In The News

In the News

02/27/2018 - Sharing some Orangewood Love!

In honor of Valentine’s month, we wanted to share some Orangewood love! For a staff member who is a former Orangewood youth, a current student at our Samueli Academy charter high school, and a current resident of our transitional housing program, Orangewood means love in lots of different ways. We wanted to pass these messages along to say THANKS for sharing the love with our youth!

If you’ve been to our office lately, you’ll surely have interacted with our delightful new receptionist, Alejandra. Before she joined the Orangewood staff, Alejandra was an Orangewood youth! Here’s what she wanted to share:

“When I was younger, Orangewood was the light at the end of a very dark tunnel for me. It was my place of compassion, hope and love. When I heard about the open receptionist job, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to help my family financially, while also continuing to be a part of the Orangewood family. I love working at Orangewood because I can spread love and happiness by making everyone feel welcomed, by being helpful, and by just providing a smile or a listening ear to anyone who walks through our doors.”

For Samueli Academy Senior, Kira, our charter high school is more like a family than a school. Here’s what she shared:

“What I love most about Samueli Academy is how it is like a family. I was really shy in middle school and there were cliques and things that made it hard for me to branch out. Here I have been able to blossom because it’s such a family environment. The teachers really care about you as a person and connect with you emotionally. And, I’ve built so many long-term friendships here than I think I would have at a traditional school. I feel so fortunate to have spent the last four years at such an amazing place.”

One of our current Orangewood youth, Jasmin, who lives in our transitional housing program with her son, Josiah, also had some Orangewood love to share. She says:

“To me, Orangewood Foundation means comfort, love, and home! I had lots of family problems when I was younger. When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I knew my environment needed to change. I applied for Orangewood’s Rising Tide housing program, and it was probably the best decision I’ve ever made! Staff members Mitzi & LaCretia have helped me every step of the way. They have taught me how to let my guard down and not be afraid to ask for help. They have helped me build a better relationship with my family and learn how to be a better mom to my son, Josiah. Without Orangewood I would not be who I am today. Thank you Orangewood staff for giving me comfort, love and a place to call home.”




02/23/2018 - PALS Bingo Night at Chapter One

Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Chapter One, Santa Ana

When: Wednesday, April 24, 2019
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Where: Chapter One, 227 North Broadway, Santa Ana

Join our PALS every Monday night in April for BINGO! Your $10 buy in for BINGO includes a signature Moscow Mule or select craft beer and fun prizes for the winners! Bring your friends and help support events for youth in our Rising Tide transitional housing programs. Click here to view the flyer.

For more information, please contact Jeff Gilstrap at (714) 619-0237 or via email to jgilstrap@orangewoodfoundation.org .

01/26/2018 - Lucy’s Story

Lucy* is a 22 year old woman with thick-framed glasses, sparkly fingernail polish, and a bright, easy smile. She draws people in with her warmth, energy and thoughtful speech. As she tells her story, her foot bounces nervously under the table but her voice never waivers. Lucy is a survivor of sex trafficking in Orange County. She shares her story because, she says, “If sharing my story can prevent what happened to me from happening to even one other girl, I’m going to do it. No one should have to go through what I’ve been through.”

Lucy was born into a loving family and from the first ten years of her life she has only happy memories. But when she was ten, her mom got sick and the family moved in with relatives. This is where Lucy’s happy memories of her childhood end. One of Lucy’s relatives began molesting her, and when her mother died when Lucy was 12, her relative began selling her for sex.

From ages 12-19, Lucy led a jarring double life. During the day, she appeared to be a typical Orange County teenager. At night, she was being sold for sex on the streets. “[My trafficker] allowed me to go to school and play sports, but he controlled every element of my life. What kept me hanging on was remembering how my mom used to tell me ‘God has a plan for your life.’ My faith became the only thing that he couldn’t take from me.”

When she was 19, Lucy ran away. She became homeless and was living on the streets when a woman – whom Lucy describes as “an angel” – brought her to Orangewood Foundation to interview for our Beverly’s House transitional housing. Lucy describes this day as a pivotal moment in her life. “After the interview, I was walking with Jim (an Orangewood staff member), behind him, with my head down, the way I had been forced to by my trafficker for the last ten years. Jim noticed, and told me gently that I didn’t have to do that with him,” Lucy says, with her voice quivering slightly. “That was the first time I really felt freedom.”

Orangewood’s Lighthouse transitional housing program for survivors of sex trafficking opened after Lucy secured stable housing (first at Beverly’s House and then with a family). “If The Lighthouse had existed when I first left the life,” she says, “it would have made it so much easier for me. I needed staff members that were trained to deal with the specific trauma that comes from being trafficked. I needed someone there when I woke up from a horrible nightmare. I’m so glad The Lighthouse exists now for young girls who are leaving the life.”

With the help of Orangewood’s services and staff, Lucy is working towards a stable, happy life. She has a job as a caretaker, and is exploring creative hobbies like painting and writing. “I have to take life day by day right now,” she explains. “There is a lot of trauma in my past that I haven’t healed from yet. I used to believe that I wasn’t worthy of being loved so I took all the love I couldn’t give to myself and put it to good use by loving everyone else. My support team here at Orangewood and my faith keep me going and I’m humbled by the support I have received. It is a difficult process but every day I become a little bit more convinced that I’m worth it.”

*Name has been changed to protect her identity. Additionally because we cannot share a photo of Lucy, she chose this photo of two hands holding a heart to represent her journey towards healing.

11/16/2017 - Samueli Academy Holiday Choir Concert, sponsored by Christyne Sutton and Her Children Charlotte and Sutton Olson

Tuesday, December 4, 2018
Samueli Theater at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa

Photos from the Holiday Choir Concert are below! To view all photos, please click here.

11/02/2017 - Annual Report

10/31/2017 - Emily’s Story

Medical school is a lofty and ambitious dream for anyone. For a former foster youth like Emily, it could very well be an impossible dream. When she was a child, Emily’s father was a drug user and physically abusive. Emily, along with her two sisters and her brother, was placed in foster care when she was six years old. The siblings were taken in by Emily’s grandmother when Emily was eight. Emily’s grandmother provided a stable and loving home for the siblings. “She filled an indescribable void and became like my mom,” Emily says.

Those years of stability eventually led Emily to UCLA where, with help from Orangewood Foundation scholarships, she earned a B.S. in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology. Unfortunately, during a break from school when Emily was visiting her grandmother, she went into cardiac arrest. “I desperately tried to save her life by attempting CPR,” Emily says. “Yet amidst the sounds of cracking ribs and the sharp wail of the paramedic’s sirens, I was unsuccessful.” Emily’s grandmother died in her arms from congestive heart failure at the age of 81 that night.

The painful death of Emily’s grandmother motivated her to become a doctor. “I knew she would want me to carry on,” Emily explains. Emily was accepted to medical school at Albany Medical College in New York in 2013. Orangewood’s Advanced Studies scholarships gave her financial support while she was in school. “Orangewood scholarships made it possible for me to pay tuition, buy books, and have the occasional lunch out with friends, instead of eating Top Ramen alone in my dorm room.”

In June of 2017, Emily became Dr. Harris, making her Orangewood Foundation’s first medical doctor. She was able to achieve this ambitious goal through her intelligence and perseverance, the love of her grandmother, and Orangewood Foundation, which provided critical scholarships during her years at UCLA and in medical school. “I owe everything to Orangewood’s donors – silent and anonymous people whom I’ve never even met,” notes Dr. Harris. “I am in awe of how Orangewood’s donors have faith in former foster youth like me and I look forward to becoming a donor when I can.”

09/20/2017 - Healing and Growing at The Lighthouse

As of October 2017, our newest program, The Lighthouse transitional housing program for survivors of sex trafficking, has been operating for a full year! In honor of the program’s first anniversary, we wanted to share an update on our year and on some of the young women in the program. Due to the sensitive nature of the background of Lighthouse residents, where residents are mentioned below, their names have been changed for privacy.

In the program’s first year, eight young women moved into The Lighthouse, though some of them were unable to stay due to extenuating circumstances. Our very first resident, Elle, has been in the program for the full 11 months. For Elle, as with the other residents, getting out of “the life” of sex trafficking is just the first step in a long process of healing and growing. “These young women have spent so much time being told what to do and how to feel, that they struggle having healthy, safe, fulfilling relationships with others,” Lighthouse staff member Sarah explains. “My main goal is working with our survivors to figure out who they are and what they want in life.”

For Elle, the housing stability, coupled with love and guidance from staff, has provided the foundation she’s needed to make great progress. When she moved in, she had just earned her high school diploma and she was ready for more. She worked over the holidays and earlier this year began a medical assistant certificate program. She was diligent in her studies, although there were challenging moments.

“Although the residents are excited to be taking the next step in their educational pursuits, thoughts about school are often filled with anxiety,” Lighthouse Program Supervisor Polly explains. “Our young women worry that they have missed so much school they won’t be able to keep up, or that they won’t know what to say if a classmate asks them about themselves.” With lots of support, patience, and love from staff, Elle graduated from her certificate program in June and finished her four-week internship in July. And, we are thrilled to announce that she started community college this fall!

As important as her education is to her, Elle also appreciates the home environment at The Lighthouse. Some of her favorite things include playing with water balloons in the backyard with other residents, sitting at the table to do her homework, and eating meals together.

The same is true for Anna, who has been in The Lighthouse program for almost 10 months. “Living at The Lighthouse has opened up a lot of positive relationships for me,” Anna says. “I have been able to build friendships there and celebrate achievements with my peers like seeing them graduate from high school. The Lighthouse is a place where I can heal and grow… where I know I can build safe relationships and feel at home.” Like Elle, Anna is making great progress on her educational goals. She is working towards a degree in law enforcement at Cypress College while working two part-time jobs.

As our residents are building great relationships and attaining educational success, they continue to work to overcome the trauma in their past. “Sometimes some of the young women miss the security and protection of having a trafficker to take care of them,” Sarah explains. “Some of the girls put their self-worth in sexual attention and struggle feeling accepted, so we work on separating the two. Some were exposed to drugs and alcohol in “the life” and they miss the numbing effects of that, especially when the stresses of life are weighing on them.”

Our residents continue to build coping skills and learn healthy ways of dealing with stress. They are sorting through their pasts and learning about themselves and their insecurities. With help and support from the Lighthouse, our hope is for these young women is to heal and grow, to set goals, to work, and ultimately to experience true happiness.


09/20/2017 - Anaheim Ducks Center Ice Party

Friday, November 8, 2019
Pasea Hotel & Spa

Photos from the Ducks Center Ice Party event are below! To view all photos, please click here.

09/18/2017 - 24th Annual Ambassador Luncheon

October 29, 2021
Renaissance Newport Beach Hotel

09/01/2017 - 44 Women for Orangewood Education Luncheon

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Orangewood Foundation