive Crest’s Safe Families program, I didn’t just find a safe house for my kids. I found a family. I found the beginning of a new life. I’m thankful every day that my kids are healthy and doing well — that Olive Crest helped break the cycle of abuse. I have sole custody. I live in a three-bedroom apartment. I work a full-time job and am slowly working on a degree in accounting.” She has been clean and sober for five years.
Tiffany hopes to someday use her own experience to help other young women caught up in addiction and abuse. “Without Olive Crest — and the people like you who sacrifice to support their work — my story would have turned out very differently.