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!

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.

Stopping the Cycle of Abuse—Tiffany’s Transformation

Stopping the Cycle of Abuse—Tiffany’s Transformation 1

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.

Instead, I can say,

“child abuse stopped here.

Big Game Gives Big Thrills

Big Game Gives Big Thrills

You can count on a thrilling game whenever USC and UCLA meet each other on the football field. This year was no exception, with the Trojans claiming a 28-23 victory. And thanks to our friends at the Leela Project, many boys from our residential homes were on hand when the teams squared off at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 18.

What an awesome experience for these young men, as well as the staff. Many were seeing their first ever college football game, and it was a thrill they will never forget. Thank you to Dom from the Leela Project for providing such a wonderful experience for our kids!

A Feast for Our Children and Families

A Feast for Our Children and Families

Sixty-two Olive Crest families here in our Inland Communities enjoyed a delicious dinner on Thanksgiving, thanks to Summit Water of Life Church in Fontana. The church delivered 62 food baskets to Olive Crest families and young adults. Each basket contained a $25 gift card from the church to cover the cost of a turkey, plus a variety of delicious food prepared with love by members of the congregation and wrapped to impress by the church youth group.

Our warmest thanks to everyone at Summit Water of Life Church. May you be blessed as you blessed others this Thanksgiving.

It’s a Celebration of Forever Families!

It’s a Celebration of Forever Families!

Announcing Olive Crest’s 2,500th Adoption

At Olive Crest, we believe every child needs a strong family, and adoption is just one of the ways caring people can provide that for abused and neglected children.

With that said, we’re thrilled to announce that a 4-year-old boy named Xavier has become the 2,500th child to find a forever family through Olive Crest. His new parents, Ruben and Melinda, first heard about Olive Crest through their church. They already had one son, Lorenzo, and knew they had more love to give. Initially, they planned to provide temporary care for children who would eventually be reunited with their biological parents.

Then they heard about Xavier, who was waiting for a foster or adoptive home. After meeting Xavier, Ruben and Melinda decided to become his foster parents and then quickly felt called to adopt him. Less than a year later, they stood in a Southern California courtroom, surrounded by family, friends, and Olive Crest staff, as Xavier became their son!

Thank you for all you’ve done to make it possible for Olive Crest to help 2,500 children like Xavier find loving forever families. What a blessing you are!

How Michael Found Purpose After a Life of Abuse

How Michael Found Purpose After a Life of Abuse

When you meet Michael Weitzman for the first time, it’s hard to believe he has endured so much pain and sorrow in his 21 years. His positive outlook, quick smile, and friendly demeanor could suggest images of a teen who was loved and given every opportunity to succeed.

Could this be the same person who, for most of his childhood, never had a true permanent home, and thought he would never find a place where he belonged? How did he get to where he is today?

When Michael was born, his mom was 18, alone, and struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. Immediately after Michael’s birth, she became pregnant with another son, Demetrius. Tragically, Demetrius died at the age of 3 months from sudden infant death syndrome. Michael says, “After my brother passed away, the police came to our home and found me all alone — sitting on the floor with a knife in my hand.” He was only about 2 years old.

Thus began Michael’s journey of years of instability and multiple temporary homes.

“I remember feeling so broken and hurt.”

It seemed that things might change when Michael went to live with his grandfather. Instead, he endured over two years of physical and sexual abuse before Social Services removed him.

Michael was then adopted into a caring family that seemed to be exactly what he longed for. But by this time, he had difficulty believing that anyone could really love him. The rejection he had endured caused him to be untrusting and rebellious. He tested the limits of his new parents’ love to the point where they gave up on him. At 15, he was once again alone in the world. “I remember feeling so broken and hurt. I just thought, what happens now? Where do I go from here?”

He then went to a facility that seemed more like a prison. Violent fights were common. He had to watch his back at all times. Even now, Michael shudders when he thinks about it. “I remember looking out that barred window, watching people driving by on the freeway and thinking, ‘Everyone is free except me.’ I didn’t dare to think that things would ever get better.”

A New Life. A Found Purpose.

By God’s grace and with your support, Olive Crest got involved in Michael’s life. He spent the next two-plus years in the safety and care of an Olive Crest residential home for teenagers, where he found what he desperately needed. Consistency. A nurturing environment. Unconditional love. Unwavering support. With Olive Crest’s help, he graduated from high school and landed his first two jobs.

He also had the constant guidance of a caring mentor. “Having a mentor like Chris was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Michael says. He was happier and more content than he had ever been — but he was still worried about the future. What would happen when he turned 18 and was on his own? One morning, he told Chris, “You know I trust God, and I believe that all this is under control, but I’m scared about the future.”

Michael smiled, saying, “He told me that his dad owned a business in Tulsa, and he could set me up with a job and a place to live.” With Olive Crest’s continued support, Michael moved to Tulsa. That was nearly three years ago. “And since I moved here, everything has been getting better and better.” After a year and a half working for his mentor’s family business, Michael started Weitzman Collective — a branding, design, and digital marketing firm that helps businesses develop logos, design websites, and engage with social media audiences.

His spirit and purpose renewed, Michael spent six months as a missionary in Quito, Ecuador, and now serves as one of the teaching pastors of his church, called The Church That Matters, in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. He frequently shares his story at other churches in the Tulsa area and at events hosted by organizations that work with children.

For Michael, his strong family came in the form of a healthy and safe group home with committed and caring staff to support and guide him. “I love to talk about the difference Olive Crest has made in my life,” he says. “I hate to think of where I’d be without them.”

“There are so many children out there who are lost. Olive Crest rescues the lost, binds up their wounds, and gives them hope for a better life.”