More than 300 business leaders, elected officials, and community members attended Uplift Family Service’s Hearts & Hands Luncheon on September 18, 2020.
This event was a bit different from past years in that, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health safety guidelines, it was held virtually via a live video stream!
Though we couldn’t all be in the same room this year, our community is not one to let anything–even a pandemic–get in their way of helping the children and families we serve! In a beautiful showing of solidarity and support, everyone came together, celebrated the impact of our honorees, and raised more than $514,000 in needed funds for our Bay Area Addiction Prevention Services program, as well as our “Whatever It Takes” fund, which helps vulnerable children and families with necessities such as rent, food, and diapers.
Now more than ever, children and families are facing challenges such as alcohol abuse, vaping, edible marijuana, pill swapping, opioids, cyberbullying, cutting, and gang involvement.
According to the CDC, about half of high school students report having used marijuana, while two-thirds have tried alcohol, and one in four have used an e-cigarette. Unfortunately, substance use at an early age can negatively impact a child’s development and well-being, and can lead to other unhealthy behavior choices. Our Addiction Prevention Services provide substance abuse prevention, intervention, and post-intervention services for children and teens who are both at-risk and currently involved in these high-risk activities.
In the last year alone, we helped more than 9,000 children and their parents or caregivers in 27 schools across Santa Clara and Alameda counties. And now, because of the incredible support of our attendees, we can continue to provide:
- Classroom workshops on suicide prevention, as well as drug and alcohol education;
- Individual and group school-based counseling; and
- Parent/caregiver meetings and education regarding the opioid crisis and what to watch for, how to manage stress, and the effects of drugs on youth.
Following a warm welcome from Bay Area Regional Executive Director Don Taylor, as well as our Addiction Prevention Services Manager, Toni Welch, we shared the story of one of our moms, Hedda, who was able to overcome addiction and is now on track to be reunified with her children.
“My life now? I like who I’m becoming. I’m not ashamed of what happened. It’s brought our family a lot more closer,” she said. “It’s very important to have Uplift because without programs like this, we don’t get up. We stay in our rut. We might even lose ourselves. Uplift reaches those people.”
Darrell Evora, CEO of Uplift Family Services, then recognized Roger Barney, a CEO/Executive Coach and Addiction Prevention Services advocate who has sat on our Board of Directors for more than 19 years, with the Community Hearts & Hands award. He was selected for his leadership and generosity, and for exemplifying our mission to, “do whatever it takes”. He was also our keynote speaker, during which time he shared his heartbreaking story of losing his youngest daughter to an opioid addiction, and how he turned this trial into an opportunity to help others avoid this kind of tragedy. He said, “If I can save one child, it’s worth it.”
Supervisor Dave Cortese was honored with the Community Civic Leader award for his long track record of advocacy on behalf of behavioral health services in Santa Clara County. He has committed his life to public service, and has championed and authored a number of initiatives for the benefit of the children and families we serve.
Elaine Herzig, founder of Carolyn’s Kids, was presented with the Community Hero award for working tirelessly to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in our community. Besides being one of the largest contributors to our annual backpack drive, she hosts an annual Kentucky Derby fundraiser which attracts hundreds of attendees, and supports families during the holidays with dozens and gifts and gift cards. She is truly a community hero!