In The News
In the News
09/21/2015 - Jeff Johnson and Saddleback Church
Jeff Johnson is dedicated to the teens in our Independent Living Program (ILP). Back in November, 2010 he volunteered to lead his first ILP workshop entitled “Skillz 4 Life.” ILP workshops focus on the four key areas of Career, Daily Living, Education and Relationships, and help prepare youth to live on their own more confidently and better prepared for the challenges that adulthood brings.
Now more than four and a half years later, Jeff’s monthly “Skillz 4 Life” workshop is one of the most popular with our youth. They love his workshop, they explain, because they can tell what he is doing comes straight from the heart. Jeff has spent countless hours developing and tweaking a curriculum that teaches life skills in a way the youth can relate to. Jeff, a member of Saddleback Church, recruits volunteer speakers and helpers who bring dinner and serve it to the youth.
When asked what motivates him, Jeff said, “We don’t look at the youth in terms of who and where they are now. We view them through a lens of who they can become and where they can go with the love, care, understanding, and encouragement we desire to be a part of giving them.” Thank you, Jeff, for your passion and devotion for current and former foster youth in Orange County!
09/21/2015 - Michelle Buck-Gordon
Volunteers support Orangewood’s mission with foster youth in a variety of ways – through their time, their talent, or by connecting with our youth. Michelle Buck-Gordon does it all. Which is why Orangewood named her Outstanding Volunteer of the Year at our volunteer reception held in October.
Michelle has made it her life’s mission to help those like her – a former foster youth once placed at the Orangewood Children’s Home, the county’s emergency shelter for abused and neglected children. Since she started volunteering with Orangewood in 2011, Michelle has served a total of 340 volunteer hours. Michelle began volunteering at youth events. As she got to know Orangewood and the youth we serve, she began volunteering more and more. She started monthly “Baking with Mrs. Gordon” workshops in our on-site Resource Center to teach baking skills to our youth. She helped them train for 5K races and took them hiking and kayaking.
In the fall of 2013, Samueli Academy, our public charter high school, was looking for a volunteer to facilitate an after-school art class. Michelle, an art lover, jumped at the chance. She created the “Creating Paths” program, developed the curriculum and taught class twice a week.
When she was younger, Michelle was personally motivated by seeing her art on display. In an effort to share this experience with Samueli Academy students, she coordinated two art shows this year to display the youth’s work – one at the Orange County Fairgrounds, and the other at a local Fullerton gallery. The opportunity to have their work showcased in public was exciting and inspiring to the students.
Michelle’s passion has always been to motivate and inspire teens, specifically those with a difficult childhood. She has served both the Resource Center and The Academy with all her heart. Her care and devotion for our youth, and the ways in which she goes above and beyond to inspire them made her a natural choice for the 2014 Outstanding Volunteer of the Year. Congratulations, Michelle!
09/21/2015 - Frank T. Suryan, Jr.
Frank T. Suryan, Jr. is Chairman and CEO of Lyon Communities and a graduate of the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. But growing up he had few thoughts of going to college. Eventually he decided to pursue a degree, thanks to the influence of his girlfriend at the time, and earned his Bachelor’s.
Today Frank has a personal commitment to youth who are likely to fall through the cracks and never make it to college, or even graduate from high school, especially foster youth. He has been a donor to Orangewood Foundation for nearly 20 years – giving in a variety of ways including: to our events, college scholarships, The Academy high school capital campaign, and toys/supplies/gift cards for our youth. Additionally, he has served on the Board of Directors since 2007.
Recently Frank was awarded the General Lyon Crystal Vision Philanthropy Award at the 2014 Ambassador Luncheon. The award is given annually at the event to a worthy individual who has given of their time and resources and who reflects the unending commitment to Orange County children that has been demonstrated by Founding Board Chairman General William Lyon. Coincidentally, Frank and General Lyon are business partners. They joined together as business partners in 1988 and formed Lyon Communities based in Newport Beach. In an interview before the ceremony, General Lyon remarked on Frank’s devotion to Orangewood, saying that he “truly recognizes that young people have a chance through what we’re doing at Orangewood.” Congratulations, Frank!
09/21/2015 - The late Jim McNamara
Jim McNamara was born in 1924 in Hastings, Minnesota. He was the second of six boys and raised during the Depression era primarily by his mother. At the age of 16 he joined the Army. He served for 24 years, including in the Korean War, and eventually rose to the rank of Major. Jim married Oralee in 1947 and the couple went on to have five children. They lived in various states and in Europe while Jim was in the service.
In the early 1960s, Jim and his family moved to Garden Grove and he started a new career in banking and finance. He worked for Union Bank for several years and then The William Lyon Company for 14 years. He retired as a Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for the company.
Retirement didn’t last long for Jim as he became actively involved in charitable causes with Orangewood Foundation, City of Hope, Boy Scouts of America, and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. During his almost 30 years of involvement with Orangewood, Jim wanted to help out however he could. He understood the value of higher education and the importance of our college scholarship program. At the same time he recognized how hard it was to raise money. He and Oralee were frequent event sponsors and major contributors to many of Orangewood programs. Jim was a great fundraiser too. He was so likeable and passionate about Orangewood it was hard for people to say no to him!
Jim and Oralee genuinely loved to meet Orangewood youth in person, even attending a student/donor reception held outdoors on a sweltering August afternoon last year! Among Orangewood staff Jim was known as a Santa of sorts…a happy, white-haired man going cubicle to cubicle handing out candy canes in mid-December and thanking each person for their hard work during the year.
Jim was the father of five children, grandfather of eight, and great-grandfather of 10. He was a friend and source of inspiration to countless others. He died in December at the age of 88. In an interview by high school students for a paper on honoring war veterans, Jim said, “I have a great, wonderful family and a great, rewarding life. I’m a very lucky guy.” All of us who had the privilege of knowing Jim consider ourselves the lucky ones!
09/17/2015 - Youth Highlight
09/17/2015 - My Orangewood
The Orangewood Foundation “My Orangewood” program is a great way to celebrate or mark an occasion and support our youth at the same time. In a few easy steps, you can share your passion for Orangewood with family, friends and colleagues.
09/17/2015 - Our Auxiliaries
44 Women for Children
Founded in 1999 by Susan Samueli, the 44 Women for Children auxiliary contributes to Orangewood Foundation by nurturing, supporting and inspiring adolescents emancipating from the foster care system on their 18th birthdays. 44 Women for Children focuses its efforts on three key areas: providing mentoring and education, increasing community awareness about child abuse and neglect, and hosting annual fundraising events.
Orangewood PALS is a group of fun and energetic professionals who have come together to make a positive impact on the lives of abused and neglected children in Orange County. PALS supports the work of the Orangewood Children’s Foundation in a variety of ways, including hosting events and activities for the abused children placed at Orangewood Children’s Home (now called the Orangewood Children & Family Center), funding Orangewood scholarships, and mentoring former foster youth in college. Members also enjoy social events such as the annual Athlete’s First Gala and Golf event held at the St. Regis Monarch Beach.
09/17/2015 - Samueli Academy
Samueli Academy is our free public charter high school for foster and community youth. Visit the website to learn more about what makes our school so great!