The volunteer organization’s primary activity is an after-school tutoring program, through which 50 to 60 children in kindergarten through eighth grade receive homework help and learn how to do research on supervised computers. Since many of the students are learning English as a second language – but aren’t completely comfortable in their home language, either – the Center’s program emphasizes language skills.
“They’re caught between two worlds,” said Board President Chris Calabrese. “It’s a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity.” Events such as pajama reading nights encourage not only a capacity for reading, but a love for it. Math nights, at which parents practice alongside their kids, are also popular.
Life skills such as respect, responsibility and leadership form the foundation that help kids find a path to success. Previous students have grown up to become police officers, teachers, social workers, health care professionals, NASA employees … and those who return to the Center as volunteers.
Anthony Murillo, board member and program director, was one of the first 11 students to come to the Center when it opened in 1997. “I remember walking through the door and being very scared,” he said, “but realizing I would be in a better position to give back.” He sees the same trepidation in the eyes of newcomers today and works to dispel the discomfort and help the kids feel secure.
“That’s the key: understanding it’s a safe haven.” The volunteers who worked at the Center helped Murillo succeed, both educationally and personally. “All the things we dreamed of as kids … the center brought those back to fruition.”
The Center is always seeking additional tutoring volunteers “folks that are interested in working with kids,” said Calabrese. “In this economy, a lot of people can’t give back financially, but they can definitely give back by volunteering.” The Center also welcomes volunteers to help with services such as translation assistance and a weekly food bank.
Another focus of the Center is health care. Medical professionals from John Muir hospital give of their time, providing a free mobile clinic on a weekly basis, and flu shots once a year. “We really appreciate what they’re doing,” said Calabrese. Financial support comes through private donors and the East Bay Community Foundation, and the board members are grateful for the continued donations. According to Calabrese, “They’re the reason we’re still here.”
The volunteers who offer their time and resources to help improve the lives of the families and children at the Center are making a huge difference. “It’s the small things people don’t realize that often change lives,” said Murillo. “The biggest thing is having that attention … someone who really cares and is willing to reach out.”
Village Community Resource Center, located at 633 Village Drive in Brentwood, can be reached at 925-420-6781. For more information, visit www.vcrcbrentwoodca.org.