In its 10th year, the Monument Community Partnership (MCP), located in Keller House off of Concord Ave., is the focal point for a number of service organizations including its own that serve what is called the Monument Corridor.
Its current staff of 12 assisted by 50-75 volunteers spread out and return from the sprawling district that reaches from the Concord Police HQ on Galindo to HWY 680 and out Oak Grove Road to the BART tracks at Minert/David.
With the exit of City staff from Keller House due to downgrading of capacity at the municipal level, the MCP solicited interest from other non-profit groups providing services in the community for the opening of office space. Based on replies, MCP anticipates sharing space and increasing its collaboration with Catholic Charities and Brighter Beginings. Additional service providers expressing interest include Stand Against Domestic Violence and Community Violence Solutions.
According to Bryan Balch, the new Executive Director, the contraction of government services it has caused an increase in the demands on MCP as residents’ needs are increased due to the economy. Concurrently, and most fortunately for the area, there has been a greater penetration of the neighborhood by the growing cadre of leadership and community outreach people typified by their ‘Community Listeners’ program and their Neighborhood Action Teams (called NATs).
There is a wide service network that meets once or twice a month in a conclave at Keller House hosted by MCP for the benefit of the neighborhood. Amongst the things that they have been doing are
– The First Five program for youngsters and their parents.
– Helping Senior Residents with yard clean up.
– Creating an urban gardening/farming group to get vegetables in small plots throughout the area.
– Mentoring youth on leadership development.
– Bringing service providers and residents together by acting as a channeling vortex
– Setting up a transportation advisory group that gave ideas to the City staff on improvements,
– Acting as a conduit for such government programs as Lead Removal Program from residential homes, funded by H.U.D., via the City of Concord.
– Helping people deal with the web of services out there when there are personal crisis that would otherwise overwhelm families.
– Providing direction and volunteers for a Nursing research study.
Balch stated additional service expansion in the near future will include helping seniors with yard clean up, collaborating with agencies such as SeniorHelpLine. Volunteers can call on isolated seniors on a regular basis, and longer term goals of providing local transportation to seniors and individuals with disabilities. ANother goal is the creation of a community center close to the center of the Monument Community.
Balch concluded that an immediate focus is being placed on getting the residents to support the local businesses and, in turn, the businesses help support the organization. It takes everyone to make the community whole. With MCP fostering partnerships between residents, businesses, and the service providers, the end result will be a greater cohesive community.
There are no restrictions on the people that they help. Even when people leave the Monument area, they come back as they make transitions to their new locales because of the excellent staff and support provided here.
The experienced staff is familiar with the great diversity of the area including its high concentration of residents of different status combined with the whole range of issues that come with any economic area that is hurting.
Kathy Renfrow, the Business Manager who has had to confront many of the issues, commented that many people think that these things are very simple.
“However the complexities of legal residence let alone lapses can be very stressful and frustrating to those who are trying to help, let alone to the individuals who get caught up in a bureaucratic paper tornado while trying to feed their family at the same time as caring for a sick kid or an elderly relative.”
In addition to the 300 plus families assisted through First Five, the MCP directly has worked with 500 or so cases of families in need. The raising of awareness of the community to local issues is hard to judge but the recent Concord City Council meeting on the Monument Street Redesign Plan saw a surprisingly large cross section of the neighborhood organizations and ad hoc groups turn out. Much of this could be attributed to the communication network by the Listener group to get the word out to businesses as well as groups like the Soccer League and the Cambridge School group concerning potential opportunities to improve the Community.
What is astounding is that this network is maintained with a budget of $480,000 most of which is from corporate and major donors such as Kaiser Permanente and John Muir Hospital, in addition many smaller donors that help keep the lights on.
With a little luck and the continued hard work of all concerned the Monument Community will weather the current storm of darkness in the economy and emerge even more united with the greater city of Concord as a vibrant force for community directed action.