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Community Connections plans restructuring

Plumas Rural Services is launching an initiative to engage the members and sponsors of Community Connections in restructuring how the volunteer network operates in the communities it serves.

The program has grown significantly over the 11 years it has been running, and PRS thinks it has developed the right mix of member support, impact in communities and program infrastructure, to take on a new, more sustainable and responsive operational design.

Launched in 2007, Community Connections took the concept of volunteering in the community and redesigned what that looks like. Instead of concentrating on just what one person can do for another, the program focuses on how community members can exchange services with each other, so that all have the opportunity to contribute and all can have their wants and needs met.

Community Connections has been fortunate to receive financial support from a variety of county departments over the years to build the program and explore how it can address very specific needs throughout Plumas County’s communities.

The program has built capacity around areas such as supporting individuals and families with low incomes, providing vital social engagement opportunities and assistance with aging in place for seniors, and building a safe space for individuals struggling with mental health issues to interact with their community.

For all participants, the program offers an opportunity to get the help they need while valuing their ability to provide for others in their own ways. Through the support of Plumas County Behavioral Health, Plumas County Public Health Agency and various private funding agencies, PRS has been able to prove the time bank model as a valuable tool for connecting community members with one another.

Though the agency is grateful for the county’s critical support of the program, PRS recognizes that such a funding structure — reliant year after year on the grant funding capacity of outside agencies and departments — is not sustainable in the long term.

PRS is looking to the program’s future and aiming to ensure that this vital community resource continues to develop in a way that makes it stronger, more community driven and less dependent on the uncertain cycles of grant funding to maintain its operations.

PRS Executive Director Michele Piller is confident that this new direction will help the program thrive. “PRS is very proud of developing this program for the community,” she said, “and we are excited to see how it will grow in the future.”

She believes the membership is so invested in the program that making it more member-supported and member-driven will help it to grow deeper in each community.

Over the coming year, PRS will be transitioning the program to a “hub and spoke” model of delivery. As the “hub,” PRS will continue to oversee the program and manage large administrative tasks and support, such as grant writing, fiscal management, program liability concerns, etc. The program will develop each of the communities it serves into the “spokes”: Chester/Lake Almanor, Indian Valley, Quincy/Meadow Valley, Mohawk Valley and Portola.

Community Connections already has advisory council members from each of these communities who will recruit teams to manage community marketing, outreach, fundraising and exploration of the program’s structure in each area. The program may look slightly different in each community, depending upon its unique needs and how local members want to address them. Each “spoke” will also be able to individualize its member and sponsor recruitment.

Program Coordinator Leslie Wall sees these changes as a continuation of the program’s growth and evolutionary trajectory over the past decade.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to take the vision of so many people, bring it together, and see how lives have been changed and people have been touched,” Wall said. “I believe the momentum we collectively started will continue on for generations.”

In order to be certain the upcoming changes are responsive to program members’ ideas, desires and concerns, PRS will host focus groups across the county to gather suggestions, ideas and input on how Community Connections develops in the coming years. A good turnout at these focus groups will ensure the process is responsive to individual community needs and visions.

The dates and times of these focus groups are:

Quincy, Tuesday, May 1, at the Plumas-Sierra Fairgrounds (Mineral Bldg) 5:30 – 7 p.m.

Chester, Tuesday, May 8, at the Community Wellness & Family Resource Center, 5:30 – 7 p.m.

Portola, Thursday, May 10, at the Portola Library. RSVP in advance.

For those inspired to get engaged and/or wanting to learn more about the focus groups, more information can be found at plumasruralservices.org/cc or by calling Community Connections Coordinator Leslie Wall at 283-3611.

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