Since 1990, the Orange County Habitat project has built 57 homes from Rancho Santa Margarita to Brea. According to administrative director Barbara D'Amore, to qualify to buy a Habitat home (prices average about $60,000), a family must earn no more than half of the county's median income (about $56,000 for a family of four), and contribute 600 hours of labor to the home's construction before the close of escrow.
An opportunity to buy a Habitat home can "really break the cycle of poverty," said D'Amore, and helps the new homeowners "focus on upgrading their (job) skills and having a real family life."
Adults and children ages 16 and up can help out with the actual construction of the homes (crews receive on-the-job training by volunteer building professionals), while younger children can assist with the preparation and serving of food to crews, volunteer check-in and gofer work. The next local Habitat project will break ground in March in the city of Anaheim.
Habitat for Humanity's Orange County affiliate is at P.O. Box 7086, Orange, 92613. (714) 639-5557.
There is much more.
For outdoors types, there's the Adopt a Park program (21501 Chapman Ave., Orange. (714) 771-6731, Ext. 15), in which volunteers can get some seat-of-the-pants environmental training by beautifying public lands and shorelines managed by the county's Harbors, Beaches and Parks Department.
Sports-minded families can help out with the county's Special Olympics project (3456 W. Orange St., Anaheim. (714) 995-2225), which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Volunteers ages 15 and up can help train the athletes, who include mentally and physically disabled individuals ages 3 to senior citizens; while younger children can assist at the snack bar at events.
Kids Racing (675 N. Main St., Orange. (714) 544-0648), a nonprofit educational program that incorporates the construction and racing of small Indy-style cars into school math and science curricula, also needs volunteers ages 8 and up to assist at its events.
MORE KID STUFF
IN BUENA PARK: CHILLING OUT AT KNOTT'S
Two hundred and fifty tons of snow frosts Knott's Berry Farm's Beagle Hill for your kids' sledding pleasure every day through Jan. 2. Children must be at least 3 years old and shorter than 5 foot 2 to sled; sleds are provided. Included with park admission: $15.95 to $25.95. (714) 220-5200.
IN ANAHEIM: REAL NATURAL
On Saturday, Dec. 25, from 10 to 11 a.m., Oak Canyon Nature Center hosts a Nature Film Festival, featuring live action and animated films for all ages, and the park's seven-mile network of trails and hands-on learning center will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free. (714) 998-8380.
IN COSTA MESA: WINTER DISCOVERY CAMP
Pacific School of Music and the Arts (151 Kalmus St., Suite G-1) offers children ages 3 to 15 a week of age-appropriate art activities, ranging from fairy-tale theater classes to rock music workshops. Sessions run Monday, Dec. 27 through Dec. 31. Fee: $79 to $89. (714) 545-1217.