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.”
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.
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.
Rhonda Tagge, National Development Director (left), with the team of Angels wives who helped revamp child care rooms for Olive Crest in Orange County.
Let’s hear a rousing cheer for the “Angels Wives Team”! These gracious ladies recently came to our office in Orange County and spent hours redecorating our therapy and child care rooms. They did a wonderful job making both spaces feel more homey and cheerful; they will be a blessing for the kids who come here. A special thanks to Mariel Perez for heading up the project, along with all the rest of the Los Angeles Angels wives crew! Thank you for showing that your husbands are not the only Angels in town!
Harbour Rod and Reel Club, a Huntington Harbor-based group whose members encourage the art of angling with rod, reel, and line, recently took a group of Olive Crest kids out on the water for a day of fishing, camaraderie, and fun. The group took off from Dana Point, which for many on board, was a first-time ocean experience. The boys learned basic technique, good sportsmanship, and teamwork from the experienced fishermen, while enjoying the fresh air and exhilaration of reeling in their first catch. Through this outreach, the Road and Reel Club members look forward to giving young people a chance to experience something they are passionate about. At the same time, if they can instill a love for being out on the ocean while teaching the basics of cooperation and conservation, the lessons learned can be life-changing.
Teens had fun with makeup donated by Point Hope this past year, along with their generous donation of water bottles, which were given to our kids for school.
Everyone supporting the kids and teens at Olive Crest helps transform lives! Today, we’d like to send special thanks to Delilah, host of the “Lights Out with Delilah” radio show in the Pacific Northwest, and her foundation, Point Hope, which focuses on foster care. This past year, kids and teens at Olive Crest enjoyed hundreds of makeup donated by Point Hope. Point Hope also donated water bottles that went to our kids as they headed back to school. We are so excited to partner with the fine organizations and people who help benefit the children and teens we serve!
All of us at Olive Crest are so grateful for donors like you who put smiles on kids’ faces! We’re giving a special shout-out to Food Finders and Bellflower Brethren Church for their time and generosity. Thanks to these generous folks, Olive Crest families will now have access to free nutritious food on a weekly basis. Food Finders – an organization that links donated food to pantries and shelters in order to bridge the hunger gap in our communities – made the connection with Whole Foods 365 in Long Beach and Sprouts in Lakewood to deliver fresh veggies, fruit, bread, and other basics to all of our programs each week.
And in other news, Bellflower Brethren Church provided 10 volunteers to repaint our child care room where little ones can play while their moms and dads are in parenting classes, group support, or counseling. We are so thankful for the blessing of donors like you who give so generously to help kids and families become healthy, productive citizens. Smiles all around!
The generosity of Lennar Las Vegas Homes and all our other backpack donors made 200 kids happy with new backpacks.
School supplies, shoes, and brand new backpacks are the stuff of a great new school year. But many Olive Crest kids have never had these basics. That all changed this August when 200 backpacks were given out, putting big smiles on small faces. Jose says, “Thanks for giving me the shoes and backpack. I am happy that I can get these things, so thank you so much.” And Alonso says, “Thank you for everything for school. And thank you for helping my brother!”
These small things make a huge difference in building confidence and self-worth for our kids. Thanks to Lennar Las Vegas Homes, Mountaintop Faith Ministries, Capstone Brokerage, and all of you who donated. Your generosity is such a blessing!
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!
A big thank you to Foodfinders and Bellflower Brethren Church for their time and generosity!
Olive Crest families will be provided with food on a weekly basis because Foodfinders connected us with Whole Foods 365 in Long Beach and Sprouts in Lakewood. Basic needs such as food are essential to improving lives!
Bellflower Brethren Church provided 10 volunteers, who helped clean our gift room and repaint the child care room. Our child care room is used while parents are in parenting classes, group support, and therapy. An organized workplace makes for comfortable meetings and accomplishing tasks efficiently!
We are so thankful for our donors and volunteers—you make a difference in so many lives.