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Interim chief stresses family at summer academy graduation

By Anthony F. Irwin

Representatives from several significant community offices gathered to watch 32 students graduate from the Project Access Hermosa Village Sumer Academy – a summer program hosted by the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation and Project Access. IMG_2230

Topics from the program include conflict resolution, bullying, physical fitness, and communication and interpersonal skills.

In attendance from APD: Interim Chief Raul Quezada, Cpt. Julian Harvey, and Lts. Eric Carter and Alex Orozco. They were joined by AF&R’s Fire Chief Randy Bruegman, and Jeannie Tran – representing Senator Lou Correa’s office.

Interim Police Chief Raul Quezada spoke to the gathering of roughly 60 supporters in both English and Spanish, at one point individually asking a number of graduates what they had learned in the six-week program.

“Respect,” one chimed in.

“English and grammar,” said another.

“How to comb your hair?” asked Quezada, bringing a smile to the spike-haired student.

The interim chief then addressed the group as a whole: “Today is your day, your day to accept your certificates and graduate from the summer program.  Now, look over at Mom and Dad and tell them ‘I love you.’”

In a prior APD junior academy and explorer graduation in June, Quezada similarly requested they tell their parents they love them.  When asked about his message to students and parents alike, he had this to say: “I make it a point to stress family strength in these situations because that’s where it all starts.  A strong family home goes a long way in making our jobs easier.”

It was then time for the students to accept their certificates, one signed at the bottom by Senator Correa, the other from the preschool itself.

Center renamed to honor Chief Welter

The Anaheim Family Justice Center and its home have new names.

The center is now called the Orange County Family Justice Center to reflect its expanding service area.

And the facility will be renamed after retiring Police Chief John Welter to honor his vision in creating it.

About 150 city and business leaders gathered at Anaheim Hilton last week and raised more than $50,000 to support the expanding center, which aims to stop the cycle of violence by providing services to women, children and elderly victims.

The highlight of the evening was a speech by a young survivor named Sarah, who was nearly beaten to death by an ex-boyfriend. She said it was the justice center and Anaheim police officers who saved her life, and then were by her side through every step of the legal process – from helping her recover physically to accompanying her at court appearances.

Sarah said the center “made sure my voice was heard and calmed my anxiety. I cannot express an appropriate thank you. I will never stop thanking you for how you turned my world right side up.”

It’s helping women like Sarah that led Welter to create the center seven years ago. As a young detective in San Diego, Welter said it “hurt my heart” to see children at violence calls “cowering in the corner.”

Since the center opened, it has served more than 20,000 families.

“What are women like Sarah going to do?” Welter asked. “Who’s going to help them? The reason why so many women return to abusive relationships is because they don’t have any choice. … We are making a real difference in people’s lives.”

At the event, Councilwoman Lucille Kring announced plans to rename the building after Welter. Kerith Dilley, the Foundation’s executive director, also renamed the annual Community Partner award after the chief. This year’s recipient, Barbara and Greg Gerovac, owners of Anaheim Brewery, donate $1 for every barrel of beer they brew, as they have since they opened. The foundation also honored Skechers as its corporate partner for providing 351 pairs of new shoes to children victims over the past four years.

Welter was involved in the creation of the world’s first justice center in San Diego 11 years ago. Today, there are 80. Welter said he plans to spend time during retirement helping to grow the number.

This story was published on OCRegister.com.

APD leaders honor 13 young graduates of Kids Creating Change

By Kevin Rice

The Anaheim Family Justice Center (AFJC) celebrated the graduation of 13 children Wednesday afternoon from the Kids Creating Change program, which is part of AFJC Foundation’s Children’s Survivor’s Academy. DSC_0420

Kids Creating Change is a five-week, 20-hour program that provides children of violence the knowledge and skills to shatter the cycle of abuse. The program covers conflict resolution/playground bullying, anger management, communication skills, physical health and effective family communication.

Kids Creating Change groups the participating children into classes of no more than 15 per age group and provides age appropriate lessons and activities.

Idelia Lazo leads the nine to 11 year olds and the teenage classes, while Leticia Sanchez works with the five to eight year olds, primarily Spanish-speaking children. As co-facilitators, Idelia and Leticia try to inspire the children to volunteer for community service, with the idea, “How can we use our hands for something positive?”

The graduation ceremony included a certificate presentation, congratulatory words from the Anaheim Police and Fire Departments, including Anaheim Police Deputy Chief Raul Quezada, Lt. Eric Carter and Deputy Fire Chief Rusty Coffelt. The ceremony ended with a potluck and a special quilt give away in honor of the famed, “Grandma Betty,” a woman who volutneers anonymously.

“It’s a great experience to help with the program,” said 11-year old Vanessa Sanchez, who has completed the program herself and has volunteered since 2011. “I really enjoy giving my time to community service and teaching how to recognize and report bullying and physical violence.”

Anaheim Family Justice Center Foundation Sets Up Fund for Boys Who Lost Parents

The Anaheim Family Justice Center Foundation has raised more than $1,200 to support two boys whose parents were killed last month in an apparent murder-suicide.

They hope to raise a lot more.

“This is a horrific tragedy for those young boys,” said Kerith Dilley, executive director of the AFJC Foundation. “They have a long and painful road ahead of them. That is why we are reaching out to the public and asking them to assist.”

Wayne and Herminia Zickefoose were found dead in their backyards with gunshot wounds to their heads June 13, police said. Investigators believe Wayne Zickefoose, 51, killed his wife, then tried to kill his sons, 5 and 3, before turning the gun on himself.

He shot his 3-year-old three times – in the chest, shoulder and abdomen, but he miraculously survived, said Sgt. Rick Martinez. While he’s still hospitalized, doctors are optimistic that he’ll recover. The 5-year-old managed to escape without injury.

Dilley said all funds will be used to support the boys. The money will go toward medical expenses and the upbringing of both boys, who are with relatives in Wisconsin.

“This is one of those situations where we hope the community will show its support for helpless children in need,” Dilley said. “Every little bit helps.”

To donate, click here, call the foundation at 714-765-1618 or email Dilley directly at kdilley@anaheim.net.

To read an Orange County Register story about the murder-suicide, click here.

From Survivors to Entrepreneurs: Women Thrive in Innovative Program

The Anaheim Family Justice Center congratulated 26 domestic violence
survivors Thursday for completing an eight-week course designed to
give them confidence and job skills.

The academy helps violence survivors restore self-confidence

In return, the women thanked police and city officials with speeches
and even a original play about a broken doll that served as a metaphor
for healing.

One survivor shared a journal entry that detailed her battle to leave
an abusive relationship.

“Dear Lonely,” it began, “It’s time that you know that I’ve abandoned
you because I met my new friend ‘Joy.’ Joy introduced me to ‘Hope,’
and my life began to change. I am no longer the same person and have
another friend in ‘Peace.’ In this place we share a common friend –
‘Happiness.'”

Deputy Chief Craig Hunter congratulates a graduate

The 26 women comprise the third graduating class of the innovative
program. More than 50 women have completed it – and many are thriving.
Some have come back as mentors. A few even started successful
businesses. A florist, a health foods products saleswoman and a
cosmetics merchant shared their wares at Thursday’s event.

“These women have been through so much and are so courageous,” said
Kerith Dilley, executive director of the AFJC Foundation. “The stories
of what they endured are heart breaking. But their incredible courage
to push forward for their families and themselves inspires us all.”

To view a report by KNBC-TV’s Vikki Vargas, click here.

To read about the prior graduating class, click here.

Survivor’s Academy Graduation Leads Newspaper Column

The tale of 20 women who completed the Anaheim Family Justice Center’s unique Survivor’s Academy leads the most recent “Behind the Badge” column in the Anaheim Bulletin-Orange County Register.

The column also highlights the city’s new anti-graffiti Web site and upcoming fund-raiser for the Southern California Special Olympics.

Read the column here.

Domestic Violence Survivor: ‘I’ve Been to Hell and Back’

Maria arrived at the Anaheim Family Justice Center just after Christmas. Her nose was broken. Her black eyes were hidden behind oversized sunglasses.

Lt. Julian Harvey joins violence survivors in celebrating their new found self-confidence

Her alcoholic boyfriend beat her then burned her clothing. 

“They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” says “Maria,” 21. “Well, I’ve been to hell and back.”

On Thursday, she and 20 other women graduated from AFJC’s eight-week “Survivor’s Academy,” designed to provide tools, skills and confidence to make meaningful changes in their lives.

“It was a wake-up call for me,” said Maria, a mother of two boys. “I have enough self-respect now not to tolerate that kind of behavior. I was in denial before. He was taught to be a woman beater, and I know now that I can’t change him.”

Hosted by Irene Martinez, the one-of-a-kind academy focuses on teaching self-confidence and self-worth. It also provides budgeting, resume writing and job-skills assistance.

“You really see a transformation in these women,” Martinez said. “It’s a special program and I’m proud to be part of it.”

During Thursday’s event, which was attended by police officials and community leaders such as Annan Aboul-Nasr from the Islamic Institute of Orange County, each participant was asked to address the audience. 

In Spanish, Ana said: “This is a place that helps alleviate sadness. It helped me learn to value myself more – and love myself more.”

A few minutes later, Spanish-speaker Carmen turned to Police Chief John Welter and, in English, said, “It gave me tools to help me. I really appreciate it. Thank you.”

A high school drop out, Maria plans to enroll in community college classes and earn her diploma. Her four-year-old will start preschool soon; she’s also looking for work.

What about her boyfriend, the father of her children?

He’s in jail.

Maria knows he won’t be there forever.

“Eighty-percent come back and retaliate,” she says, citing a statistic from the academy. “It is a concern. But I’m in control. Not him.”