Serving on the Street to Help Kids


Our 90th Anniversary brings us another great volunteer who has helped with our largest fundraiser and community event. Eight years ago, Shawna Picker was scouring the Internet to find a place to volunteer. She came across Friendly Center’s volunteer opportunities to work in our booths at the Orange International Street Fair on Labor Day weekend. After her first year with us at Street Fair, Shawna learned of Friendly Center’s many programs for less-fortunate families and wanted to stay involved. For the last eight years Shawna has faithfully committed to volunteering at Street Fair and, in addition, at our Holiday Outreach Party in December.

Every Labor Day weekend Shawna sees familiar faces from Street Fairs past and meets new friends too, helping Friendly Center sell Mexican food, beer and chili pepper necklaces at our largest fundraiser of the year (over 4,000 tacos sold!). In turn, she loves interacting with the hundreds of children and families we serve with toys and food during the Holiday Outreach Party. When asked why she comes back to both events each year she says “I have a heart to serve and I have a heart for the kids.”

If you happen to work alongside her at Street Fair, she will be sure to tell you about the Holiday Outreach Party. While volunteering can be fun and rewarding, it is often more rewarding when you remember why you volunteer. For Shawna, it is knowing she is helping many children in need by helping Friendly Center each year. She not only gives of her time, but gives a piece of her heart to kids that need a little hope in their lives. What may have started as a simple Internet search eight years ago, has become an outlet for her servant’s heart.

Creative Volunteering


As Friendly Center continues to celebrate it’s 90th Anniversary, our focus this month is once again on another exemplary volunteer, Janis Lopes. She began her time with Friendly Center fifteen years ago serving on the Board of Directors while she worked at Santiago Community College Adult Learning Center. Janis quickly became involved with recruiting other volunteers to help in Friendly Center’s booths at the Orange International Street Fair and our annual Holiday Outreach for the community. Over time, her role as just a recruiter turned into managing the volunteers for these two large events which used a combined total of 200 volunteers.

Janis also became involved in the annual golf tournament by creatively assembling the auction baskets used at the event. She has done this for the last thirteen years and continues to do so, despite her move to San Diego two years ago. When asked why she has continued she responded, “I have a creative side and the baskets are fun for me. It’s a task I enjoy doing”. This year for our 16th Annual Golf Tournament she created 22 baskets, filling them with donated gift certificates, wines, and prizes.

Though her time as a volunteer may be different than our other volunteers, it is still crucial to what we do. The time spent on managing the volunteers for our largest fundraiser and on creating enticing auction baskets, translates into many dollars raised for Friendly Center over the years. She devoted herself to making Friendly Center succeed, so we could continue the work in helping struggling families year after year. We appreciate her, her time, and her creative abilities.

“Volunteer anywhere. There’s always a way you can help that you can never imagine.”
– Janis Lopes

We Heart Volunteers


On Saturday, May 31, Friendly Center held a Volunteer Appreciation Lunch to thank all of its volunteers for the 2013-2014 academic year. It was a celebratory event as we appreciated those that have helped us serve so many families over the course of the year. Of our 268 volunteers annually, those in attendance represented our after-school tutoring, our Holiday distributions, our booths at the Orange Street Fair, and our regular food distribution programs. Other volunteers included those that help with IT, cooking classes, general repair work, and office assistance.

A special message was given by the Mayor of Orange, Teresa “Tita” Smith. She offered some historical information on volunteer projects that have helped communities over the years. It brought to mind the good that can be accomplished when people work together. She encouraged the volunteers to keep serving their communities and to get others involved as well.

The annual Volunteer of the Year award was given to Laura Rothafel for her volunteer work for the last 17 years. Her support has included serving as Friendly Center’s Board President on the Board of Directors, volunteering at all Friendly Center events, and volunteering her time as a Supervisor for our Counseling Trainees. Cathy Seelig, Executive Director, was brought to tears when reading a list of all the areas Laura has served in at Friendly Center over the years.

It was an honor to recognize this past year’s volunteers and we look forward to another great year. The event brought volunteers together and gave them the opportunity to share the areas they have volunteered. Thank you volunteers for your dedication and support.

Hammering Away at Volunteering


Meet Neale Davis, a retired mechanical engineer and a volunteer to Friendly Center. Neale began his experience with Friendly Center when he came with friends from church to help paint Friendly Center’s offices. Having arrived late and missing most of the painting excitement, Neale said he would return the next day to paint the kitchen. To the office staff’s surprise he came back. While painting, Neale saw all the families that came to receive help and how much time the staff took in caring for everyone. He realized he could make a difference by supporting the staff and, from that day on, Neale returned several times a week to take on any “handyman” projects. He has been doing this now for 12 years.

Over the years, Neale has volunteered his time and resources fixing, painting, moving, and even building furniture. Projects include building shelves for the main food pantry, extending the life of tables used in tutoring, installing doors and locks, repairing office equipment, providing outdoor lighting for our Turkey Basket distributions, the list goes on and on. He has been present over years as Friendly Center has expanded, lending a helping hand with moving furniture and opening new offices.

When asked why he has continued to help Friendly Center, Neale says “It’s all about people helping people. I like the staff so it makes me want to come back.” We are very appreciative of Neale and his servant’s heart over the years. He has helped make what we do better, which allows us to be available for more families in need. If you’re here and you happen to see him, say hello because you never know when he’ll make his routine stop at Friendly Center.

Fun Days of Service


Friendly Center’s Spring Fun Days have been a tradition for the communities it serves for the last 15 years. Over the years, an estimated 10,000 Easter baskets have been collected and distributed to less-fortunate kids in Orange County. What started as one event at one location, has multiplied to include all locations Friendly Center serves. But Friendly Center has had some help along the way to make these Spring Fun Days very special and one group that has helped is the Kiwanis Club of Orange. 

The Kiwanis Club of Orange has been involved with the Spring Fun Days for the last twelve years, wearing many hats as they have come to serve. They have donated of their resources and their time by doing everything from cooking hot dogs, to distributing Easter baskets, to popping popcorn, to even cooking a pancake breakfast for our morning event. One year, to the kids’ delight, they provided an exotic animal petting zoo which included zebras, birds, and turtles. Member Shannon Tucker says, “We do what we do because there’s a need, and we can bring people together to help those in need.” 

In addition to their support for Friendly Center, the club stays busy with a packed calendar of service events. Recently they provided a field trip for 50 first grade students from Taft Elementary in Orange. The students had the opportunity to visit the El Modena Nature Center where they learned about plants and animals. Kiwanis has also been involved with drug awareness programs, scholarship programs, and adopt-a-family programs, all with the intent of helping those in need. 

When asked why they have continued to help Friendly Center with Spring Fun Days every year, member Debbie Booth said, “It falls in line with our mission of serving children, that’s what we’re all about.” Friendly Center is very appreciative for their hard work throughout the years. Their contributions to the community may come in a variety of ways, but one thing remains the same and that’s their willingness to serve others.

Boxes of Hope


In continuing with our 90 year celebration, this month we highlight Lind Cook from First United Methodist Church of Orange. 

At the age of 86, Lind is almost the same age of Friendly Center and both are still making a difference in the community. What began as Lind helping a fellow church member fill boxes of food, has now become Lind’s project for the last 20 years. Lind provides empty boxes to church members, along with a list of items to include, which they return to Lind. He organizes and delivers them to Friendly Center where the staff distributes them. The emergency food boxes are given to families in crisis on their first visit, then connected to our other food programs.

Each 12 inch by 12 inch box contains enough food for a family of four for two days. Items in the boxes include canned goods, pasta, peanut butter, powdered milk, and hot cereal. Friendly Center’s Food Coordinator, Donna Singh, says there is one special item that Lind includes in each box. “Dish soap. We might not consider it to be something special, but to a struggling family, it’s huge.”

Lind didn’t know that one day he would be organizing this loving project, but he humbly says he doesn’t mind and it isn’t very taxing for him. When asked why he has kept doing it all these years he says, “I know that there are people in need, and I know I need to do something about it.”

We are grateful for Lind and his support for this program. His act of service, though not showy by any means, has certainly not gone unnoticed. Lind may never know the number of lives he has touched, nor will many families ever know the life that has touched theirs.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. – Winston Churchill

90 Years, 90 Miles


The year 2014 marks Friendly Center’s 90th Anniversary. Through the years, as we have expanded to serve more families, so has the number of people that have given of their time and gifts. As we celebrate our history, we also want to celebrate the people helping shape the future of Friendly Center. Our Monthly Highlights for 2014 will focus on such individuals and groups.

This month we highlight Laura Rothafel who has volunteered with Friendly Center for over 16 years. Laura began serving as a Board Member where she later became Board President, but her service didn’t stop there. Laura purchased an Easter Bunny costume and began appearing at all of our Spring Fun Day events as our official Easter Bunny. Every year she gives her entire Labor Day weekend to volunteer in our booths at the Orange International Street Fair, from open to close. She is instrumental in the success of our Holiday Outreach, sorting through thousands of toys and hosting holiday fundraising events. In addition to all of this, Laura, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, volunteers her professional time as Clinical Supervisor for our mental health counselors at Friendly Center. 

Laura’s most recent endeavor started when she walked 57 miles to celebrate her mom’s life, who died at the age of 57 from cancer. This accomplishment gave her the idea to honor Friendly Center’s 90th Anniversary by walking 90 miles each month in 2014. In return, various family members and friends will donate $90 towards Friendly Center. When asked why she has continued to support Friendly Center after all these years she says, “I like what Friendly Center stands for…and by helping others in my community, I’m helping to make it a great community”. 

Laura’s service goes above and beyond what’s listed here and she’s an ideal example of what it means to give of oneself. There’s no telling how many lives she has touched through her acts of kindness and we thank her for her support and devotion to Friendly Center.

A Season of Giving Hope

The holiday season is the busiest time of year for most, especially at Friendly Center. It begins in November with the Turkey Basket Drive. This year, caring donors gave turkeys and food which provided 432 low-income families with food to make a Thanksgiving feast of their own at home. These families truly had reason to give thanks this season because compassionate people gave from their hearts.

Food drives and toy drives were in full swing leading up to the Holiday Outreach Parties. A total of 727 low-income families registered to take part in receiving toys and food for the holidays. This was done with the help of donors and 175 volunteers that sorted through toys, distributed food, assembled crafts, prepared lunch, and even assisted Santa. It truly takes an army and this army brought holiday cheer into the homes of many needy families.

December events concluded with the adopt-a-family program. This year 50 of our neediest families were adopted. As adopters dropped off gifts from their adopted families’ wish list the generosity was overwhelming and, in turn, as families picked up their gifts they have been overwhelmed with emotion. Parents shedding tears knowing their children will receive gifts this year, was followed by repeated words of gratitude. Tangible joy filled the air with each pick-up.

We at Friendly Center feel blessed to witness what makes this time of year so special—people giving from their hearts and people receiving with abundant appreciation. We truly are appreciative for every person who donated their time, donated food and toys, and donated financially. We thank you for making this season bright for struggling families.

Holiday Events

Food Distributions See Increase

Over the last couple of months, all Friendly Center sites have seen an increase in the number of families that have come to our Mobile Pantry food distributions. On average we usually have about 150 needy families attend, but in the last couple of months we’ve seen numbers reaching over 200 families.These food distributions come with about 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of food from Second Harvest Food bank, which we receive once a month at our various sites. For so many of these families, the food helps them with the tight budgets they have. And since we never know what type of food we might receive, some items can be a nice surprise for the families, even something like milk.

Our volunteers have been a big help at these distributions. We’ve had volunteers from Eaton Inc, Papa Murphy’s, Taco Bell, National Charity League of Orange/Villa Park, and Chapman University Honors Society. They’ve come with willing hearts and hands to distribute food to the many families, sometimes in the heat and sometimes in the cold.

Food distributions

Volunteers Giving Time, Having Fun

early two hundred volunteers ended their summer by volunteering in our booths at the Orange International Street Fair over this past Labor Day weekend. As our biggest fundraiser, it is always a very busy weekend as we sell many tacos, nachos. churros, horchata, and beer. Even in the heat, our volunteers worked hard and still manged to have fun.

We want to thank all the volunteers who gave of their time to make our booth sush a success. A special thanks for the groups of volunteers that came to us from Feed the Dream Foundation, NCL of Orange/Villa Park, US Bank, and Yorba Linda United Methodist Church.

The money we raised from this event will help low-income children and their families overcome the challenges that come from living in poverty. Kids will have a friendly place to get help with homework after-school, moms & dads can attend classes to learn better parenting skills, and families will have food on the table for another day. So with a warm appreciation, we thank our volunteers.

To see more photos from the event, visit our album on Facebook.