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Tradition of caring
By Chhun Sun

Sierra Vista Child & Family Services has one longstanding goal.

To care for people in need.

The agency has been committed to caring for Stanislaus County since 1972, when a dairy farmer and volunteer member of the county’s Mental Health Advisory Board envisioned a group home that could provide a high level of care for children.

These days, it provides services to 22,000 children and families each year through 21 programs in 19 locations and at every school in the Stanislaus and Merced counties. The services aim to meet the needs of people who are overwhelmed with mental illnesses, child abuse or substance-abuse.

On Feb. 7, Sierra Vista Child & Family Services will celebrate a milestone with its 15th Annual Hearts for Children Gala at the Assyrian American Civic Club in Turlock. The theme of this year’s fundraiser will be from the story of “Mulan,” which, according to the event’s press release, is about helping and supporting “those in our community who are the most doubtful at having the strength to believe in themselves to accomplish their full potential, and find their place in society.”

The annual event will also recognize the work of Judy Kindle, the executive director who has been with Sierra Vista for 30 years. Her administrative team has members with 15-25 years of experience at the agency. She says her time at the agency “does not feel like I have been here for 30 years.”

“Every year is new and brings new challenges and new opportunities,” Kindle added.

Michele Speich, the director of marketing and fund development, said the agency is still standing because of Kindle’s leadership.

“Those 30 years, we’ve seen the changes that are happening within the community and also the economy, which affects the children and families that we serve,” Speich said. “[Kindle] has just been that kind of guiding light for Sierra Vista that kind of just has carried us through.”

Kindle and her team at the agency were awarded early this month The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Behavioral Health Care Accreditation after demonstrating a commitment to providing safe and effective care.

“I had the vision and [our leadership team] carried most of the workload,” Kindle said about the accreditation. “Our other goals for this year are to continue to increase the awareness of the need for mentors for the children and youth in our county and to provide mentors with the necessary training through our Mentoring Resource Center. The other goals are to continue to meet the needs of our communities by continually improving our services and expanding where needed.”

Sierra Vista is the largest nonprofit mental health agency in the Central Valley. It provides programs that include mental health services, early childhood services, special education, therapeutic residential treatment, adoption, foster care, clinical and family support in homes and schools, perinatal substance abuse treatment and community counseling.

The agency is looking forward to its annual gala event, with past themes including “Finding Nemo” and “Peter Pan.”

“I had the pleasure of helping to start the very first fundraising event for Sierra Vista when it was known as Therapeutic Homes,” Kindle said. “It was a wonderful country evening event … Our guests are treated to an enchanting evening in the world of a children’s story.”

For more information on Sierra Vista Child & Family Services, call the main office at 209-523-4573 or visit