Two local nonprofits collaborate and award grants to Olive Crest Desert Communities’ at-risk youth

PALM DESERT — Olive Crest Desert Communities has announced a unique collaboration of two leading community nonprofits, VARIETY-The Children’s Charity of the Desert and BIGHORN Cares, who have come together to award two generous grants in support of Olive Crest Desert Communities’ Operation Independence Program.

“These two grants were utilized to assist Olive Crest in purchasing a passenger van, which really opens the door of opportunity for our youth, and creates opportunities for work, school, and life skills classes,“ James Phillips, Director of Olive Crest’s Transitional Housing Program (Operation Independence Program), said in a prepared statement.  Traveling back and forth to class or to a job interview would usually take 2-3 hours.   Now that time can be spent studying for class or working on the job.   This van will really help level the playing field for these individuals.”

Among the many programs being implemented by Olive Crest, the Recognized Leader in the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse, is its Operation Independence Program. This program targets young adults ages 18-20, who have “aged out” of the foster care system.   Operation Independence successfully teaches critical life skills, and provides guidance and counseling to youths, who statistics show are at increased risk for homelessness, drug addiction and even incarceration.   This successful program provides opportunities for young adults who share similar life challenges to form healthy mentoring relationships with staff and develop critical life skills.  Olive Crest supports the youth’s pursuit of continuing education and employment, as they work toward stability and a clearer path into adulthood.

Olive Crest Desert Communities was aware that many of these young adults would  benefit from easier excess to transportation, in order to attend classes, participate in life skills classes, case management sessions, and retain necessary employment.

“We are thrilled with this new partnership with Heidi Maldoon of VARIETY – The Children’s Charity of the Desert, and with our ongoing partnership with Kelly Levy of BIGHORN Cares,” Tracy Fitzsimmons, Executive Director of Olive Crest, Inland and Desert Communities, said in a prepared statement.  “I am humbled by their generosity, commitment to at-risk and special needs youth, and their desire to collaborate to best address our local needs.  I am excited to build these relationships for the betterment of local children and families.”

VARIETY – the Children’s Charity of the Desert, was formed in the Coachella Valley in 1987.   The organization is dedicated to promoting the health, mobility, independence, and social inclusion of children with special needs and in disadvantaging circumstances throughout the Coachella Valley.  By providing life – enriching assistance to local children, Variety hopes to help children experience all the joys of childhood, while growing to become confident, independent, and free to access all that the world has to offer.  Variety – The Children’s Charity of the Desert, is a chapter of Variety – the Children’s Charity, an international charity with over 40 chapters around the world.  Formed in 1928 in the Sheridan Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by a group of 10 show businessmen to help children in need, Variety is one of the oldest and most comprehensive children’s charities in the world.

“VARIETY – The Children’s Charity of the Desert has a rich history of ensuring children living in challenging economic conditions have the transportation they need to assess critical services through our Sunshine Coach Program, Heidi M. Maldoon, Executive Director of VARIETY, said in a prepared statement.  “We are honored to partner with Olive Crest to provide funding in support of a transportation van, which provides children with transportation to critical programs and services, ensuring they have access to every opportunity to reach their full potential.”

BIGHORN Cares is the philanthropy arm of BIGHORN Golf Club in Palm Desert, California.    Through BIGHORN Cares, its Club members donate to worthy Coachella Valley nonprofits.    Included in this tremendous generosity and spirit of giving was a grant to Olive Crest Desert Communities, to purchase of a new Toyota Sienna 15-seat minivan to transport young people in Olive Crest’s Operation Independence Program.  BIGHORN Cares was created to assist other 501(c)(3) organizations by issuing grants for specific projects that benefit the most underserved citizens within the Coachella Valley.

“BIGHORN Cares is proud to create community building within the Coachella Valley,” Kelly Levy, Charities and Marketing Director for BIGHORN Golf Club, said in a prepared statement.  “Due to BIGHORN member donations, over 100,000 lives have been changed and millions of miracles created.  By supporting Olive Crest and providing a vehicle like this minivan, it is allowing more youth the opportunity to participate and connect with Olive Crest’s critical programs.  It is remarkable to see the benefits these programs provide for future foundations and success.  It is an honor to represent BIGHORN members, who make a difference and create a positive impact within the community.”

“These two generous grants allow us to better support the growth and development of young people, as they exit the foster care system,” Fitzsimmons said. “We are proud to partner with  VARIETY and BIGHORN Cares, in order to give young people a ‘hand up,’ as they reach for their goals and dreams.

For more information about Olive Crest and ways you can help, contact Angela Allen at 760-848-4124 or email her at




PHOTO CAPTION: This Van was purchased with these two grants from VARIETY, the Children’s Charity of the Desert, and BIGHORN Cares! (left to right) Heidi M. Maldoon, Executive Director of VARIETY, the Children’s Charity of the Desert, Tracy Fitzsimmons, Executive Director of Olive Crest, Inland and Desert Communities, and Kelly Levy, Charities and Marketing Director of BIGHORN Golf Club.


Image Sources

  • Van: Madeline Zuckerman