Each year, the Turner Foundation, which is committed to “Community Transformation,” serves a Thanksgiving dinner for residents of the Village of Santa Barbara and friends of the foundation.

At this year’s dinner, at which about 200 people were served last Friday night, Dr. Jon Wilson, chairman of the Board of Directors, presented a Protectors Award to Santa Barbara Police Chief Sanchez for facilitating the use of office space at the Village Apartments by his officers, an idea that has substantially decreased crime on the Westside during the past five years, and for his ceaseless efforts to make Santa Barbara a safer community.

The plaque being presented to Chief Sanchez reads: From the Village at Santa Barbara: “Presented to Police Chief Cam Sanchez in recognition and thanksgiving for your dedication, creativity, leadership and support in creating a safer Santa Barbara community. Thanksgiving 2011. The Turner Foundation, since 1958. ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jer. 29:11.”

During the fall of 2006, Sanchez was teaching a criminal justice class at Westmont College in Montecito. He shared that in his previous position as police chief they cut the crime rate by establishing a police substation in the high crime area of the city.

After the class, one of the students, Jonny Wilson, son of Dr. Jon Wilson, asked the chief if he would be interested in creating a substation on the Westside of Santa Barbara. He was excited about the possibility, so Jonny Wilson contacted his brother Dean, who was in charge of the relocation of the Rose Garden Village Foundation from Riverside to Santa Barbara — soon to become the Turner Foundation.

Through collaborative efforts, Dean Wilson and Chief Sanchez established an office space in one of the rooms of the Community Center at the completely renovated Village of Santa Barbara. The office space is voluntary utilized by officers to finish reports or take short breaks.

According to most of the longtime village residents, severe crime has diminished since this time. The village has transformed from a haven for drug dealers, where people rarely let their children outside, into a safe community for its residents. Currently, the needs of the Westside have changed and the office space utilized by officers has been replaced by a children’s library of more than 1,000 volumes and a very active tutoring center led by a few Westmont graduates and other community members.

— Jon Wilson is chairman of the board for the Turner Foundation.