Parents Council

KidWorks Is A Family Affair For The Torres Family

Three-year-old Stephany Torres can’t yet tell you a whole lot about why she wants to join her brothers and sisters at KidWorks—she just knows it sure looks like tons of fun.

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Next year, she’ll be eligible to enroll in our state-licensed preschool, where she’ll learn colors, shapes, counting to 20 and maybe even how to write her name.  For now, she says that the KidWorks preschool holds out an irresistible allure:  “Toys!” she shouts, when asked what she most looks forward to.

Stephany’s parents—Jesus and Karina—head a family that embodies our hopes and dreams for the central Santa Ana community.  They are an especially close family and share KidWorks’ passion for instilling in children a love of learning, the arts, leadership and spiritual development.

All of their other children are active participants in KidWorks various programs:  Evelyn, 15; Jesse, 11; Ashley, 10; Andrew, eight and Alex, five.

Music and baseball are at the top of the list of the Torres’ favorite activities, and they find ample opportunity to enjoy both through KidWorks’ programs.

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Evelyn is an accomplished musician and singer who is part of our Avanti Music and Love in Music programs.  She is also an active member of our Youth Empowerment Network (YEN), a group of dedicated teens who develop, design and address issues that impact themselves, their families and their neighborhoods.  Also involved in Love in Music are Ashley, who is learning the violin; Jesse, who says playing the flute is the best way to relax after taking a grueling math test at school (he’s also a YEN member) and Andrew, who says the piano lets him express himself creatively.

Jesus is a dedicated father who coaches baseball and watches over his children when Karina is at the Dan Donahue Center attending Parent Advisory Council meetings or otherwise helping out.  Karina is also very active in making central Santa Ana a safer place.

Recently, she helped form a Neighborhood Watch group for the apartment complex where she and her family live.  The City of Santa Ana required that she secure a minimum of 10 signatures from her fellow tenants—so Karina rallied all the residents and got 30 to sign up.

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“When we walk in the neighborhood, we still have to pass by gangs and observe illegal drug use,” Karina says.  “The presence of these situations can start to seem normal, but it never should.  KidWorks is a place that reminds us of the limitless potential for good in our community.”

The Torres family has come to rely on KidWorks at all times.  For several years, Jesus could not find work due to a slowdown in the commercial and residential construction industry and was forced to take a job in Texas for eight months working on oil rigs.  At the time, Karina was pregnant with Alex.

“While I was away, KidWorks became a second home for my family,” Jesus recalls.  Adds Karina, “It takes time for me to build up trust, and I soon came to see that KidWorks would be there for us no matter how big or small a need my family might have.”

Says Sonia Rios-Guzman, our Parent Engagement Coordinator:  “Both Jesus and Karina constantly demonstrate to their children what it means to have a servant heart.  Our staff and volunteers are so delighted every time we see them walk through our doors.”

“It seems as though our family is always coming from or going to KidWorks,” Karina laughs.  We are grateful for the amazing ways KidWorks is making so many positive changes in the lives of our children, our family and our community. We are excited to see even more students and families served at KidWorks in 2018.

KidWorks wouldn’t have it any other way! 

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer

Be Of Good Cheer: Volunteers & Donations Needed For KidWorks Christmas Store

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For many of the central Santa Ana families KidWorks serves, being able to purchase Christmas gifts is not always financially possible.  Their limited funds go to rent and groceries.  That’s why the KidWorks Christmas store has been such a blessing for hundreds of families for 15 years. 

“What makes the store so special to these parents is that it offers them a sense of being able to provide for their families,” says Sonia Rios-Guzman, KidWorks’ Parent Engagement Coordinator.  “They are able to buy gifts for their children to make the holidays brighter.  With the expansion of the Dan Donahue Center, we are enrolling even more students into our programs, and we hope the Christmas store will bless even more families this year.”

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This year, the store will be open to serve families on Wednesday, Dec. 13 from 8 a.m. to noon and on Tuesday, Dec. 19th from 8 a.m. to noon and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

You can make the holidays a time of joy for these families by helping in two important ways:

1) Donate Gifts & Gift Cards:  Please bring your new, unwrapped items to KidWorks no later than Dec. 14.

2) Volunteer at the KidWorks Christmas store:  Help wrap gifts for the parents, and assist those needing help loading gifts into their vehicle or cart.

Interested in knowing more?  Please contact the KidWorks’ volunteer department at:  714-834-9400, extension 115.

Your help will help continue our 15-year tradition of creating holiday smiles!

A Closer Look: KidWorks’ Programs: Community Parent Council

Editor’s note:  We are pleased to introduce our latest blog series, “A Closer Look: KidWorks’ Programs.”  We offer a full range of programs for children, youth and adults.  In this series, we focus on several of aspects, giving you a peek into what makes these programs tick—and sharing a few “little known secrets”!

“They’re definitely fired up.”

That’s how Frank Bejarano, our Director of Youth and Family Engagement, describes the KidWorks Community Parent Council.

The Community Parent Council is a group of eight women from the neighborhood that’s nearby KidWorks’ Dan Donahue Center.  Over the past eight-plus years, they have turned fear and concern about the problems on the streets where they and their families live into action that has significantly improved the quality of life.

“When they started out, these women had never spoken before a city council or navigated through the processes required by a local governmental agency,” Frank says.  “Now, they can confidently sit at a table across from staff representatives from the City of Santa Ana or get all the permitting and approvals needed for a large street resource fair.  They are impressive to watch in action.”

While KidWorks provides meeting facilities and advice, the Community Parent Council is largely autonomous.  They identify the issues of safety, neighborhood improvement and community collaboration that matter most to them.  Then they get results.

Several examples of their success include having the city replace burnt out lights at Jerome Park, getting approval for a crossing signal to be installed at an intersection where pedestrians have been struck by cars and pushing landlords to spruce up rundown buildings. 

“One of their most effective outreaches was a community walk attended by the Director of Public Works, Code Enforcement Manager Alvaro Nuñez, Santa Ana City Manager David Cavazos and Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas,” Frank says.  “The women showed them first-hand the impact of gangs, illegal drug dealing and infrastructure neglect.  The community parent councilmembers are tenacious.  They don't quit.  Results soon followed.”

The KidWorks Community Parent Council focuses on external issues in the surrounding neighborhood, while the KidWorks’ Parent Advisory Council works with our staff to offer suggestions and ideas about how we can continuously improve our programs.

“Both are examples of how those we serve take a personal ownership in their community and the overall well-being of others,” Frank said.  “Their enthusiasm is a fire that never goes out.”


By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer