This article was written by BenitoLink intern Juliana Luna
Longtime Juvenile Hall volunteers are set to launch the Lead Influence Future Empower (L.I.F.E.) Project on Sept. 23. A nonprofit dedicated to support at-risk youth, it will be introduced to the community at 6 p.m. during dinner at Paine’s Restaurant in Hollister by Shelly Werfelmann and Ramona Trevino.
Werfelmann is a full-time employee for an insurance company. She has been volunteering for the past 10 years in San Benito County Juvenile Hall where she counsels and helps with drug addiction recovery. She provides teenagers with laptops, guides them through college applications, the college system, and finding available.
Werfelmann also helps teens construct exit plans to get back into society, identify their goals and ways to overcome their struggles. She helps them to make better choices and understand how these decisions affect their future.
“It’s showing them something different from what they grow up with,” Werfelmann said.
Trevino is a pastor at New Life Fellowship in Hollister and a life skills teacher at Juvenile Hall. She said most teens decide to grow stronger by embarking on a spiritual path and going to church with her and Werfelmann. Trevino said the dinner is a way to reach out to members of the community to become mentors for the kids.
The Community Foundation for San Benito County founded the L.I.F.E. Project launch event through a $750 impact grant. Guests at the launch event include people involved in the community, from county supervisors and judges to law enforcement, business owners and youth support professionals.
Trevino said L.I.F.E. Project is also a way to get apprenticeships for youth. Werfelmann has been in contact with five girls who are out of juvenile hall and are interested in the program. Recently, a barber took a boy under his wing, teaching him how to cut hair.
Support from the nonprofit will include drug recovery counseling, help with job applications, and opportunities to connect youth with other community resources.
“The biggest thing is building relationships with them,” Werfelmann said. “A simple message a day helps create a long-lasting connection.”
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