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SCV nonprofits continue services, seek community support

Founder Debbie Rocha with Palamino, Jax, left, and mustang Mia, at Straightening Reins in Santa Clarita. Dan Watson/The Signal

Nonprofit organizations that serve the Santa Clarita Valley have begun to face numerous challenges as they work to continue serving the community amid the coronavirus crisis.

“COVID-19 has not stopped cancer or the need for cancer treatment or services in our community, and it will not stop Circle of Hope either,” said Executive Director Laura Kirchhoff. “Going through cancer treatment, (cancer patients’) systems are already compromised, so they more than ever really need to stay in the house.”

Though Circle of Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting those fighting cancer locally, has closed its Wellness Center, staff continue to be available by email and phone and many of the 36 therapies and classes offered to cancer patients, survivors and their families free of charge, are now being offered virtually through Facebook Live and Zoom.

“(The) therapies that we offer are such a vital part of their wellness and just on so many levels,” Kirchhoff added. “So we’re trying to find some creative ways to still give them what we can.”

In addition, Circle of Hope continues to provide financial assistance to those in need to help pay for their treatments, co-pays, deductibles, medications and other medical costs related to their cancer diagnosis. “People are losing their jobs, or a family member is, (so) people that maybe were able to afford their treatments before are now finding that they can’t.”

During these trying times, Circle of Hope has seen an increase in the number of clients in need of financial assistance and recently had to postpone its spring fundraiser. That being said, they’re seeking the community’s support to continue providing support and services to the cancer community, Kirchhoff added.

Like Circle of Hope, Avenues Supported Living Services had to postpone two major annual events that generate a significant amount of its annual donations.

“We are an essential service because we support adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Natalie Cavarretta, director of development at AvenuesSLS. “In light of our adults having to shelter in place and stay home for their safety and everyone else’s, we are delivering groceries and toiletries to them twice a week … our fundraisers were helping us to sustain those types of services.”

In order to continue to do so, AvenuesSLS is asking for the community’s support as they continue to think of creative ways to fundraise.

In lieu of their annual bowling event in May, AvenuesSLS has scheduled a virtual fundraiser and silent auction. For every $5 donated, participants will receive a ticket to be entered into the drawing for a chance to win a number of prizes, and winners will be announced live at the virtual event, Cavarretta said.

Through the month of April, participants can also text the word “SPARE” to 71777 for instructions on how to donate.

“Homelessness among families has not been suspended, and families are even more at risk of homelessness than before,” said Roché Vermaak, executive director of Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley, a nonprofit dedicated to serving local homeless families. “Many have lost their jobs and/or housing and are living with friends and family, which puts more strain on those relationships in this uncertain time.”

Though the organization’s emergency shelter program, typically held at various host congregations, was temporarily canceled to prevent exposing volunteers to COVID-19, they remain committed to responding to the needs of both new families and former clients experiencing homelessness, connecting families to Bridge to Home and L.A. Family Housing or housing them in motels if no other options are available.

Programs and services are continuing in a modified format, providing phone and email case management and other services with minimal direct contact.

“My function is to help families who are struggling to make ends meet by providing them with daily resources: where to find a job, which agencies have food available, how to receive their stimulus check, which government and local agencies and resources are open,” Vermaak added.

SRD~Straightening Reins’ new mini horses, Sapphire and Freddie, await school to resume so they can continue visiting kids through the nonprofit’s school program. Courtesy of Deborah Rocha

SRD~Straightening Reins Foundation, a nonprofit that works to improve teen and adolescent mental health through equine therapy, is doing its best to continue to provide much-needed therapies at this time, as the current health crisis can exacerbate certain mental health issues, including anxiety, stress and depression, among others.

“In the circumstances, it is the uncertainty that makes people most anxious,” said Executive Director Deborah Rocha. “It’s even more important that we pull out that toolbox. What are the tools that you can use to keep yourself grounded when those things start to happen? … Right now, that toolbox is really important. And, there’s something to be said for the nurturing, calm, nonjudgmental tone that’s attached to working with the animals.”

Though school programs have been suspended, Straightening Reins is continuing individual sessions for those in need, implementing the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines for safety, such as adhering to the 6-foot physical distance requirement, wearing masks and disinfecting the barn.

Still, it’s been an adjustment for everyone, including the animals. “The animals are used to working … so when we’re down at the barn, you can hear them vocalizing that they want attention.”

While the organization has applied for some financial assistance as well as grants, they’ve also lost some of their donors due to financial hardships.

Circle of Hope’s cancer support group meetings are scheduled Tuesdays on Zoom, while the Vine 2 Wine fundraiser is scheduled Aug. 15 and annual Afternoon Tea is Oct. 3. For more information, call 661-254-5218, email [email protected] or visit

AvenuesSLS’ virtual fundraiser is scheduled 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on May 9. For more information, visit or call 661-702-9788.

For more information on Family Promise, email [email protected] or call 661-251-2867.  

For more information on Straightening Reins, visit or call 661-803-1641. 

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