Love Orange colleagues mobilize volunteers year round to make the city a better place, including coordinating efforts for the citywide serve day. Shown here (from left) are Jeff Yim, Sophia Lee, Ric Olsen, Jaime Gomez and Craig Hill.
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What started out as a few volunteers helping out with the city’s Christmas tree lighting event more than a decade ago has evolved into a mobilized force of year-round volunteers dedicated to improving the City of Orange through the nonprofit Love Orange.
“It began through Orange’s churches, so Love Orange is kind of a gift from the churches of Orange to the city,” says Ric Olsen, Executive Director of Love Orange.
Love Orange provides the tools needed to connect people with opportunities to serve in the city. It is divided into two categories: the year-round events and the citywide serve day.
“We wanted to help people find a way to help make the city a better place,” says Olsen.
Since the beginning, Love Orange has been a partner to the city when they worked together to address the homeless encampment at the riverbed.
“Love Orange leads the Homeless Neighbor Initiative,” says Leslie Hardy, Community Services Director with the City of Orange. “They bring together all the local faith based and other nonprofits with the city and the police’s H.E.A.R.T. program to help with homeless resources.”
This led to working with the city on other projects, such as with hoarders, needs identified by the senior center and helping with events, such as the May Parade, in addition to the annual citywide serve day.
“During the year, we go wherever there is a need,” says Olsen. “There is a tab on our website that says, ‘suggest a project’.”
Love Orange focuses on three basic initiatives: citywide events; neighboring, which addresses seniors, veterans, homeless and schools and unity, which coordinates with the churches on things like the National Day of Prayer. The bulk of Love Orange’s volunteers come from churches and student service groups.
“We’re starting student Love Orange service clubs in a few of Orange’s schools,” says Olsen. “Our website can document their service hours.”
Olsen describes moving from a needs-based to an asset-based approach to helping in the city.
“For the last 50 years, the model has been if there is a crisis or a need, you call the city,” he says. “We’ve trained our culture to expect our city and government to have all the answers. We are an asset-based approach, meaning that within a neighborhood or a community there are already resources available.”
Olsen’s goal is for every street and every neighborhood to have a captain, and for all captains to work together on helping a neighborhood with a need.
“So instead of dropping off a counselor in the middle of a crisis—someone takes a casserole over and has dinner with them,” he says.
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