Garden Grove Community Services Buena Clinton Youth & Family Center
Twenty years ago, under the City of Garden Grove umbrella, services were needed for the Buena Clinton community that consists of five blocks of housing. There are about 4500 residents, the majority of those are under the age of 18, most are low income with rental assistance.
At that time, there was only a small portable trailer with after-school programs, and youth programs. When they received grant funds they were able to add add on case management, parenting, and counseling services for those who live in the community.
Even prior to the housing crisis, with rent being so high, many families live together in Orange County and the Buena Clinton neighborhood is no different. Two to three families can live together. Many are Spanish-speaking of Latino descent. Most of the families are at or below the poverty level.
In response to the needs in the area, the Community Services applied for a grant for a capital project to build a building from the ground up. They were fortunate to go from an 800 square foot portable to a 6,700 sq. ft. custom facility.
The new facility opened in 2010.
“The goal was to be at the heart of the community,” said Gabi O’Cadiz-Hernandez, Community Services Supervisor. Gabi says she was fortunate to be part of the plan and the space. The need revolved around three strategies: community involvement, safety, and youth enrichment.
“In order to make any systemic change, we need community involvement. Parents help with fundraisers, parents give input on new programs, their input is very much valued, their leadership and hard work is extremely valued,” said Gabi. “They offer a scholarship that they give away every year. The parents are very hands-on and very thankful to the city for this gift.”
Food has always been a huge need for families.
“Many of the families were affected by the shutdown, they lost work. A lot of the families were faced with tough times and putting food on the table became very
hard. Buena Clinton partnered with many organizations such as Second Harvest Food Bank that provided fresh produce and shelf staple items,” said Gabi.
Prior to the pandemic, Gabi had seen a segment on Fox 11 about Bracken’s Kitchen that could provide hot nutritious meals to those in need. There’s something so comforting about a hot-cooked meal. And, Bracken’s Kitchen is a neighbor, it’s practically down the street.
Fast forward to a year ago, and through a partnership with the City of Garden Grove they were able to partner with Bracken’s Kitchen to receive hot meals for families in need.
And, now the Kitchen is able to feed the Garden Grove community again that includes Buena Clinton Youth & Family Center, Magnolia Park Family Resource Center, and H. Louis Lake Senior Center. For the seniors, they offer a drive-through distribution with a nice hot meal and a breakfast. It’s very important that seniors also have access to food.
For Buena Clinton, the kitchen partners with their special events. They offer a movie night and game nights.
“The community’s been heavily impacted by the pandemic, so this gives them the opportunity to get out and socialize in a safe way. Especially in the Latino culture, everything is centered around food, so this very much ties and lends itself to that culture. It brings something very warm and inviting, rather than just picking up a bag of groceries and just going home, this is more than that. It gives them the opportunity to socialize with community members and family to come together to sit down to have a meal together, “said Gabi.
“It’s giving them a special bonding time that maybe we are not able to do. That is
what is so special about Bracken’s Kitchen. They do it in such a professional, high-end manner. It doesn’t feel like it's donated food. It feels like a private catering truck that’s catering to the community. It makes them feel very special.”
The families really enjoy the food and how much it has helped them. And at the same time, they are able to complement the night with a game or movie.
Right after dinner, the families play Loteria and then prizes will be raffled.
The Kitchen will also be partnering with the City of Garden of Grove and provide dinner for the annual Día de Los Muertos event on Oct. 28 where there can be up to 800 people who attend.
There will be a costume contest, pumpkins, decorating sugar skulls, children can experience the traditions and pay remembrance to their loved ones who passed. There’s also a resource fair that will coincide with the event where about a dozen community-based organizations will be there to offer flu shots, vaccines, educational resources for parents, DSL, and fun activities.
“The food is so good and it’s bringing our family together,” said a mother of three at Buena Clinton.
“It’s a very healthy option, good flavor. I really appreciate that it’s a good and healthy balance” said another mother of the three. “It’s been a very stressful and sad time, especially for the children because they were at home for so long.”
“It’s very delicious and I’m so thankful that you bring it out for the community. For me, it’s good, no cooking, no dishes. Everything is so good,” said another mother of five and grandmother of four in the community. “I enjoy everything here. The community center helps with everything. I have a daughter with a baby, and the center helps with food and diapers. We have to work hard, be strong and continue. I love to come to the center. They offer so many activities. I come with my granddaughter and my son. I love all of the classes. Everybody is so nice to us. Thank you so much for the food. We enjoy everything."
Bracken’s Kitchen is honored to be able to provide a hot comforting meal for the families and those served by the City of Garden Grove’s community services.