A tea party for about a dozen girls, 4 to 13 years old was held recently at the Santa Paula Family Resource Center. “It was a very good opportunity for the girls to be girls,” said SPFRC Executive Director Veronica Vera-Vargas. Courtesy Photos

SP Family Resource Center offers many activities for kids, families

September 16, 2005
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesIt’s hard to tell from the outside, but much goes on at the Santa Paula Family Resource Center (SPFRC) on East Main Street, especially activities that involve the city’s youngest citizens.“I drop in here all the time,” said Latino Town Hall President Bob Borrego, who recently arrived on the scene of a tea party for about a dozen girls, 4 to 13 years old. “It was a very good opportunity for the girls to be girls,” said SPFRC Executive Director Veronica Vera-Vargas.The two-hour tea party featured making hats out of materials donated by Santa Paula Coffee Company. The giant coffee filters were carefully decorated with food colors as Vera-Vargas and other SPFRC staff talked about “what it means to be a girl, about respect for themselves and a positive self-image. We had a formal tea party,” including etiquette lessons and the reading of “Girls Hold Up This World” by Jada Pinkett Smith.“Girls definitely must value their sense of being,” and the tea party was the perfect venue for such a life lesson, said Vera-Vargas. When he came in during the tea party, Borrego asked, “’What are all these lovely young ladies doing here?’ Their smiles filled the room.”The idea for the tea party stemmed from an observation: “Every Tuesday this summer we had movie day with popcorn and lemonade attended by eight to 10 youngsters.... I saw that when an older male came in the girls would be intimidated, so I suggested a tea party. Some of the girls had never heard of it,” Vega-Vargas noted.Many people are aware of the SPFRC: they’ve seen their top-prize winning entries in Santa Paula parades, floats loaded with children and bursting with color. But there are many SPFRC activities that people don’t hear about, such as a tour of California State University Channel Islands, where children got their first glimpse of higher education; a visit that affirmed the resolve of even the youngest student.And parents: “One parent who went along was amazed that we had a university so close,” and all the children were delighted when photos were taken in caps and gowns, a rehearsal for their future college graduations.
A group of middle and high school age youths hiked on a SPFRC excursion to the Punch Bowl, where their differences turned to unity as they tackled the physically challenging outing, noted Vera-Vargas. “They shared a great sense of accomplishment and returned as a cohesive group.... We get a variety of kids at the center; some have been in trouble and others haven’t, but every child is welcome and encouraged to feel that this is the place where they should be.”The SPFRC has a First 5 of Ventura County-funded “Teen Mom: Learning and Growing With Love” program with 67 clients, girls that are either pregnant or already mothers who attend from throughout the Santa Clara River Valley. But such programs, all SPFRC programs, are threatened by budget cuts.It is expected that, effective November 1, the center’s major funding source, the California Endowment, will not re-fund the SPFRC. “We’ll have to reinvent ourselves,” said Vera-Vargas of the SPFRC, founded in 1998 as a collaboration between various public agencies and overseen by Interface Children Family Services.Center services include free information and referrals, mental health and substance abuse counseling, youth and adult informational support groups, parent skills groups, art classes, games, etc. “It’s a friendly place where families can come to receive information, assistance or just find someone to listen,” said Vera-Vargas. “Our mission is to have healthy families” physically, mentally and emotionally.Borrego said his own involvement in the center stems from his desire to help people. “I was raised in Santa Paula, and during the Great Depression I saw so much misery.... I can’t stand to see someone needing help and not getting help.”Help is available at the SPFRC: for more information, call 525-6616 or stop by at 940 E. Main Street.

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