MURRIETA, Calif. Bob and Mona Davies' calendar looks like Fred Astaire's dance card at a New Year's Party. So much for the idyllic notion of spring break.
Eight years ago, the Murrieta couple, tapping into a model they used in Seattle and Los Angeles, began reaching out to Riverside's at-risk children by establishing the Community Outreach Ministry.
"When we were in Seattle doors opened that were sealed shut," Mona Davies said. "God's continued to do the same thing here."
The Murrieta ministry reaches out to children of prisoners and others who appear to be at-riskprimarily by using camping, mentoring and Christmas events.
"These youngsters feel devalued," she said. "They need to be built up. They need to be encouraged."
But as needs have changed, the Davies have responded. Their most immediate need now is for ladies' clothes sizes 14 and 18 to help support women seeking to improve their lives.
The project has evolved out of an eight-week affiliation with a local transitional home for women who are either re-entering society from jail or recovering from issues involving substance abuse or homelessness.
"Some of these women have children and these children will end up on the same path unless we break the generational cycle," she said.
Davies said she's been providing the transitional home toiletry items for the women, while another ministry volunteer is helping the women with practical training for maintaining their finances, accessing public assistance and securing low-income housing.
On March 16 they will host a SMURF single mothers event in Temecula, followed the next day by a similar event in Murrieta. On March 22, the outreach will host Young Week of the Child at McVicker Park in Lake Elsinore.
A month later, on April 20, the ministry will hold its first ever golf tournament at the Links Summerly in Lake Elsinore. Money raised from that event will be used to send children of prisoners and at-risk kids to summer camp.
Then, from 1 to 4 p.m. May 4, they will host a luncheon at Montemeleone Meadows, featuring the sale of new bridal and evening gowns. The $20 tickets will also include a guest speaker, deejay, ticket drawings and door prizes. All proceeds will benefit the ministry's Solutions, Opportunities, Scholarships (SOS), for breaking crimes against kids.
All this activity has the Davies searching for more space to house the ministry. Their immediate need is for office space, a multipurpose room and an area for storage. Long-term they are seeking donated property in Wildomar to create a permanent home.
"These smallest victims of crime are being given an opportunity to reshape the rest of their lives," their Web site reads. "They are learning their lives are significant and that they have the capability to do great things. It is exciting to see their young lives being changed, families being preserved and our community being enriched through outreach."
In December, an Angel Tree Christmas Party, co-sponsored by Gem of the Valley Church, provided toys to more than 200 children and 100 families in the Temecula Valley.
The ministry's involvement in the national Angel Tree project began in 2001 with 50 gifts going to 25 children. Since then, 2,400 gifts have been distributed to 1,200 children/500 families from Temecula, Winchester, Murrieta, Menifee, Sun City, Lake Elsinore, Wildomar and Canyon Lake. All of those receiving gifts have at least one incarcerated parent.
While the Christmas projects may be the most festive of their projects, the relatively new mentoring program offers more long-term guidance for children and youth. By matching adults with children, specific goals are developed to increase life and character skills to help the youngsters make good choices, provide them a fresh sense of confidence and self-worth, and promote positive and healthy lifestyles.
"Our mentoring is going to focus on how to have clean fun, accept the kids as they are, help them to be consistent in life and raising the expectations of their own lives," she said.
By doing so, the Davies' are confident of reducing abuse, violence, crime and delinquency among their clients. Mentors must commit to a yearlong one-on-one relationship with the child of an inmate.
One of their most popular ministries involves summer camps where the children and youth are exposed to safe, stress-free environments to relax, make new friends, and experience God's creation. For adventure they go water sliding, swimming, boating, go-carting and hiking. They also engage in team sports, are challenged in creative arts and group activities. During the camp, staffers use the activities to expose the youth to six pillars of character and how to make good choices.
Many of the children are able to go thanks to scholarshipsmore than 250 presented to date.
For more information on the upcoming events, call (951) 698-7650 or visit www.communityoutreachministry.org