Tips For Change

On February 29th and March 1st, Agape Villages had two events involving raising money through tips. On Monday, Feb. 29th, Gianni’s Italian Bistro in San Ramon opened their doors for Agape Villages patrons and donated 10% of all sales. Additionally, Agape Villages staff and volunteers were the wait staff, so all tips went straight back to our organization. People were incredibly generous with their tips and over $2,700 was raised. The event, Tips for Change, was considered a great success. We are so thankful to all who participated.

On March 1st, a similar event, Tip A Hero, took place at Chili’s Restaurant in Manteca, but instead of Agape volunteers, it was the Manteca Police Department that provided officers to help the wait staff and collect tips for the children. Police Captain Charlie Goeken came and brough four other officers throughout the day to help with getting drinks, bussing tables, and passing out Police badge stickers to all the kids. The people who came into Chili’s that day were thrilled to be waited on by a police officer in uniform, and again, people gave generous tips. Over $1,700 was collected in just tips, not counting the money that will be donated from Chili’s, who is giving back 15% of sales for the day.

That’s over $4,000 raised for foster children in just two days! A big thank you to Gianni’s Italian Bistro, Chili’s Restaurant, and the Manteca Police Department, particularly Charlie Goeken, who coordinated all the details for Tip A Hero. We are so blessed to be in communities throughout Northern California where there are hearts for the children.

Posted in Events |

Julie

Julie is seventeen years old — in some ways so young, and in some so tragically old.  Neglect and abuse do that to a child.  They stunt the child’s growth in the things that are vital for healthy living…nutritious food…education…life skills…coping skills…the ability to trust.  When the people who are supposed to love you most mistreat you, fail to protect you, and, worst of all, don’t love you and make you feel wanted and needed, the child that lives in each one of us feels scared and vulnerable and alone.  When those basic needs are not met, a hole forms in our souls that is difficult to close.

On the other hand, Julie has seen things that even adults should never see.  She is an old soul.  She has grown up knowing that the only person she can count on is Julie.  That is too much responsibility for a child, and it has aged her before her time.

Things began to change when Julie came to Agape Villages.  But it was a hard adjustment for her.  She was seventeen, and she hadn’t found adults to be all that trustworthy.  She hadn’t been able to count on anybody for anything, and she wasn’t about to risk changing that.

Then Julie went to camp.  Sierra Bible Camp, near Lake Almanor in Northern California. A whole week of being out of her comfort zone…away from texting, talking and surfing the internet…away from her music and her friends and her problems.  A whole week of being out in nature, seeing the world from a different point of view.   A whole week of interacting with godly counselors and staff, making new friends, sharing new experiences. She came home to her foster mother, and Julie was different.

She had a different attitude about being in foster care, and about the woman who had chosen to be her foster mother.  Usually, our boys and girls attend one session of camp, along with the kids of a particular congregation.  This particular year, an additional congregation extended an invitation to attend camp with them, and Julie, completely enthralled with that first week, begged to go a second time.  We said yes, and we are glad we did.

Julie is seventeen years old, and though she has had terribly tough years in her past, many of the toughest things lie ahead of her. We will have Julie for a couple more years, and we are committed to helping her continue to grow and find a path to success and fulfillment.

Posted in Stories |

Joey

Eight-year-old Joey is autistic.

I am not autistic, and I can have no real understanding of what it’s like to live in Joey’s mind.  But let’s imagine for a moment, you and I.  Through no fault of his own, Joey doesn’t fit in.  His brain does not work like yours and mine.  Things have to be right — according to what his brain tells him — or he becomes very, very anxious.  Things must follow a strict unchanging routine.  Things must be lined up exactly right.  And when people don’t follow the rules of his world, and Joey is unable to clearly communicate the problem to them, and he’s very, very anxious — naturally, he throws a tantrum.

Wouldn’t you?

Joey came to Agape Villages last year.  His family could not cope with the disruption and the tantrums and the difficulties of living with autism any longer, and they entrusted him to us.

Our good foster mom, Mary, and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Laura, took Joey into their home.  He has been able to bond with them and be close to them in a way that is remarkable for someone with autism.  Mary is working to help Joey learn how to interact respectfully with others, and to be kind.  That’s hard for him; the autism has affected Joey’s brain in such a way that interacting with others at all is a real struggle.  Every time he speaks in a respectful tone, or responds to someone with kindness — those are victories for Joey.

Mary is working to help Joey increase his vocabulary and to speak more clearly.  And, miracle of miracles, she is even getting him to try new foods!  This departure from Joey’s need to keep everything the same is a real accomplishment for him. We are so excited about the progress Joey has made, and see a bright future ahead.

Posted in Stories |

Lana

She had been abused a long time.

You couldn’t tell from just a casual glance.  And a casual glance was about as close to Lana as you were going to get.  She was keeping her secret.  She was closed off.  Distant.  She wasn’t going to ask anybody for help, and she wasn’t going to allow anyone to get close enough to hurt her.

People read her vibe and left her alone, never realizing how much she was suffering, how much trauma she lived through on a daily basis in her own home.  They did not realize how desperately she needed people.

That all changed when Lana came to Agape Villages.  It took time, but once she felt safe and the real Lana was revealed — wow!  What a transformation!

Lana is eighteen years old, and she is taking advantage of every opportunity we can give her.  She has a foster family who loves her and is committed to her.  She’s found her voice, and she is proving to be an empowering role model and mentor for the other foster kids in the family.

Her church youth group and her Agape “Girls’ Group” have been important in helping Lana see herself for the strong woman she is.  She has learned how to stand up for herself without being defensive and belligerent.

Lana sees herself now as part of many different communities — her foster family.  Her school.  Her church.  The various groups she participates in.  She is now a leader in her communities and she takes her new responsibilities very seriously.

Lana is working hard to make the transition to adulthood, so she has committed to be involved with both the Agape Villages and San Joaquin County independent living skills programs.  They are helping her apply to college and for scholarships.

Lana’s Agape social worker is giving her the space to practice adult responsibilities and not be afraid to mess up.  They tackle all the tasks together — completing all of the monthly paperwork (clothing allowance, monitoring cash resources, adding up receipts), setting up a checking account and learning about personal finances, requesting a new Social Security card, dealing with medical insurance issues in person, understanding public transportation.

These are not just tasks to be checked off the list.  These are opportunities for Lana to learn how to do them independently, and for her to gain confidence in her ability to tackle new things.  When the time comes that Lana is on her own, she will know how to manage.  Because she has practiced with her Agape social worker, she is prepared and comfortable with asking questions and making mistakes.

Lana hopes to one day become a mental health counselor and work with children who are faced with similar struggles to those she has overcome.  That’s one of the best signs of success, don’t you agree?  When you can look at your life, appreciate the gifts you’ve been given, and seek out opportunities to share those gifts with others. We are so proud of Lana and the beautiful young woman she is becoming.

Posted in Stories |

October 2015 Newsletter

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July 2015 Newsletter

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April 2015 Newsletter

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January 2015 Newsletter

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October 2014 Newsletter

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July 2014 Newsletter

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