Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Just Another Joe Who Cares About Pomona

I got a nice email recently and thought it was worth sharing. It relates back to my post about a non-profit organization called Pomona Hope. Here's the email:

"O Goddess,

I want to thank you for posting the plug for Pomona Hope on your
excellent Pomona blog. [GofP: now you know why I like the email!]

My name is Joe George and I'm one of the founders and current board
members for Pomona Hope.

We can track the traffic that comes to our site and we have been
getting a lot of hits from people who are following the link from
your blog! We're also generating a lot of revenue from the Amazon
link on our home page. I can't thank you enough! " [GofP: note to self, add Amazon link to blog in order to quit my day job.]

"Also we've revised some of the misleading data on the Our Community link." [GofP: I am guessing that our stats guy Ed just sat up a little straighter in his chair.] "We've also tried to recast it in a more positive light while trying to remain honest and faithful to our experiences. Our target area, incidentally, is Holt-Mission, Garey-Towne. I lived on Center for five years before moving two blocks over to live on Pasadena and I can tell you it was almost like moving to a different city. We also added an Our Team page.

I moved to Pomona in 1995 after attending college in Claremont.
During college I began volunteering at an after school program in
Pomona, formed a number of meaningful relationships with both kids
and their parents, and felt compelled to move here shortly after
graduation." [GofP: Another victim of the Pomona love bug.] "I worked with youth for a number of years in different volunteer capacities, (teaching vacation Bible school, leading teams of summer college interns to do community work, helping lead a church youth group, etc.) While I experienced tremendous joy in those
settings, I was also deeply frustrated and discouraged. By 2002
virtually every kid I had ever worked with had either dropped out of
high school, fathered a child as a teenager, was locked up, was dead,
or had moved from Pomona. While I know a number of teens who have
had great lives and have experienced tremendous success coming from
Pomona, (two students who spoke at my graduation from Pomona College
had both attended Pomona High,) my experience in talking to kids and
their parents was often one of hopelessness and despair. After
hearing similar stories from a number of friends and neighbors, we
decided to create something that could grow larger than ourselves and
that would give our neighbors and community a safe place to come
together and work for change. In 2003 we incorporated as the
non-profit Pomona Hope.

That's basically how we started. With an all volunteer board and
only one part-time employee, we are building our organization around
these five aims:
Community Education
Community Organizing
Community Development
Community Health
Community Spirituality

Our only current Community Education initiative is Pomona Hope Kids,
an after school program that we've been growing for the past three
years. Volunteers from our community as well as from LaVerne and the
Claremont Colleges are finding tremendous joy giving time and life to
a group of 20-30 first through eighth graders on Mondays -Wednesdays.
One professor told me that the two hours she spends volunteering at
Pomona Hope are her most meaningful hours all week long.

We've put most of our effort into organizing. We partner with a
number of local churches and an organizing outfit called OneLA.
Together we have tackled getting new streetlights into dark
neighborhoods, working with the school district to gain greater
parent access to schools, and working with the Pomona Police
department on a number of issues. We often go door to door, hear
from neighbors, and try to organize around issues of common concern.
[GofP: This is great stuff!]

In seeking Community Development we're working with Habitat for
Humanity and their "Brush with Kindness" program to fix up and
repaint homes in our target area. (The home on the SE corner of
Center and Palomares is one of the homes we've helped get repainted.) [GoP: That's today's blog photo!] Last year a lot of work went into writing a $700,000 job creation grant. We met with representatives of our congresswoman, had her
endorsement from Washington D.C and were ready to go. Unfortunately
we could only find one company in Pomona that would be willing to
hire 50 people (per the terms of the grant) and even they backed out
at the last minute. We may try again this year.

In seeking Community Health, weve sponsored several free clinics both
for Pomona Valley and Western University. We are seeking to
establish a permanent free clinic in the building where we rent
space, (Pomona Presbyterian.)

Community Spirituality is our most difficult, but perhaps most
important aim. Board members have committed to calling others into
living lives of significance and justice. I've had the chance to
address groups and challenge people to radically take up Jesus'
challenge (and command) to love our neighbor -especially when that
neighbor seems different from you. Most people find, as I did, that
neighbors that seem very different, are usually much the same. We
hope Pomona Hope can be a place where people can engage one another
on those matters most significant to their lives.

That is perhaps more info that you could have wanted on Pomona Hope,
but I felt that I owed to you after your kind posting. Thank you so


[GofP: One of the reasons I have faith that Pomona is turning the corner is because there are so many people out there like Joe, working in their own way to make it happen. Thank you, Joe, for all that you do. Please let us know as projects come up and perhaps you can get a few volunteers, supplies, skills or ideas from the blog readers. And yes, I was just on Central to take today's photo and oh my goodness.]

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