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.

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Summer of Learning

Summertime may not always be thought of as a time for education and learning, but that’s not the case at Friendly Center. For 144 low-income students in Orange, Placentia, and Garden Grove, Friendly Center helped them catch up on key academic areas they may have fallen behind on during the school year. This support helps them to retain what they need to know when they begin school in the fall and it certainly keeps them on the track for success. But it’s not all work and no play. Friendly Center understands that kids like to have fun too, so in addition to the reading times, math worksheets, and spelling quizzes, we incorporate fun crafts and recreation to keep the children involved in a variety of activities. Our volunteer tutors are also a great asset in teaching the students and encouraging them in their progress. We are grateful for the time they have dedicated to the students.

The students will be ending their summer program with us in a week, giving us just a couple weeks to prepare for the 450 students that come to our after-school programs. Since our kids come from struggling families, many cannot afford even basic school supplies. We want to keep our students focused on learning, not on what they don’t have, but we need your help.

If you would like to give school supplies for our education programs, simply call us at (714) 771-5300 to setup a drop-off time. Or to give financially, you can donate online here. Your gift will have a life-changing impact on a young student’s life.

Gifts for a Better Future

June is graduation month and every year Friendly Center awards high school seniors who will go on to a college or university with a small scholarship. Students are interviewed by members of Friendly Center’s Board of Directors and recipients are selected based on the family’s financial need and the student’s enrollment in a college, university, or trade school. Friendly Center aims to give students that are on the right path academically, but whose families are struggling financially, a fighting chance at succeeding and chasing their dreams. This year, scholarships went to the following students:

  • The Dick and Jeri Knox Award went to Lissette Carrera, a graduate of El Modena High School who will attend UCSD in the fall and Major in Biology.
  • The Connie Bridgman Award went to Matthew Velasquez, a graduate of El Modena High School who will attend Santiago Canyon College in the fall and major in Biology. He wants to become a paramedic.
  • The Fred Barrera Award went to Genesis Fuentes, a graduate of Richland High School who will attend Santiago Canyon College in the fall and would like to become an Optometrist.
  • And finally, a second Fred Barrera Award went to Kevin Kempis, a graduate of Orange High School who will attend Animal Behavior College in the fall and hopes to become a Veterinarian Technician.

As we help each of these students further their education, Friendly Center hopes that they will one day be successful leaders in their families and in their careers. By helping them now, we are helping them achieve a better future for themselves and their communities.

If you would like to donate towards any future scholarships and give to deserving students, donate online here or call us at (714) 771-5300. Your gift will have a life-changing impact on a young student’s life.

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Eaton Provides for 184 Families

On May 17th, the families at Friendly Center’s Orange North site received a special delivery of food thanks to the folks from Eaton’s Irvine offices. As many of you know, Friendly Center holds a Mobile Pantry food distribution twice each month (one in Orange and one in Placentia), each with about 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of food consisting of various produce and dry goods. However, each Mobile Pantry costs Friendly Center $250, so in order for all of our sites to have a Mobile Pantry we look for sponsors to host these great events.

Eaton, a global technology company, rose to the occasion and not only provided the funds needed for a Mobile Pantry, but they also provided volunteers to help distribute the food. Eleven employees from Eaton’s Irvine offices came eager and ready to help with the mass distribution of food to the less-fortunate families that arrived. There were 184 families that waited in line to receive the various foods that came, including some nice-sized watermelon.

We also want to thank Yorba Linda Methodist Church who helps to sponsor the Mobile Pantries that take place in the City of Placentia. They have supported that distribution for the last year and half and we couldn’t provide the food without them.

If you or your organization would like to sponsor a Mobile Pantry financially, or even send a group to help distribute, please let us know at (714) 771-5300.

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Cooking Class 101

As many of you might know, Friendly Center holds a Mobile Pantry food distribution twice each month; one in Orange and one in Placentia. At each Mobile Pantry we receive about 6,000 to 8,000 pounds of food consisting of various produce and dry goods. Sometimes as many as 225 families will come to the distribution. Now with the help of Feed the Dream Foundation, supported by Le Gourmet Kitchen, some of the families have received cooking classes on how to prepare the food that arrives from Mobile Pantry.

Chef Octavio of Feed the Dream Foundation hosts a class each month for families to attend and receive professional culinary instruction. He bases the cooking class on the food that is received at the Mobile Pantry that month. However, sometimes the food that arrives on the Mobile Pantry food truck may not be entirely familiar. We do receive staples such as potatoes and onions, but other times we receive items that aren’t quite as common like duran, yams, eggplant, and lychee. Families that have no food at home will take what they can get, even if that means taking a food not familiar to them. The class creates the perfect opportunity to learn how to prepare new foods.

On more than one occasion, we have received tofu, a food that many do not know how to cook. Some families passed on this wonderful protein, but at the cooking class Chef Octavio demonstrated several different ways to use it. One way was by turning it into a healthy dessert by pureeing it and adding a combination of orange juice and orange segments. Needless to say, the families are no longer afraid of tofu.

The cooking classes have been a hit as it creates a sense of community and it allows the families to learn how to cook more healthfully. We thank Chef Octavio and Feed the Dream Foundation for their continued support.

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And the Basket Total is 958!

958 baskets! We were thrilled with the community support we received this year for our Spring Fun Days. Our supporters brought a total of 958 baskets, each filled with candy, a small toy or book, and a hygiene item. Many children with baskets in hand, left with a big smile on their face, all due to our great donors. Whether you gave one basket or 100 baskets, each one was received with joy and we want to thank all our donors who showed their support in helping us exceed our goal!

This year we held three great events for children from low-income families. Each event had various crafts & activities, egg dying, a special appearance by the Easter bunny, and the basket distribution.

We want to extend a big appreciation to the Kiwanis Club of Orange for providing snacks, Orange Villa Bible Church for providing crafts and activities, and the City of Placentia for providing crafts and snacks. These three partners helped make each of our Spring Fun Days a success in the communities we serve. We couldn’t do it without them.

Together, we can do a lot to bring joy into the lives of underprivileged children in Orange County.

You can see more photos of the events on our Facebook page here.

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Kids With Little, Give A Lot to CHOC Kids

During the time of year when we handed out heart-shaped candy and flowers to our loved ones, students at Friendly Center’s after-school tutoring program encouraged other children staying at CHOC Children’s Hospital with handmade Valentine’s cards.

Students who attend the after-school program come from low-income families caught in the cycle of poverty and are there to receive help with homework. The craft lent itself to a discussion with the students that there are children in need who may not get to play with their friends and go to school like the rest of them. There was a lesson in not only thinking of others, but to remember kids their own age who are sick and hurting.

The Valentine’s Day cards were delivered to the hospital for distribution by one of our volunteer tutors, Melina Ross, a student at Chapman University. Ross and her fellow classmates came up with the idea. In the end, children from families with not a lot to give, gave from their hearts something priceless we all can afford: kindness and compassion.

Click here to see our article in the OC Register and a photo of the tutors delivering the cards.

Kids in after-school tutoring making Valentine's Cards for kids at CHOC Hospital.

Kids in after-school tutoring making Valentine’s Cards for kids at CHOC Hospital.

A New Year, A New Class

As we begin a new year, we are still very grateful for the support and hard work that went into making our holiday efforts such a success. Together you helped us serve 952 families for the holidays in Orange, Placentia, and Garden Grove. Thank you for your generosity and compassion to those who need it!

In January, Friendly Center started a new ESL class for the year at our now one-year-old site in Garden Grove. The class began due to a response from the community. In an article from our Fall 2012 mail newsletter, we interviewed a Vietnamese mom who came to us for help after she discovered we had programs for Vietnamese speaking individuals. She also enrolled her two children into our after-school tutoring since she was unable to help them with their schoolwork. Now she and 19 other moms are enrolled in our new ESL class that takes place two mornings each week at our Garden Grove site. Sign-ups for the class were posted and within just a couple days the class was full, with a waiting list that followed. The women, from various backgrounds, know the value in taking the class and come eager to learn.

This class, as well as all of our programs, is offered at no charge to low-income families to help them move forward out of poverty and provide something better for their kids. We’re looking forward to holding more classes such as this, as well as seeing this first group complete their class.

A group of moms in the ESL class.

A group of moms in the ESL class.