Ramona Rifenbery is a family engagement specialist with LSS in Yucca Valley, California. Her introduction to LSS however, didn’t start there. Despite a promising career and college degree, she faced substance abuse and abusive relationships. Out on bail on a felony charge and pregnant with her second child, Ramona found herself and her child living in a car and under a bridge.
“My self-worth was nonexistent,” she remembered. “After having my second daughter I finally admitted to Child Protective Services that I was an addict and started facing my problems.” She was referred to several local resources, one of which was LSS Southern California. The impact was immediate. “For the first time in my life I had hope in the future because somebody looked beyond my circumstances,” she said. “They reached down, got on my level, embraced me and said, ‘You are worthy. You can do this. You deserve to be these girls’ mother.’”
Ramona felt equipped to not only do for herself but empowered to finally make a difference in her family. “If LSS didn’t exist, I probably would have continued to do drugs,” she said. “But, I know that the cycle has been broken with my daughters. I divorced my abuser and am teaching them to stand up for themselves.”
Ramona’s journey to a full and healthy life included the completion of her bachelor’s degree at California Baptist University and a continuous desire to learn how to help others. Cut for layout only
“I understand what it is to feel shame, hopeless and lost,” she said. “That motivates me to go above and beyond, and not only for my clients, but their parents, foster parents, caregivers, or the grandparents of the children I work with.” Cut for layout only
Many of the children she works with have been removed from their homes and placed with foster families. Cut for layout only
“Many of them are dealing with the loss of their family and, if unification is possible, we continue to strengthen them,” she said. “We help them deal with that hurt and that guilt and that pain so they can form new and healthy relationships with their parents.” Cut for layout only
“We are all going to face things that we are not equipped to handle on our own,” she continued, quoting her favorite scripture from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV): Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. Cut for layout only
There are many faces to poverty and every client has a story. Regardless of why they come to us, LSS is ready to embrace them in their need, equip them in every possible way and empower them as they pursue their dreams.
“Lutheran Social Services puts that into practice, loving families and showing them the power that comes from walking through those trials,” Ramona said. “That’s the opportunity that I’ve been given. To reach down and help the next person up.”
This is the power of going beyond… #BEYONDWEARINESS #BEYONDISOLATION #BEYONDVULNERABILITY