By C. MacDonald
WESTMINSTER, CA–More than 15,000 people came to the inaugural "Ribs, Pigs and Watermelon Summer Festival and Pro BBQ Competition" to support a program that changes peoples' lives by bringing the homeless off the streets and helping them become self-sufficient. "My Smokin' Grillfriend" from Bakersfield was selected Grand Champion from among 25 competitors in the recent Kansas City Barbeque Society contest held in the Westminster Mall Parking Lot.
You could feel the energy, positive vibes, entertainment, carnival games and delicious food tasting at the event for the worthwhile cause, which has never been in more demand. "Our goal is to put us out of business," said Bob Murphy of Fountain Valley, the General Manager of American Family Housing (AFH). "But we've never been busier."
Their motto is, "From Homeless to Hope to Home." "Giving the homeless a home, changes their lives completely," said Sara Dodd, a Case Manager for the group that has assisted more than 30,000 homeless since 1985.
There are 5 main programs, which offer support to the homeless, who apply to get into the program:
-Transitional Housing for Chronically Homeless
-Transitional Housing for Families (Westminster and Garden Grove)
-Transitional Housing for Single Women with Children (Santa Ana)
-Permanent Supportive Housing for Families with a Disability (Westminster and Huntington Beach)
-Affordable Housing (San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles Counties)
Jim Miller of Huntington Beach, who worked in aerospace and founded "Shelter for the Homeless" in 1985 (that became American Family Housing), said the program teaches clients about "Mandatory Savings." "Once they leave us in a year or so, they've learned how to save $5,000-$7,000 in a Trust Fund," he said. "We teach them how to budget, how to help themselves and their families, how to raise their self-esteem, think positive, have faith and find jobs."
Arlyne Ochoa, a Case Manager and Job Coach, encourages clients ranging from an aerospace executive, who recently lost his job, home and family, to a single mother, who had been abused, and her four kids. We're trying to help the former executive find another job and the mother to get promoted," Ochoa said. "What we really need to help us in the job searches is for someone to donate laptop computers."
If you would like to donate a laptop computer or if your company has job openings, please contact Arlyne at firstname.lastname@example.org. She said they also are in need of companies or individuals to donate Scholarship Funds to help low income adults pay their rent.
"AFH, its caring staff and many volunteers are making such a positive difference in these very trying times," said former Huntington Beach Mayor Peter Green, who serves on the board, along with his wife, former HB Mayor Cathy Green, and their son, Tom. "They're taking thousands of homeless off the streets, giving them hope, a home and a future. It's about creating self-supporting members of society. You can change the World, one person at a time!"
Many of the clients served, end up becoming volunteers to help others.
Courtney Lutkus, Development Manager for AFH, said it's all about connecting our clients with a network of support so they can gain their independence and succeed. You can help them by volunteering or donating (canned food, household items, office supplies or money). Some of their company supporters have been Francisco's Automotive, AlliedBarton Security Services, Smithfield, Williams Insurance Brokers, ShockTop Belgian White Ale, Barbeques Galore, Homegrown Cattle Company, Trader Joes, Smart & Final, Target, Costco Wholesale, United Healthcare, Huntington Beach Whole Foods and others. Service organizations, such as The Huntington Beach Host Lions Club, support AFH as well.
Do you know that you can make a difference? To find out more, visit the website afhusa.org, call American Family Housing at 714-897-3221 or write them at 15161 Jackson St., Midway City, CA 92655