“Our goal is for the kids to be kids, to provide a place where they can have fun and enable them to form real relationships with people in the community.”  Lofty goal?  Nellie Hernandez of Orange County’s Social Services department doesn’t think so. 

Each month, this department hosts a life-giving event for a group of selected children specifically with a high trauma level. Often a part of the Foster System, they are without a source of lifelong support that a traditional family structure provides.  These kids have received little to no advocacy in their lives, and as a result, tend to resort to acting out.  

Nellie Hernandez is on a mission to have these youth connected to the community around them, for relationship, for mentorship, for companionship; and so far, that’s exactly what’s occurring. One child in particular, Sam, attended an event in the recent past that altered the course of her destiny.  In the midst of bouting depression, this at-risk youth rarely stepped foot out of the house, let alone out of bed, but attending these interactive events? Now that was made to be a priority. 

At this particular event Sam met a volunteer, Sandra, who was a PhD student and incredible hip-hop artist; she and Sam connected through this and formed a friendship. Soon after, Nellie was told that this happenstance friendship evolved into a mentorship full of purpose when Sandra drove her Sam down to the local community college and signed her up for her first semester of college. Nellie reports that she’s never seen the individual thrive like this, pursuing a future she can be so very proud of. This anecdote only scratches the surface of the multitude of stories she and other workers in the Social Service arena get to pay witness to--as brokenness is made whole again with the help of healthy, caring relationships. 

The greatest news however, is that we can be the ones to assist in this transitional process as the hearts of our at-risk youth are healed. Whether it be participating this upcoming Serve Day as we as a church link arms with the youth in need around us, or maybe you’d like to contribute your time or resources to the children Nellie sees living with severe trauma on the daily, the need for support is plenty.

The monthly events are put on by Social Services and anyone is welcome to attend the meeting, volunteer for or donate to the event itself. These special occasions always include an inspirational word from a speaker and range from a fun day of paddle boarding, to a special dinner at a restaurant, to attending a comedy night. Your help is surely needed in guaranteeing they go off without a hitch!

If you’d like to have a hand in supporting at-risk youth this coming Serve Day you can help host a carnival or volunteer at one of the local Title One schools in our area. Visit eastside.com/serveday for details. 

It’s in these small, but consistent ways, that we begin to communicate love and support to a generation that is in need of these tangible expressions of hope.