Santa Clara County honored five clients of a state assistance program and celebrated the success of those families in an awards ceremony at the county’s Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.

Gerardo Contreras, the CalWORKs honoree for District 1, is pictured with his children. (Image courtesy of Santa Clara County Social Services Agency/YouTube)

California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) is a state program administered by counties that helps families with children and pregnant individuals meet basic needs like short-term cash assistance, childcare and health care coverage and connects them with employment and education opportunities.

This was the 32nd awards ceremony to celebrate the accomplishments of clients who have excelled during their participation in the program.

“Facts, figures and reports can tell stories of the success of the CalWORKs program, but nothing does it justice like seeing the impact on the people. Showing resilience in the face of adversity, these five honorees are truly inspiring,” said Angela Shing, director of the Department of Employment and Benefits Services with the county’s Social Services Agency.

The five honorees

The first among this year’s honorees was Gerardo Contreras, a single father with limited English skills who worked with CalWORKs staff to navigate the social justice system to gain legal and physical custody of his children.

According to Shing, Contreras also worked with CalWORKs staff to renew his green card and find housing.

Coralynn Bailey, another honoree, overcame physical and substance abuse in past relationships and turned to CalWORKs to make a better life for herself and her sons. She said day care services gave her the confidence she needed to find a job, go to school and provide her kids with a better future.

Profiles of the five CalWORKs honorees for 2022. (Video courtesy of Santa Clara County Social Services Agency/YouTube)

Also honored was Valerie Lesquety, who utilized CalWORKs to overcome partner violence and find a job.

“CalWORKs changed my life because it taught me how to apply for a job, how to write a thank-you note and follow up with an interview,” said Lesquety in a recorded statement. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help or tell your story. It may help other people and other people’s stories may help you.”

Denise King, another victim of intimate partner violence who had no financial support, turned to CalWORKs to secure a brighter future for herself and her daughter.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help or tell your story. It may help other people and other people’s stories may help you.”

Valerie Lesquety, CalWORKs client

While in the program, King went back to school for paralegal studies and received an associate degree from De Anza College, something she said that she never thought that she could do.

Ruth Cayetano Galindo, the CalWORKs honoree for District 5, is pictured with her family. (Image courtesy of Santa Clara County Social Services Agency/YouTube)

Last among the honorees in the Tuesday morning ceremony was Ruth Cayetano Galindo.

During the pandemic, Galindo’s husband lost his job and the family lost several friends and family to COVID-19.

According to CalWORKs, Galindo grew tired of being afraid of the virus and turned to the program to help her family and began working at the Santa Clara County Emergency Operations Center, first at the testing site and later at the vaccination site.

“Overall, I met a new version of myself that is able to overcome obstacles. Challenges do not paralyze me anymore,” said Galindo.

CalWORKs, which is funded by the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, has helped 40 percent of participating families to find employment despite continued uncertainties posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, county officials said.

Enrollment in CalWORKs is completely voluntary. Families with dependent children and expectant parents can check their eligibility and apply for services via the county’s Social Servies Agency.