Christmas came early for scores of local social workers this week when members of the Real Life Church treated them to lunch as a way of expressing their appreciation.
The real-life beneficiaries, according to both the church and County however, are the 1,300 kids who settle comfortably into foster homes because of their joint efforts.
When children at risk or in need of a family come to the attention of church members, social workers with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services are notified in turn.
And, when social workers are called on to rescue a child from a unhealthy or harmful environment, they often turn to the church for help.
For the third consecutive year, church officials seized the chance to take social workers to lunch.
On Tuesday, more than 120 DCFS employees lined up for a buffet lunch in the building where they work on Avenue Stanford.
“This is one of the few ways we can support the work they do,” Kevin Pisano, local outreach pastor for the Real Life Church said, just before the lunch doors swung open for the county workers.
DCFS Regional Manager Laura Shotzbarger who ironically found herself too busy to sit down and enjoy the meal, was grateful for the church’s hospitality.
“I am extremely thankful,” she told Pisano and other church officials.
“And, I’m proud of my folks,” she said, referring to her staff.
“There are 1,300 kids that we are responsible for and about 750 families,” Shotzbarger said, noting local social workers respond to about 500 referrals alleging child abuse or neglect every month on average.
The 1300 children referred to be Shotzbarger are made up of children who are in foster care, relative care or residing with their parents under our supervision. Of that 1300, about half are placed in foster care or with relatives.
In many of the cases, children removed from a home need personal items and that’s when members of the church step up.
In a foster care initiative set up by the Real Church – called Onemore – church officials call on their parishioners to fill “resource bags,” which are duffle bags containing personal items the child might need.
“We always say that we can make room for one more at the table,” Pisano said Tuesday.
If the child is a baby then diapers are a part of the duffle bag. If it’s a young child, then the duffle bag contains a “stuffed animal” toy.
“If a child has to go quickly, these bags contain all the little basics they might need,” said Steve Meyers, pastor and director of the Real Life Church outreach program.
In a notice prepared by Meyers and Pisano explaining the church’s Onemore program, the flyer reads: “God’s heart beats for the orphan, the father-less, and children with no place to call home — and so must ours.
“We are ordinary people willing to act in extraordinary ways so that one more child’s life can be forever changed.”
As church officials explained their outreach program with pride, the smell of a hot delicious lunch filled the room around them..
For the third year in a row, the lunch honoring SCV social workers was catered by Taqueria El Pariente restaurant in Newhall and, specifically, by Arnoldo Aguilar and his daughters, Elizabeth and Andrea.
On Twitter @jamesarthurholt