By Christopher Oak Reinier

West County Community Services held their monthly all-staff meeting on February 28. At these all-staff meetings, individuals report to each other about their work. Below is a partial record of their reports.

Rob Milton is trying to find final funding for the proposed new “teaching” kitchen at the Russian River Senior Center. The permits for the kitchen are almost completed. As a part of preparing the meals for seniors at the center, local chefs will teach food preparation and culinary skills to at-risk youth. The program aims at giving interested youth employable skills.

Dannielle Danforth and staff at the Emergency Shelter are searching for more sleeping bags, etc. The Shelter at the Vets Building will be open one more month. The Shelter has been at full-occupancy almost every night this winter. 162 individuals have sheltered there already this year, averaging 40 to 50 each night.

Jonathan Galicia reported that fifteen out of eighteen of the at-risk youth in the youth employment program have found employment, the highest rate ever.

Jennette Perros, Senior Case Manager, has had three of her clients in need of home repair. She’s looking for volunteer handymen. And she’s finding that more Seniors are needing assistance to stay in existing housing or to find housing they can afford.

Melissa Fike has just begun training new volunteers for the Senior Peer Counseling program. The nine new peer counselors will graduate in May. As senior peer counselors, they will be meeting with clients who are struggling with the issues of aging. The issues most often involve the grief, anxiety, alienation, and loneliness caused by the many different kinds of loss suffered by the elderly.

Phillip Tapia, case manager for low-income residents in more than 100 living units in west county, has been occupied with two families in particular who have had to deal with the hospitalization of a member while they are also trying to keep the housing they have.

Milo Chapman and Erica Azimov have been managing the Rapid Re-housing program since October. Since then, they have found housing for eleven previously homeless individuals. They have also kept twenty-six clients housed who were at risk of losing their homes. The program offers temporary assistance to recently homeless individuals and families or to those who are in danger of losing their existing housing.  It is aimed at those who have the likelihood of being able to keep their housing if they get some temporary assistance. Cost of housing is now a major problem for people in the west county who are on disability.

Paulette Hall, case-manager at Park Village in Sebastopol, is hoping to have a community center functioning soon. She will be working with two volunteer groups, “Rebuilding Together” and “Lend a Hand” in April to clean up the Park. Daniel Barwick, WCCS resident manager at Park Village, reported that the Park will soon have mail service.

Valerie Diaz and Miller Phoenix are working on a fashion show and performance event with members of the Empowerment Center. The show will be held May 12 at the Community Church. They have also been developing radio programs with members for airing on KGGV every other Sunday evening.

Jennifer Hervey has placed three of her disabled high school graduates in jobs with Dicks Sporting Goods, Redwood Toxicology, and Dungarvin, an agency which helps mentally disabled adults.

Vicki Halstead, Manager of the Russian River Senior Center, has returned from a conference in Austin, Texas. She attended it with representatives of the Redwood Empire Food Bank. The subject was Senior Hunger, “a BIG problem”.

And so it goes:  some examples of West County Community Services trying to help at-risk individuals stay on the boat or get back on it, one person at a time.