Temecula’s Rancho Damacitas, the site of the nonprofit organization’s newest project for abused and neglected mothers and their children, received a “hands at work,” effort by members of Team Home Depot who have refurbished two of the four older six-bedroom homes at the ranch in the past two months.
Rancho Damacitas with its history of empowering disadvantaged and challenged youth has now turned its attention at the Temecula ranch not only to youth, but to young mothers and their children who have faced rough lives suffering from abuse and neglect. They are mothers who are seriously seeking ways to regain their self-esteem and improve their lives not only for themselves but especially for their toddlers or preschool children.
Bringing welcomed help to the Rancho Damacitas staff is Home Depot who with as many as 75 volunteers from Home Depot stores from Riverside to Temecula (PacSouth) who call themselves “Team Home Depot” have spent the past two months completely refurbishing two of the houses with new appliances, paint, carpeting, kitchen cabinets and other amenities to make living comfortable for the mothers and their children.
“It’s always exciting that the kids can grow up in nice homes and a safe environment,” Kristi Piatkowski, Ranch Damacita’s director of development said. Piatkowski, with all but the new carpeting to be installed in the homes Friday, Jan. 19, took a tour of Team Home Depot’s progress on the last home being refurbished by Team Home Depot coordinator and Home Depot Perris store Assistant Manager Paulina Danecy. Home Depot stores forwarded a $17,000 grant and volunteer labor to help Rancho Damacitas, Dancey noted.
Team Home Depot construction captains Billy Lee and Frank Cannuli, from the Temecula Home Depot, were putting the final touches of paint on the walls and baseboards one of the home’s refinished bathrooms. Already installed in the home by the team members was a new refrigerator, stove and washer dryer. Other new appliances were being readied by other team members.
The newly refurbished homes are only one part of the newest Rancho Damacitas “Project Independence” and “Empowerment Village,” especially designed for the abused women and children staying at the ranch.
“The women here today are here because they want to be here,” Cal Winslow, Rancho Damacitas CEO said. “They might break your heart to know of the challenges they were facing before coming here—from abandonment to financial ruin. They need to look forward to find where they can go.”
“If we can help make the moms strong, we can make the children strong,” he said.
Winslow said the Project Independence that will help disadvantaged young women, over 18 with children with stable housing, employment readiness, financial literacy, life and career coaching to get them on their feet and moving toward independent, sustainable adulthood.
Helping the mothers and children stay off the streets and out of foster care at the ranch is the empowerment village. They will have continuous help in the next two to three years at the ranch seeking their education, employment and social acceptance. Their only requirement is that they want that change and are willing to work for it. Their progress will be monitored and reviewed by staff members like Stephen N. Liapis, the organizations director of emancipated services.
Piatkowski said the mothers and children from the homes will meet often with pot lucks and other family like activities. A place at the ranch formerly called the Serenity Garden will offer the mothers an opportunity for reflection and meditation while the children can play at a planned Tot Lot.
The children at the ranch, according to the ranch staff, are ages four through early elementary school age and are attending either pre-school or regular school. The mothers will have the opportunity to attend classes to complete their high school or college education in the fields they choose. The mothers coming to the ranch for the most part, are employed, or employable, said Winslow. If they have no work, employment will be found for them so, in time, they will be able to pay for their housing at the ranch, until they can be on their own.
He said there have been many applicants for long-term residency at the ranch, but they must meet certain requirements and most of all, want to be at the facility for themselves and their children. He said Rancho Damacitas where “Kids Soar” is not a handout program.
Meanwhile, Rancho Damacitas Empowerment Village welcomes help from the community and needs baby supplies (0-24 months), toddler and preschool supplies (2-5 years) for both genders, children’s furniture, professional clothing in all sizes and volunteers that can help with painting, a muralist to paint the children’s rooms, baby proofers, and other things like car seats and tricycles.
To assist Rancho Damacitas in their mission to end the cycle of child abuse with comprehensive care and compassion for foster youth, challenged youth and young adults through life-enriching opportunities and strength-based, solution-focused programs and services visit www.4KIDSFIRST.org or write Rancho Damacitas Children and Family Services, P.O. Box 890326, Temecula, CA 92589.