Monthly Archives: July 2019

Giving at-risk youths their second chance …


This wasn’t my typical assignment.

Stephanie Rivera had accepted a ride with a family member and his friend, not knowing that decision would have an immediate impact on her life. Unaware that the car had been stolen, the 17-year-old found herself in trouble with the law. Instead of starting her high-school senior year looking forward to prom and graduation, she faced having to clear her record and pay off costly fines.

It was at this point that Stephanie, who had never been in trouble with the law, really needed someone to be her guide through what lay ahead. Fortunately, she was motivated to succeed and accepted responsibility for her actions.

As a case-manager for Diakon Youth Services’ Bridge Program, I walk alongside and mentor students enrolled in our community-based, weekday support and intervention service through their county’s juvenile probation office.

Unlike Stephanie, most of them have been in trouble multiple times. Based on a therapeutic approach to accountability, the program helps these adolescents build a foundation of self-discipline and respect for family, teachers, the law and self.

In addition to working with them on educational and workforce-development goals, I offer them my time.

For Stephanie, this has meant things such as picking her up after school, driving her to her court hearings, taking her to lunch on her birthday and simply providing an ear to listen. With that guidance and a little TLC, she got her permit, a job and faithfully saved week after week to pay off her restitution. She also graduated from high school and enrolled in college.

Despite her hard work, however, her long-range plan of joining the Army remained out of reach. As a minor, she had had her fine grouped with that of her family member and friend, who refused to pay their share. If she wanted to move on and be released from probation, she had to come up with $500 on her own.

Knowing it’s always important to have a Plan B, I approached my supervisor about the possibility of helping Stephanie through Diakon’s Second Chance Fund. The fund helps students who have done well in our program and completed their goals and probation requirements, but do not have all the necessary resources to make restitution.

Recognizing Stephanie’s hard work, my supervisor approved my request and shortly thereafter, Stephanie learned she would be released from probation, her juvenile record expunged. Those steps cleared the way for her to be the first in her family to attend college and eventually join the Army.

Because of generous donors who support Diakon’s Second Chance Fund, students such as Stephanie, who do what we ask of them but fall short in terms of financial ability, will not miss out on their dreams.

They have earned them. They deserve it. And they have gained their second chance.

Marlene Ortiz is a case-manager for Diakon Youth Services’ Bridge program in Chester County. To learn how you can make a donation to the Second Chance Fund, click here.

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Six drug-free treatment options for people with cognitive illnesses

While cures may not currently be possible for many forms of cognitive illnesses, are there ways to treat people without the use of drugs?

Some believe it is possible to help manage some of the challenging behaviors and symptoms with a number of drug-free treatment options, including holistic therapies. It’s important to note, however, that many of these are based on trial and error, not scientific research.

In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association®, “The rigorous scientific research required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the approval of a prescription drug is not required by law for the marketing of dietary supplements or ‘medical foods.’” This means that side effects, uses and efficiency may not be safely monitored. For that reason, many people tend to opt for a different approach: holistic therapies and lifestyle changes.

Options for older adults with dementia …

There are a number of steps you might test when trying to help a person with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. These approaches can affect everyone differently, but through trial and error, you may be better able to help a loved one.

1.    Aromatherapy. Some people may become agitated, angry or even depressed as a result of dementia; it can thus be difficult for them to relax or calm down. In these cases, aromatherapy may be able to help. Try rubbing a lavender-scented lotion on their hands or spraying a refreshing citrus room spray to lift spirits in the morning.

2.    Massage Therapy. If your loved one doesn’t mind being touched, massage therapy might be something that is good for them. It can not only help to relax the person, but also release oxytocin to promote peace and calm.

3.    Pet Therapy. There are few people who don’t instantly light up when they see an animal. Known to be successful in an array of situations, pet therapy can help break up your loved one’s routine and bring joy and happiness. Whether the person prefers the company of a dog or a cat, friendly purrs and wagging tails can make a difference.

For additional drug-free treatment suggestions, please click here!