Families Forward

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Families Forward
Families Forward Logo.jpg
Formation 1984
Headquarters Irvine, California, U.S.
200 volunteers, plus full-time and part-time staff
Executive Director
Margie Wakeham
Website Families-Forward.org

Families Forward is an Irvine, California based nonprofit organization founded in 1984 by a group of community members in collaboration with the City of Irvine and the Irvine Company, with the goal of providing affordable housing for homeless and at-risk families.[1] The agency began with only five apartment units and one part-time counselor. Families Forward has grown and now has housing units across Orange County, a food pantry providing food for nearly 7,000 people per year, and offers services to prevent homelessness in Orange County, California.[1]

Families Forward's mission is to help families in need achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through housing, counseling, education and other support services.[2]

The organization has over 200 volunteers, in addition to full-time and part time employees.[3]

Families Forward was awarded four stars by nonprofit evaluator Charity Navigator for fiscal responsibility for the last 7 years, placing them in the top 3% of rated charities nationwide, noting that 90% of donations are spent on its programs and services.[4]

Programs and services[edit]

Families Forward offers programs and services targeting families who are at-risk of becoming homeless.[5]

Housing support[edit]

Families Forward’s Housing Program is designed to help families who have recently faced a crisis that left them homeless. Families enrolled in the program may receive rental subsidies to give them time to regain their self-sufficiency. Length of stay in the Housing Program varies from family to family. Candidates for the Housing Program must have a minor-aged child and be homeless. This is an intensive program designed to help motivated families achieve and maintain financial self-sufficiency. In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, 93% of families remained stably housed one year after graduation, thus providing security for their children.

Job launch workshops[edit]

“Job Launch” workshops help equip clients with up-to-date job search skills and empower them with the confidence they need to achieve and maintain workplace productivity. The ultimate goal is to maximize earning potential. Workshops are free and open to the public, although registration is required.

Food pantry[edit]

Food assistance, in the form of nonperishable items such as canned goods, rice and pasta, is available to income qualifying single individuals, couples, and families residing in South Orange County (from Tustin to San Clemente).

Clients are asked to register and may be asked to provide proof of residence and proof of income. After completing the registration process, the client is allowed to have periodic food pickups every 30 days, with a maximum of 12 pick ups a year. If a client needs a pickup before their 30 day mark, they are allowed to pick up an emergency food bag.

Life-skills counseling[edit]

At-risk families receive counseling and case management services for up to six months, working to increase life-skills in areas such as parenting, budgeting, communicating, stress management, debt reduction, and job retention.

Seasonal programs[edit]

  • The Back-to-School Program provides at-risk children with new backpacks and required school supplies enabling them to be prepared for the first day of the school year.
  • The Holiday Programs provide families with food baskets through the Thanksgiving Program and thoughtful, holiday gifts through the Adopt-a-Family Program.

In addition to these services, Families Forward also partners with a network of agencies to provide additional services not available in-house.[1]

Families Forward annual gala[edit]

Families Forward hosts an annual fundraiser, which takes place every 3rd Saturday of September.

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • In September, 2010 Families Forward was voted among the best places to volunteer in Orange County.[6]
  • In November, 2010 Charity Navigator awarded Families Forward four stars for its fiscal responsibility, noting that 86.8% of donations are spent on its programs and services.[4]
  • In December 2011, Families Forward was featured on an episode of Dr. Phil, where he discussed homelessness and the efforts of organizations to address this problem.[7]
  • In January 2013, Families Forward's board received Orange County, CA-based non-profit services group OneOC's Giving is Living award, for dedicated and innovative governance.[8]
  • In November 2013, founder and executive director Margie Wakeham was awarded the Outstanding Founder award by the Orange County chapter of the National Association of Fundraisers, for her 29 years of philanthropic leadership.[9]

External references[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "About Us". Families-Forward.org. Archived from the original on 2014-12-30. Retrieved 2014-12-12. 
  2. ^ "Families Forward". Bask Magazine. 2011-05-18. Retrieved 2014-12-12. 
  3. ^ "Fresh Start For Homeless". newuniversity.org. 2010-01-10. Retrieved 2014-12-12. 
  4. ^ a b "Families Forward receives four-star rating". CharityNavigator.com. Retrieved 2014-12-12. 
  5. ^ "About us: programs". Families-Forward.org. Archived from the original on 2015-01-03. Retrieved 2014-12-12. 
  6. ^ "Best of Orange County 2010 Winners". OCRegister.com. Retrieved 2014-12-12. 
  7. ^ "Dr. Phil". YouTube.com. 2012-01-23. Retrieved 2014-12-12. 
  8. ^ "Living is Giving awards". OneOC.org. 2013-01-28. Archived from the original on 2014-12-13. Retrieved 2014-12-12. 
  9. ^ "Local groups and leader to receive awards for philanthropy". OCRegister.com. 2013-10-01. Retrieved 2014-12-12.