She Helps Others Locate Help

Times staff writer

Reflections showcases county residents who have an interesting life story and gives them an opportunity to tell it in their own words.

Glenda Riddick has always had more energy than she knew what to do with. By the age of 3 she was working the fields of the small Tennessee farm where her parents grew cotton, bell peppers and strawberries, and in the early 1960s she found herself in Zaire, where she helped establish the first high school for girls in that country. Growing up poor seems to have given her a drive to succeed and an ability to empathize with others that has held her in good stead in her career. An associate professor of human development at Orange Coast College, she began privately publishing the Resource Directory for Orange County in 1980 because she "knew what it was like not to have any money ." The directory is a comprehensive guide to social service s in the county, from adoption services to legal assistance to youth shelters. Chambers of commerce are listed, as are the county's hospitals, hot lines and even newspapers. Riddick's comments were taken from an interview with Times staff writer Henry Rivero.

I always have my eyes and ears open to what's going on, and I'm always real interested in resources that might be helpful. Every edition (of the directory) I do new sections. There are 19 chapters in the present edition that were not in the '81-'82 edition.

Now some of those topics weren't even problems back then, like eating disorders, for example. If you looked back in 1981 I don't even know if you could have found much in terms of programs on anorexia and bulimia or anything like that. If you look at self-help groups, they're really up and coming, like Alcoholics Anonymous and all those kinds of things. I've had that only in the last two editions, since 1985. And that is probably one of the most widely used sections in the directory.

I get real excited when I start doing a section like the one for the homeless. I only knew of one agency when I started doing that section, and I went from one to 27. The way that that happened is my persistence, I think. I would call and say, "Tell me about what you do, and do you know of anyone else who's doing something like that." I checked with people who were working with emergency assistance programs and asked them if they knew of programs for the homeless and then they referred me.

I do go directly to the sources. I have my preface (for each section) written by people who are in the field, and I also ask them often to review that and to tell me if they know of anything else that should be added. That's a really good way to get additional listings, and I never take the listings verbatim, but will always call and check to make sure that the information is right or send out something in writing and ask for it to be confirmed. That's the hardest part, to make sure your information is accurate.

We went to the homeless fair in Los Angeles. There were only three agencies from Orange County . . . and the Resource Directory was one of the ones that were invited to come. The idea was to show people what we had done with networking. That's basically what this is: It's like a major networking effort.

One thing I have noticed is that it seems like people who migrate . . . from other countries tend to be able to find the resources better than people who've lived here all their lives. I don't know why that is, unless it's because we never had to go through the paperwork. The person coming into this country has to go through a lot of paperwork to get through the system, so they've already had contact with the government system. A person who lived in the United States their entire life and was just low income somehow doesn't seem to have the amount of stick-to-itiveness or whatever it takes to get through the system.

That's my impression--it could be wrong and I don't perceive that as a bias because I don't think I have a cultural bias. It seems like if you've grown up in this country you kind of imagine that people are supposed to give it to you instead of you going out and seeking it and finding it and causing it to happen. Sometimes if you grew up in another culture you may have imagined that you have to go and find it and make it happen.

One of my interests in Orange County . . . is boosting an appreciation for the county. I think that's something we haven't done. I've designed "I Love Orange County" in different T-shirt kinds of designs. And maybe we'll come out with them one of these times. And I can imagine bumper stickers that say, "I Love Orange County." I really think that boosts morale in that if we're pleased with where we're living, it makes us put more energy into making it a better place.

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