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Fighting the good fight

POSTED July 12, 2011 8:39 p.m.

In a time when getting by with less money and fewer resources is the norm and every other week a government agency is cutting more employees and services, it’s nice to know there are people still out there fighting the good fight.

Last month I was invited to attend a meeting of the Turlock Community Collaborative. What I saw renewed by faith in the ability of a small group of people to affect positive change. The members of the Turlock Community Collaborative have not thrown in the towel or given up on their mission because times are tough. They continue to work towards their purpose: “To build linkages among community members, agencies and business to address community issues for joint problem solving.”

According to current collaborative chair Tim White, there are 20 nonprofit organizations, private citizens and government agencies that send representatives to the group’s monthly meetings.

Present at the June meeting were members of a variety of Stanislaus County social services agencies, along with representatives of Turlock’s United Samaritans Foundation, We Care men’s cold weather homeless shelter, Turlock Family Network, Stanislaus County Library and the city’s Parks and Recreation department.

There was a presentation from Prodigal Sons and Daughters, a Turlock faith-based drug and alcohol recovery program, and a representative from the Community Services Agency gave an update on the July 1 changes to CalWorks and other welfare programs.

Both of the presentations served to inform members of the collaborative about resources available in the community. Collaborative members could then take that information and disseminate it through their own networks. This serves as an important link from organization to organization.

In this information age, it’s amazing to me how often there is a lack of communication between organizations that work with the same population. The coming together and sharing of information face-to-face is an important role of the collaborative.

Many in attendance at the June meeting had never heard of Prodigal Sons and Daughters and were impressed with the services the nonprofit organization provides, all free of charge. This information came on the heels of learning that due to budget cuts, the county has eliminated its inpatient drug and alcohol recovery program. Social service providers now have another resource they can refer people to who are desperate for help overcoming addiction.

After the presentations, the collaborative divided up into two work groups — one focused on homeless issues and one geared towards youth services. I was told that when the collaborative was formed, it was determined homelessness and youth were the top issues in Turlock. This sounds about right to me. Over the years, I have learned that two topics can guarantee to fill the City Council chambers with concerned citizens —homelessness and youth.

In June, the homeless group focused their discussions on Tuesday’s Senate Bill 2 City Council vote. This vote defines the area in town where a homeless shelter can be built without needing a special permit. It is a state mandate and has ignited months of “not-in-my-back-yard” comments from business owners and residents alike. The collaborative members talked about how to decrease tensions among the homeless population and those against shelters being built anywhere in town.

While the homeless focus group had a specific situation to address, the youth group was mired in discussion on how to best figure out what services are most needed in Turlock. It has long been bemoaned that there’s nothing for the youth of Turlock to do after school and on weekends. The collaborative group wants to make sure that whatever activities they work to bring to town, will be what the youth actually need and want.

I was glad to hear that research and planning were top priorities for the collaborative. All too often I have seen a group decide to “help” the youth, only to find out that their efforts are in vain — or redundant.

The meeting was wrapped up with a roundtable of updates from everyone present. I left the meeting better informed and with a sense that people — and the organizations they represent — still care.

And caring is the first step towards making a better future for Turlock.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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