By Christopher Oak Reinier

The staff of West County Community Services meet monthly to report their work to each other, share their experiences and knowledge, and assist each other in further planning.  Serving the disadvantaged and more vulnerable people of the West County area is a team effort.  Staff from each of the divisions which are focused on one clientele – whether it be a fixed low-income senior, a disabled veteran, a homeless mother, or a troubled teenager – are ready to help the rest of the staff when additional help is called for.

This winter, for instance, members from each of the divisions have stepped up beyond their own responsibilities to voluntarily assist Dannielle and the Housing staff in maintaining the Emergency Shelter for 30 to 50 homeless individuals each night.

Senior Services and Youth Employment Services will collaborate in the use of the new kitchen at the Senior Center.  Funds have been raised and plans are being submitted for the renovation of the kitchen. Work is expected to begin in June.  When the kitchen is renovated, guest chefs will work with high school-aged clients to train them to be employable cooks and chefs while they provide the cuisine for meals served to Seniors at the Center.

At the Empowerment Center a new group has been organized for herbal studies, with emphasis on the value of various herbs in nutritious diets. And a new writers group led by Russ has been well attended by 5 to 10 individual each week since its recent inception.  The Empowerment Center is a drop-in facility for individuals who are learning to manage mental illness and is wholly administered by peers. The Center has serves twenty to thirty people in a day.

In Youth Employment, Jennifer reported that two of her clients, students with disabilities who have recently graduated from local high schools, have been successfully employed. At the Senior Center, Paula, Case Manager for senior clients, is accompanying about 10 seniors from Guerneville and 15 from the Senior Center in Sebastopol on a tour of the City of 10,000 Buddhas in Ukiah and a visit to the Grace Hudson Museum, which is focused on the Native American heritage of our area.

Dannielle, working with the Veterans Administration, is opening two new living units for the chronically homeless in our community. Rob, responsible for finding funding for WCCS programs, reported on the progress of funding for WCCS to take responsibility for the renovation and service of trailers in a park near the Laguna in Sebastopol to provide housing for low income and homeless people of West County.  The opportunity is an unusually affordable venture.

Keena, having participated in the Youth Employment program, has been working very helpfully as afternoon receptionist at the Main WCCS Office for the past several months, and will be moving on to other employment.  The staff has really appreciated her presence.

Gam, Adult Employment Manager, has just returned from India where he and 200,000 others shared an audience with the Dalai Lama at the Kalachakra Empowerment Festival in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India.  The staff wondered how the experience was and Gam replied:  “Ooooommm…”