By Christopher Oak Reinier
Keena Mares wanted work, but didn’t know what she could do. Couldn’t find anything. A family member had heard about West County Community Services. She met Vivian Diaz and Paulette Hall, WCCS youth services coordinators. “I was excited to start working with them because they seemed like really kind, warm-hearted people, and I felt like it was a great environment, so, why not give it a shot.”
She enrolled in one of the Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps, one which WCCS manages. The program is a ‘jobs, workforce training and ecosystem education program aimed at employing youth and young adults while teaching them about environmental stewardship’.
Keena helped with forest restoration in Armstrong Woods Park and in clean-up of the Laguna de Santa Rosa. After her summer employment, she couldn’t find other work and came to WCCS for help again. Through another County youth employment program administered by WCCS*, Keena was hired as the receptionist at the front desk in WCCS’ main office.
As she had shown with her work in the Ecology Corps, she demonstrated considerable skill, compassion and patience as the receptionist. “I loved learning about the kind of people that are in our community and finding ways to help them and just being there for them.”
But the funding for her employment was limited. After six months, despite her excellent work, Keena was looking for work again. She eventually found it at Target, as a cashier, where she continues to be employed, while she has also enrolled for classes at the Junior College. “I want to study something that will lead to working with people for people.”
Asked what West County Community Services has meant to her, Keena said,“The top things you can count on are the warm-hearted people, the amount of success learned and earned, and the close connection you create with the community.”
* The Work Force Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Program