By Karen Billing
Rancho Santa Fe resident Nancie Hochberg is re-launching her nonprofit Deeds From the Heart, an organization that seeks to build values and self-esteem in kids and teens ages 4 through 18. The group is re-launching with revamped social action activities, as well as a new teen program called Straight Talk 4 Teens.
The programs, which run September through May are now enrolling.
“A lot of youth organizations say they develop leaders but you can’t develop a leader until kids have values,” Hochberg said. “Values come from the heart and that’s what I’m trying to do in fueling the hearts and souls of kids and teens.”
Hochberg first started Deeds From the Heart in 2000.
“I started it because I’m a true believer in tolerance, empathy and understanding in kids,” Hochberg said. “When I moved here (from Pennsylvania) I saw a lack of ethnic and economic diversity and I was concerned about bringing them up here.”
The group grew to 100 kids helping out 72 different organizations in the county with monthly events.
With Deeds From the Heart’s social action element, children are participating in hands-on, experiential activities where they learn about the disadvantages of others and perform an act of service, a deed. These social action activities are open to children as young as 4 and parents also attend the events.
Hochberg said that it’s important to teach children to give back and to expose them to places and people they would not find on their own, from young war veterans to burn victims.
In the past, Deeds From the Heart children met and adopted a child through the Make A Wish Foundation and worked tirelessly to raise $7,000 and grant a wish to go to Disneyland.
While social action is open to children ages 4 to 18, Straight Talk 4 Teens focuses solely on teenagers ages 14 to 18.
“Teens today can make decisions without thinking about how those decisions affect their reputations and the consequences they have on their future,” Hochberg said.
With Straight Talk, the teens will have monthly meetings with a facilitator who is a second year doctoral student with a master’s in clinical psychology. Hochberg hopes that the monthly meetings offer programming that fosters self-exploration, leading to better decision making.
“Self exploration is a process that we can all benefit from and I think teens especially,” Hochberg said.
The sessions will begin in September on the first Sunday of every month at 3 p.m., and will feature a variety of topics such as the Internet, bullying, marijuana, fitting in and food issues.
Each discussion will feature people brought in to speak on the topic. For example, in November’s planned discussion on issues related to teens and sex, there will be a gynecologist and a pregnant teen in attendance to offer perspective.
Hochberg said there will be no lectures or judging, but an opportunity for teens to learn and express themselves in a supportive environment.
Sign up before Aug. 25 and receive a free t-shirt. To sign up or for more information, visit Deedsfromtheheart.org.