Mary O'Connor, Family Assessment Counseling & Education Services
After seeing firsthand how low-income families suffer during divorces and other family traumas, Mary O'Connor found within herself the strength to do something about it. Today her organization is helping thousands of parents and children when they need it most. "VolunteerMatch has given us a group of bright, educated volunteers with life experiences."
Forty dollars - that was the take in Mary O'Connor's first ever fundraiser for Family Assessment Counseling & Education Services.
It was 1988, and O'Connor was starting her own psychotherapy practice after mediating 3,000 divorces for the Superior Court in Orange County. A single parent herself, O'Connor was depressed at what she was seeing. Many of the low-income families who came to her didn't have the means to get the help they really needed. Consequently, the entire family - parents and children - suffered.
That first F.A.C.E.S. fundraiser was O'Connor's attempt to do something, anything, to help. Nineteen years later, the organization has just opened up its fourth office, and in 2006 provided services for over 1,700 families.
"We really had no idea what we were doing," she recalls. "But we knew it was a needed commodity - helping divorcing families. It was the only one of its kind in Southern California, so the referrals came in."
From the get-go, O'Connor and her small staff got lots of support from friends and family in the community. A local attorney volunteered to set up F.A.C.E.S.' nonprofit and corporate entities. A friend built the sign out in front of the office. And with a handful of donations - mostly from their own pockets - the agency was launched.
In order to keep their counseling affordable, F.A.C.E.S. used the community clinic model, using therapists in training from local universities.
Not surprisingly, they still rely heavily on the support and service of local volunteers.
Since 2005 alone, more than 100 volunteers have donated time to F.A.C.E.S., including many who have become board members (such as the current board president, Donna Friedman). Others help with grant writing, web development, event management, and bookkeeping, among other roles.
According to O'Connor, much of the group's volunteer recruitment takes place on VolunteerMatch. Recently, the organization lost a federal grant for paid monitors for visits of families involved in domestic violence. The organization posted a volunteer opportunity on VolunteerMatch and got the manpower it needed.
"Our agency is over 90% volunteer-based," she said. "We could not keep our doors open if it were not for them. VolunteerMatch has given us a group of bright, educated volunteers with life experiences, who want to help and are willing to commit their time. We can't say enough thanks!"
About Family Assessment Counseling & Education Services
F.A.C.E.S. (Family Assessment Counseling & Educational Services) provides counseling strategies and solutions for children caught in the crossfire of divorce, and education to prevent family violence. With the generous support of local and federal grants, and donations from members of the community, F.A.C.E.S. is able to offer high quality services at the lowest cost. No one seeking counseling is rejected because of inability to pay for services.
Family Assessment Counseling & Education Services
505 E. Commonwealth Ave., Ste 200
Fullerton, CA 92832
Check out F.A.C.E.S on VolunteerMatch.
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