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Local News

Local Leaders Power Community Initiative

Fueled by United Way research, the Power of Partnership project develops goals to help children, seniors and families

It’s the result of nearly two years of study and research and involved nearly 5,000 South Coast residents.

On Wednesday, community leaders announced plans for the Power of Partnership Initiative, a massive undertaking by local organizations and nonprofits to address the needs of local children, seniors and families.

It’s a project that’s been in the works since leaders came forward in 2006 expressing the need for common goals for everyone — from infants to the elderly.

Discussions got under way, and 150 community leaders began working on a 10-year plan to best address those needs. Thousands of residents were surveyed about their goals, making the plan “truly representative of our community,” said Tom Thomas, board chairman for United Way of Santa Barbara County.

Amid the lack of a cohesive community plan, “the conclusion for these discussions was inescapable,” he said. “The traditional approaches weren’t enough.”

POPI was born out of those discussions, and some of the key goals that came forward were seeing that children, seniors and families become healthy, empowered, safe and successful.

Specific goals for children include making sure they’re ready to learn when they enter kindergarten and that they receive regular preventive health care. A goal for seniors in the plan lists facilitating independent, safe living in their homes for as long as possible.

The fact that broad-based, 10-year goals have been reached for the entire community is significant, said retired SBCC president Peter MacDougall, a member of the POPI Vision Council.

A huge influence on the POPI project was the Harlem Children’s Zone, which several members of the group visited in May to design a set of best practices for South Coast children. Helping children begin as early as possible and surrounding them with supportive adult figures are core tenets to success.

The first model project will begin with schools in Carpinteria, and will seek to pair younger children with reading mentors.

Theresa Weissglass served with the Santa Barbara Healthy Start and After-School Opportunities for Kids Program for 20 years and became “acutely aware” of the challenges faced by local families, particularly those with infants, pre-kindergartners and youths.

Infants are born with a great capacity to learn, but there’s much that gets in the way of a child’s early years of learning. “They arrive at school significantly less ready to learn in kindergarten than other children and less prepared,” Weissglass said.

Having been read to and received help with learning colors and numbers, developmental delays — if any — are already identified and addressed. “It sets children on a path for success,” she said.

Identifying neighborhoods with a high concentration of seniors also was a key step in meeting the needs of seniors, said Joyce Ellen Lippman, executive director for the Area Agency on Aging, and one goal of POPI states its intention to keep seniors safe and secure in their homes.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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