More than $200,000 was raised at the 2016 Mentor Awards Gala to benefit the treatment and education programs for at-risk youth served by Optimist Youth Homes & Family Services (OYHFS).
OYHFS is one of the region’s largest education and treatment centers for juvenile offenders and at-risk children. It operates residential care facilities for 85 boys on its main campus, four group homes for boys and girls, a charter school, multifaceted mental health programs for community youth and adults, after care services and a foster care and adoption agency. It gives those kids a second chance.
The Optimist home started in 1906, when Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Strickland took in an orphaned nephew to their farm just outside the northern city limits of Los Angeles (still a main site of a home). Another boy—a ward of the court—arrived in the same year. By 1908 there were 13 boys living on the farm. The Stricklands supported the home by selling dairy products and chickens.
At the same time, Judge Curtis Wilbur, the presiding judge in Los Angeles Juvenile Court, was handling juvenile cases in Superior Court. His only option for placing delinquent or orphaned boys was in reform school. In 1914, he helped start Strickland Home for Boys.
In the late 1920s, the Home and local Optimist Clubs began discussing working together, and with the Optimist Club financial support the name was changed to Optimist Boys’ Home and Ranch, Inc. It became a registered nonprofit in 1934.
In 1972, the Home began a major capital project: to fund its own high school to provide classrooms and vocational training for its youngsters who were victims of divorce, abuse and neglect. Two years later, the first Group Home was developed.
In 1991, the Haldeman Youth Counseling Center was opened and a year later a new Foster Family Agency program was started to individually place abused children, who range in age from newborns to 21 years old in foster homes.
An Independent Living program was initiated in 1996 to help graduates of the Home, while continuing his/her education.
To accommodate the growing number of kids, a 23,000-square-foot “Youth Learning Center” was built, and in 2005 opened with the name The Everychild Youth Learning Center, after the foundation that gave the lead gift.
In 2012, Optimist partnered with L.A. County to offer a specialized program for victims of sexual trafficking. Additionally, Whole Foster Family Care became part of the foster program, which allowed pregnant or parenting teens to join the homes.
The Pacific Palisades Optimist Club has been crucial in helping to raise funds. In October, a sheet containing 54 needed items and the cost to acquire them, such as art supplies for the art therapy program, board games, textbooks for a student for a year and 30 duffle bags for resident to use on home passes, were passed around at an Optimist meeting. Individual members made donations totaling $11,300 to fund the needed items.
Member Stu Kaiser matched that amount, and a total of $22,600 was given to help kids in the homes and school.
At the Gala held at the California Club on October 20, three of Optimist’s major supporters were honored: Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Optimist Youth Homes’ advisory board member and volunteer Susie Parker. More than 250 guests, including members of the Pacific Palisades Optimist Club celebrated Knabe, McDonnell and Parker at the dinner and auction.
During the event, Optimist formally announced the upcoming acquisition of Pacific Lodge Youth Services in Woodland Hills which will further advance the impact the agency has on the County’s most vulnerable children.
The Pacific Palisades Optimist Club meets Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. at Aldersgate, 925 Haverford Ave.