Alma in Spanish, means soul, an appropriate name for an organization dedicated to providing a wide range of multilingual community-based services.
Whatever it takes
Alma Family Services was founded in 1975 and since its creation 46 years ago, it has demonstrated the “can do, whatever it takes,” attitude necessary to meet the diverse needs of Southern California’s Hispanic and Latino population. On the homepage of their website is a wonderful quote from Gandhi. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Alma Family Services discovers who they are, every single day.
The definition of comprehensive
The list of services Alma offers is the definition of comprehensive. The needs of Southern California residents are met in homes, residential and juvenile facilities. Their outreach includes social and vocation programs. Alma provides no less than eight mental health outpatient office locations in Long Beach, Walnut, Pico Rivera, El Monte and East L.A. They’re actively involved in community health facilities and domestic violence programs.
Alma is the lead agency for a collaborative Gang Reduction Youth Development Program (GRYD), serving the Boyle Heights/Hollenbeck area of Los Angeles. GRYD programs are part of the Mayor’s efforts to reduce crime rates and gang membership in specific communities with a high level of activity and violence.
An aquatic answer
Alma offers a uniquely designed indoor aquatic facility at the East Los Angeles Centro Estrella location. It serves children and adults with special needs. There’s a Senior Wellness Aquatic Program where participants engage in gentle aerobic exercises under the supervision of an instructor. Future Swimmers Preschool is exactly what it sounds like – children learn the basics of swimming and water safety. The Future Swimmers Program, taught under American Red Cross guidelines, taps into the more competitive side of swimming. There are programs for team sports, too. Individuals benefit both physically and psychologically.
How SCE Credit Union is involved
Ricardo Flores, the Southern California Community Development Officer for SCE Credit Union and a certified financial coach, has been working with Alma Family Services for three years. “Our involvement begins with providing workshops on financial basics,” Flores explains. “A large number of the people Alma serves are from the immigrant community, so we’re here to help them overcome language barriers, and challenges to opening accounts with an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).”
Basics eventually evolve into more complex financial instruction, action and even coaching. Flores says particular emphasis is placed on budgeting, and the knowledge gleaned from workshops help them develop a budget, set goals and create an action plan. “We demystify credit, talk about why it’s important, and how it’s calculated. We help them establish credit, with products like our Credit Builder Loan,” says Flores, adding, “We make sure they understand the benefits of responsible borrowing and the dangers of debt.” Those who use Alma Family Services can also make use of a free, one-on-one, financial coaching session.
Dream a new dream
In addition to the Gandhi quote on the homepage, there’s a quote from C.S. Lewis, the writer, lay-theologian and close friend of J.R.R. Tolkien. “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Alma Family Services has been proving him right for nearly 50 years.