Central Santa Ana may seem a world away from fashionable Newport Beach, but both communities are home to many families who love their children and hope they will have a brighter future and a chance to become young leaders who will make a difference.
While wealth and opportunities are vastly different, purely from the perspective of love and hope, a defining difference between the two communities may be the zip code.
Perhaps that’s why KidWorks, a Santa Ana-based nonprofit dedicated to providing academic, personal development, and leadership programs for children and teens in overlooked neighborhoods, has captured the hearts and minds of a group of influential and philanthropic-minded women from Newport Beach.
These women, who say they are sharing the joy they have found in being a part of something bigger than themselves, are members of a women’s auxiliary, called KidWorks Women (KWW), which has pledged to support the important and transformative work of KidWorks.
KidWorks, which marks 30 years as a vibrant community development-focused nonprofit in 2023, has a fully licensed preschool and after-school programs, plus tutoring, mentoring, and adult services in the areas of health, parenting, and support groups.
For nearly a decade, 100 percent of KidWorks high school students have graduated on time and gone onto higher education. Each year, KidWorks impacts the lives of hundreds of students and families through our programs in central Santa Ana.
The founding KWW leadership group includes Newport Beach residents Kyle Team, Kristen McGuinness, Stephanie Peluses, Kathy Ursini, and Camille Strader. The KidWorks staff advisor is Associate Director of Development Lisa Gels, also of Newport Beach.
“For 30 years, KidWorks has provided academic support, and leadership development programs that empower students on their journey from pre-kindergarten through their college years,” said KWW Chair Team, who is also a member of the KidWorks board.
“Our group supports the entire family to ensure student success, creating self-reliant young adults, who are equipped for life and career, and who are making a difference by giving back to their community,” she said.
She added that the group focuses activities through the lenses of fun, faith, and philanthropy. Fun is represented by two annual signature social events, the spring Pickleball Tournament held at The Tennis and Pickleball Club at Newport Beach, and the fall Rosé on the Bay event , which takes place at a private waterfront residence.
The faith component includes participation in at least two spiritual activities like prayer walks, Bible studies, or other faith-based projects. Lastly, philanthropy will include two hands-on service projects or engagement opportunities each year.
“I’ve had the privilege to play a small part in the creation of this group that supports KidWorks,” said KidWorks Service Co-Chair Camille Strader. “We have started with a few annual events, but I hope to see these events grow and for us to reach more and more women who would like to give of their time, talents and treasure.”
Collectively, the women are determined to support KidWorks as it continues its legacy as a beacon of light and hope.
Said KidWorks Executive Director David Benavides, “We thank these women for their belief in our mission to unleash youth potential…one life at a time. In partnership with all of our valued supporters and volunteers, we are empowering youth towards college and meaningful careers.
Women interested in joining the group are asked to send their contact information to Gels at [email protected]. To learn more about KidWorks and to read its success stories, please visit www.kidworksoc.org.