By Colleen Janssen
Families flocked to Sigler Park on Sept. 11 for an event that has promised family fun, delicious food, information booths and great entertainment for more than 20 years.
The City of Westminster Community Services & Recreation Department provided a wonderful event for local families.
El Mariachis Los Dorados de Chihuahua entertained the audience with renditions of favorite tunes. The Santa Ana based group provided an upbeat sound for visitors as they wandered information booths and stopped for food. Later in the day, the band De Nada got people up and dancing to great music. Additionally, a short ceremony to commemorate the lives lost on 9/11 was held by City Council members.
The Nhan Hoa Comprehensive Healthcare Clinic, Community Health Initiative of Orange County, Office of Sen. Janet Nguyen, Boys & Girls Club and the Society of Hispanic and Ancestral Research provided handouts about their programs and services.
Local community government resource booths included the Westminster Water Department, Orange County Fire Authority and Westminster Police Department. Food booths were popular, as was a booth hosted by Westminster Family Resource Center. A display of vintage vehicles from two car clubs rounded out the event.
The Water Department hosted a cornhole game with a water theme. Children and adults were asked by water employee, Jesse, “Name something you are doing to save water.” Once the question was answered, the participant tossed bean bags toward the wooden corn hole structure to win a prize.
The Orange County Fire Authority booth was popular with children and adults who wanted to spin the wheel and answer a question about safety. Many people could be seen walking the booth area, then heading over to see the car display.
“We have cars here from the classics, a club in Santa Ana, and the Fleet Lines from Westminster,” said Classics Sargent-at-Arms Ricardo Valverde. “We like to come out to this event each year.”
The Westminster Family Resource Center’s booth was there to connect with the community and share the resources they offer for local families. The booth was staffed by Supervisor Gina Nunes, Family Support Specialist Esperanza Roman and Community Engagement Volunteer Coordinator David Bridgewaters.
“This is a grant-funded program as part of the Families and Communities Together (FaCT) network through the County of Orange,” said Nunes. The resource center, located in Westminster, serves low income and homeless families in Westminster and surrounding areas. Services are provided in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
“Our newest program is homework help. It started in 2015 and serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade. We provide free homework help, not tutoring, to help students who may be struggling in school,” said Nunes. “Parents may bring their children after school and we provide one or two staff members, along with teen and adult volunteers to help children complete their homework in all subjects.”
“Our parent education program is another service that benefits families,” said Roman. “All of our services are on a case-by-case basis. We offer housing assistance, translation, and assist with filling out paperwork.” Roman added. “Some families need referrals to counseling for family or mental health issues, others need us to help with IEPs. We are their advocate to help them receive the services they need.”
“We can provide emergency help with diapers, food, or housing for immediate, short-term needs, but we connect families to our partners who provide services on a more long-term basis,” said Nunes. “Some need substance abuse treatment or help with health or dental issues.”
“Our goal is to bring social services to the community whenever possible to help people so they don’t have to travel to the County of Orange offices,” Roman said. “Our daily question is ‘What’s the biggest need today?’
One challenge is when someone comes in for help after suffering domestic violence. Sometimes they return to their abuser. The staff understands that the family dynamics sometimes make it difficult for victims to leave the abuser so they always say, “Just come back,” said Roman. The staff members have seen that it sometimes takes a few attempts before someone comes back for help and finally leaves the abuser. The resource center is there for as long as it takes.
The center accepts donations of diapers; even open boxes from people whose children have outgrown that size. They appreciate donations of hotel-size toiletries and other hygiene items, non-perishable foods and school supplies. If local residents or service clubs would like to donate, they are encouraged to call 714-903-1331 to be sure which donations are currently needed. The center, at Sigler Park, 7200 Plaza St., Westminster, is open Mon/Wed/Fri, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., or Tue/Thu, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Services at the site include family advocacy, personal empowerment program, domestic violence counseling, parent education workshops, adoption promotion and support, family reunification services, dental services, emergency food program, emergency assistance program, after school enrichment programs and case management services.
Basically, if someone needs help, and qualifies for the program, help will be provided and referrals will be made to partner agencies. The collaborative partners include Westminster School District, Boys & Girls Club of Westminster, Abrazar, AltaMed, Boys Town, Interval House and Western Youth Services.
As a team, the partner agencies meet on a regular basis to discuss current cases and what each agency can provide to assist specific families. Their work is important and a necessary service in Westminster.
The center is always looking for volunteer assistance from teens ages 14 and up and from adults who would like to help with clerical skills, phones, homework and outreach to the community. The most important quality in a volunteer is a desire to help make your community better by assisting local families who need help. More information on becoming a volunteer may be obtained by contacting David Bridgewaters at the center.
In addition to Westminster, Family Resource Centers are available in Garden Grove, Stanton, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Orange, Placentia, La Habra, San Juan Capistrano, Huntington Beach and Lake Forest.
Photos by Colleen Janssen
El Mariachis Los Dorados de Chihuahua entertained the audience with renditions of favorite tunes.