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Community members gather in effort to problem-solve

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Approximately 20 Sunnyside community members gathered at the Sunnyside Community Center for a town hall meeting to discuss issues facing the community.

Sunnyside Transformation Lower Valley hosted a town hall meeting last night (Wednesday) in an effort to bring community members together for the purpose of problem solving.

Dean Broersma opened the meeting, explaining he is a native of Sunnyside and believes there are many possibilities for the community to work together.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's been a great place to raise my children...this town hall's purpose is to generate ideas and solutions," he said.

Sunnyside Transformation Lower Valley Director Roberto Matus spoke to those in attendance, stating, "We are not here to place blame and point fingers...we are here to offer ideas and suggestions for the problems we have."

He said developing ideas to solve the community's problems is not enough, however. Those with ideas are urged to step forward and "become part of the solution."

Matus said those gathered were taking a first step, but there are many steps to solving issues like gang activity and crime. Each person, he said, must take a stand and work to transform the ideas into reality.

"We are not here to discount or dismiss the efforts of other organizations, but to harness all efforts in a joint approach," he said.

Matus provided a presentation about the traditional approach to problem solving and the belief in "false truths."

He said believing "false truths" leads to a consumer mentality in which people seek solutions from others, not believing they themselves can be a part of the solution.

"People believe they themselves are needy and unproductive," said Matus.

The path Sunnyside Transformation Lower Valley wants the community to take, he said, is one in which people talk about solutions and participate in being a part of the effort.

"Most people really want to do something, but they don't know how," said Matus.

The presentation continued and then, the community members gathered set to discuss the issues they believe to be prevalent in the community and the assets within the community that could be used to address those issues.

Robin Barcenas of American Academy said she wants to work with other programs. She said there are many organizations in the community that can network together and youngsters like those with whom she works respond to encouragement.

She said those youngsters are labeled troubled youth, but they just want to feel as if they have a contributing role in the community.

Because of that, Barcenas said later, the youth can contribute to the suggested ideas as volunteers, earning community service recognition.

Sunnyside's Promise Director Mark Baysinger said many community members need to know what resources are available and where they can "plug in." He said there isn't a way for them to learn how they can contribute right now.

"Community education is needed," he said, stating the community needs one place to which they can turn and learn of the needs of the various programs in the community.

Suzi Carpino entered the discussion, stating another issue commonly faced is the language barrier and a need for translators.

"Access to information, as well as language barriers sometimes hinder efforts of sharing information," she said.

Sunnyside's Oasis Community Church Pastor Cameron Garcia said he has in the seven months he's lived in Sunnyside noticed different organizations seem territorial.

"Everyone has a sandbox and no one else is allowed to play in that sandbox," he said, stating the churches and organizations in the community need to be more open to working together, sharing resources.

Some of the issues raised resulted in the development of ideas to address them.

To better share the needs of organizations in the community, those gathered agreed a community service bulletin board needs to be established.

VISTA Volunteer Celeste Goulding suggested to the group that the efforts of those gathered for the town hall mirror the efforts of the Community Action Committee and those at last night's meeting could attend the action committee's Monday, June 20, meeting.

Another issue the community needs to address is economic development, according to those gathered last night.

To address the issue, it was said an incubator program could be started.

Matus said he could use Partners Worldwide, founded by Sunnyside native Doug Seebeck, as a resource for the effort to do just that.

The group agreed the issues discussed and the effort to address the issues was just the beginning.

"We want to empower the community with the ability to decide the direction it wants to go," said Matus.

The group will again meet for another town hall Wednesday, July 13, at the Sunnyside Community Center at 6 p.m.

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