Safety Initiative still evolving - Greene County Record : News

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Safety Initiative still evolving

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Posted: Friday, March 15, 2013 8:51 am

The Stanardsville Area Community Safety Initiative, which was formed in late 2012, has begun to morph into several different projects to tackle a host of community needs.

In the nearly 15 months since SACSI has been existence, the group has been hearing about the need for a place for children to go when school is not in session. As a result, the group has formed a Youth Development Council with the goal of providing a Boys & Girls Club-type program for Greene County.

“It’s sort of an offshoot of SACSI,” said Greene County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronald L. Morris, who spearheaded the Safety Initiative.

One of the first goals of the Youth Development Council will be to raise money for at least a part-time executive director.

“One of the possibilities we hope in the near term is [to hire] someone who can come in with more time and energy and strengthen the existing programs that already exist in the Stanardsville area.”

The area’s youth already are served by several church and civic organizations, including 4-H, Parks and Recreation, the Greene County Youth Center, the Greene County Schools’ own afterschool program, as well as such programs offered by Grace Episcopal Church, Stanardsville United Methodist Church and the Emmanuel Christian Center.

“We don’t want to duplicate services,” Morris said.

However, what the Youth Development Council would like to is to offer youth programs during the times school is not in session — especially during the summer months.

The Youth Development Council also wants to explore long-term fundraising, with the goal of eventually getting a Boys & Girls Club-type program for Greene. That, however, would take an investment of at least $250,000.

“We’re not saying a Boys & Girls Club is it, but it’s certainly a possibility and we’re taking the long view of it,” Morris said.

In the meantime, members of SACSI and the newly formed Youth Development Council have been in contact with James Pierce, the executive director of the Central Virginia Boys and Girls Club, who has briefed the Greene group on what it can do to offer more coordinated services to youth and the challenges it will take to get a full-fledged Boys and Girls Club to Greene County.

Smaller neighboring counties such as Orange County and Madison County already have a Boys and Girls Club in addition to the much bigger program in Charlottesville that serves that city and Albemarle County.

“[Madison County] kind of started small and grew theirs,” Morris said. “Now the model is you have to have the money raised and be ready to jump in with significant funding from the community.”

The Greene County group has submitted articles of incorporation. Once that process is completed, the group then can apply to the IRS to get a 501(C)(3) designation, which will enable it to solicit tax-deductible donations as a nonprofit organization.

That could take up to six months. “I think it will take that long to get everything set up,” Morris said.

On Feb. 17, the Youth Development Council announced that five individuals have agreed to serve on its board of directors. They include Bishop Michael V. Jackson Sr., pastor of the Emmanuel Christian Center; Janet B. Frye of the Skyline Community Action Partnership; Kathleen O’Varanese, co-owner of The Standard in Stanardsville; Morris; and Andrea E. Whitmash, assistant superintendent of Greene County Schools.

“I started going to the meetings a little over a year ago for the SACSI group. My passion, of course, was for the youth group ... so I stayed with it,” Whitmarsh said. “[A Youth Council] is absolutely something that is needed for our county, our youth and their families.

“We have a lot of options [for youth],” she said, “but I’m not sure people know a lot about those options.”

Once the group gets its nonprofit designation, it will focus more on seeking donations from local businesses. In the meantime, it’s exploring the possibility of getting grants from umbrella groups such as the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.

“We really haven’t talked to businesses too much yet,” Morris said. “We’re still trying to articulate what exactly our goals and missions are.

“It’s always been about trying to get as much input and participation from the community as possible,” he said. “It takes awhile to develop.”

Whitmarsh said that the five board members have been receiving a lot of community input. “One of those options could be a Boys and Girls Club. It certainly has a lot of name recognition.

“It’s all wonderful things, but it requires a lot of money,” she said. “I don’t think we’re daunted by this. If it’s the right thing, we’re going to pursue it.”

Any project “has to have the community input and the community buying into it to make it work,” Morris said. “At the same time, we don’t want to keep pushing off and pushing off, and not get anything accomplished.”

Another accomplishment from the initial SACSI meetings has been the establishment of a prisoner re-entry program. “That’s actually going pretty well,” Morris said.

That group meets at 10 a.m. the fourth Monday of each month at the JABA Conference Room in the Greene County Library building. Public service agencies and faith-based volunteers help out ex-convicts, and bring in guest speakers to talk about what they can do for probations and ex-offenders.

“Their target at this point is to gather a group of volunteers who would be able to work with [and] mentor ex-convicts who are getting back into the community and help them to navigate the services that are available,” Morris said.

Morris also would like to set up a Main Street Merchants Association for businesses in Stanardsville.

Another offshoot from the SACSI meetings has seen Sheriff Steve Smith meeting with local landlords and looking into setting up a landlord-tenant council. “We hope to get some tenant representatives in there for that,” Morris said.

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