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DOWNEY – Since 1976, Youth and Family Services has been providing high-risk youth ages 12-24 with substance abuse treatment from its discreet, nondescript location on Cleta Street. Just one of the many programs operating under the umbrella organization Southern California Alcohol and Drug Programs, Inc. (SCADP), Youth and Family Services is much more than a treatment facility, though it’s one of the most successful in the country and utilizes the most complete curriculum available.
Martha Varela has been the program’s executive director for 15 years and in that time she’s created a truly comprehensive program that goes beyond outpatient counseling. Varela provides parenting classes to patients 18-24 in both English and Spanish and she and her staff cook healthy, homemade meals for their young patients every Thursday in addition to the snacks and drinks SCADP provides on a daily basis.
Varela and her team place a great amount of emphasis on prosocial activities, which are group activities that teach their patients different skills. Every Saturday patients at the program’s Downey and Bell Gardens locations learn woodburning and ceramics, though Varela brings in volunteers as often as possible to teach patients different skills pertaining to their trades. Past volunteers have included chefs and artists.
Varela and her staff also sell homemade lunches to local businesses and attempt to raise money in other inventive ways in order to prepare for the holidays, as it’s very important to the executive director that each patient receive a gift and partake in a holiday meal, both of which many of the patients would otherwise go without.
Any young person in the city of Downey or in a surrounding city can walk into Youth and Family Services and receive substance abuse treatment and have access to all of the additional services Varela has put in place completely free of charge, but the Cleta Street location is in danger of closing its doors.
The past year has been particularly rough for the program, which was not only burglarized twice earlier this year, but denied two crucial federal grants that would have provided the program with just over $1 million for operating costs, staff salaries, materials, and supplies for the immediate future.
“Right now, things are uncertain,” Varela said. “If we can’t find the funds or increase the number of patients we have, we will have to lay off six of our devoted, hardworking staff members.”
Varela has brainstormed a number of money-making plans to help the program stay afloat, including a yard sale where members of the community donate unwanted goods to the program, which will benefit from the proceeds.
“We are a non-profit agency, so any donations made are tax deductible,” Varela said. “We would love donations of any kind for the yard sale or for the other activities that we have planned for our young patients, from pumpkins and carving utensils for Halloween to art supplies or monetary donations. We need all the help we can get.”
Yard sale donations can be dropped off at 8700 Cleta Street and for more information regarding volunteer opportunities or the donation of goods or services to Youth and Family Services, Martha Varela can be reached at (562) 862-9766.
Published: October 4, 2012 – Volume 11 – Issue 25