End of the cycle

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There was not a dry eye in the room as a former resident, Walter Ramirez, shared his experience as a young boy at Hillsides 20 years ago. He spoke very compellingly of the impact that staff and volunteers had on him during his two-year stay here. He described his behavior as oppositional and defiant, but in spite of his problematic behavior, what he received in return was understanding, patience, and the opportunity to move beyond his anger.
Now successfully employed and the father of a 14 year old, he is dedicated to providing for his son all that he was denied as a youth. As he said to volunteers gathered for a biannual appreciation celebration, “the cycle ends with me.”
While the Los Angeles Timesfeatures articles focusing on the inadequacies and deficiencies of the foster care system, Walter’s story is one of success against all odds. Perhaps the most moving testimony he offered was that while he was at Hillsides he was so impressed by the care offered by staff and volunteers that he felt loved for the first time.
His ability to know that he was loved and to love in return was the greatest gift Hillsides offered him, a gift that has endured through these many subsequent years. His gratefulness is expressed in his efforts to be a loving and responsible dad to his son and to volunteer in his own community so that other young people like him might in return know the gift of kind, patient, and dedicated adults.
Studies show that the greatest differentiating factor pointing to success for children in the foster care system is an adult who can offer a stable, caring presence in their lives. This sense of unconditional love becomes the sustaining force that allows a child to manage the challenges and vulnerabilities of life with a sense of hope.
It was wonderful to have Walter share his story because it encouraged the many volunteers to persevere and know that what they do makes a difference in the lives of those we serve.
Never underestimate the contribution that you can make and how the memories created endure and serve as a touchstone in life. Hillsides is blessed with a strong and diverse volunteer core. Over and over again, I hear residents speak of their special friend or mentor and how they enjoy the time spent with them.
The needs are great and the presence of a dedicated volunteer community allows us to go beyond the limitations imposed by fiscal constraints to create significant memories for very vulnerable children and youth. The memories created are all pathways to hopeful futures. Please consider volunteering at Hillsides. For more information, please contact Laura Kelso at 323.254.2274 ext. 251.

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