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28 Oct 2020

Unsung Heroes: Olive Crest Volunteer Marcia Flagler Uses Her Food and Teaching Experience to Help At-Risk Children and Their Families

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Serenity, who is in Olive Crest’s Transitional Housing Program, smiles with Marcia Flagler, Olive Crest’s volunteer coordinator. Serenity, who is in Olive Crest’s Transitional Housing Program, smiles with Marcia Flagler, Olive Crest’s volunteer coordinator. Courtesy of Olive Crest

After growing up in Washington State, Marcia Flagler lived in numerous interesting locales, including Bangkok, Thailand, before settling in Northern California, where she enjoyed a career as a high school home economics and foods teacher.

When Marcia and her husband decided to retire about eight years ago, they moved to the Palm Springs area. Full of energy, Flagler knew she wanted to do some volunteer work, but wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do. She looked up the local branch of her Chi Omega Sorority—which annually supports Olive Crest, a leader in the prevention and treatment of child abuse.

Since 1973, Olive Crest has transformed the lives of more than 130,000 abused, neglected and at-risk children and their families. Olive Crest today serves more than 3,500 children and families each day throughout California, Nevada and the Pacific Northwest.

Flagler contacted Olive Crest, Desert Communities, and talked to Angela Allen, the development manager. Both quickly realized that Flagler’s home-economics background would be an amazing fit for the organization’s Operation Independence program, which provides foster youth who are 18 to 20 years of age with the support and training necessary to become independent and successful adults. Flagler began teaching these young people cooking and nutritional classes, in addition to other valuable life skills.

“I jumped right on this because it was right up my alley!” Flagler said. “I am really into nutrition, so this was such a perfect fit for me. After cooking the food, the kids would eat what they had prepared. Working with the older kids gave me a chance to be around 18- and 19-year-olds again, which was not much different than the kids I had taught in school.”

Flagler has been working with Olive Crest for more than six years now, and continues to take on additional roles. About three years ago, Flagler stepped into the role of volunteer coordinator, and she now spends her time preparing memorable birthday celebrations for the Olive Crest kids. She thoroughly enjoys making personalized birthday cakes for the kids, and oversees some of the other volunteers, who bring balloons and design birthday cards for these special celebrations.

During this past year, Flagler began working closely with Olive Crest’s community involvement coordinator, Tatyanna Voorhies, to start a tutoring program for Olive Crest’s elementary and middle school kids in the Coachella Valley. These kids are in Olive Crest’s Wraparound Program, which implements a team strategy to “wrap” an at-risk family with support, coaching and mentorship. Each member of the family is assigned with an age-appropriate “partner,” whose primary purpose is to walk side by side with that family member through their crisis—and to equip them with tools and resources that will help them communicate and have healthy interactions.

“Ever since I got involved with Olive Crest, I have been really impressed with what the organization does for at-risk children and their families,” Flagler said. “These kids come into their lives with the deck stacked against them. Everything that Olive Crest does is so very necessary, with their programs and services creating such an impact on these children’s lives. I am so impressed with the entire Olive Crest staff, and it really is obvious they all care so much. Having been a teacher, it just feels good to be involved with the kids and to help out.”

Flagler and the other volunteers have also taken on myriad other projects, including the annual Thanksgiving dinner for the kids. They are gearing up for that right now, and need the community’s help through donations of food items for families who would otherwise struggle to get a holiday meal on the table. The volunteers will also soon begin getting ready for the annual Olive Crest Christmas-gift effort, during which each youngster in Olive Crest programs can wish for a gift up to $30 in value. Olive Crest then goes out and asks the community at large to “Be the Miracle,” providing items or cash donations to make the kids’ wishes come true.

“Marcia has been a blessing for Olive Crest,” Voorhies said. “Her hard work and dedication toward our children have made a huge impact on so many lives. The influence she has had on the teens through her cooking class is amazing. She is such a pleasure to work with, and has so much passion for helping our youth. She is a true gift to our volunteer program, and we are so amazed by her leadership skills, and compassion for others.”

Flagler said she plans on being an Olive Crest volunteer for years to come.

“I do not see stopping anytime soon!” she said.

Olive Crest always needs volunteers, and people can volunteer in any way they would like—they can baby-sit, provide childcare, read to children, provide transportation, etc. Some volunteer activities are very hands-on, while others are not so hands-on—and volunteers are needed throughout the year.

For more information on Olive Crest, contact Tatyanna Voorhies at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 951-686-8500, ext. 4018. Madeline Zuckerman is the owner and president of M. Zuckerman Marketing and Public Relations. Olive Crest is a client of her firm.

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