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For Richmond Community Celebration Draws Crowd to Mark Successful First Year

Article by For Richmond – posted June 17, 2013.

Attendees remember notable achievements and help strategize next steps.

For Richmond members joined community leaders, elected officials and a broad cross-section of Richmond residents last Thursday in a packed celebration that marked the coalition’s first year of success and sought community input as the organization charts its next steps to building a healthier, safer and more prosperous Richmond.

More than 250 people crowded into the auditorium at DeJean Middle School to learn about the growing coalition, celebrate its achievements and talk about upcoming projects, including advocacy for a Family Justice Center, a one-stop-shop for local victims of domestic violence.

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Richmond youth enjoy the For Richmond Community Celebration on June 13

“This is our introduction to this community,” said Richmond Police Det. Hector Esparza, who serves as For Richmond’s public safety chair. “People have heard about For Richmond and this is our chance to let people know what we’re all about.  We’re doing a lot of good things in this community, and I think a lot of people will appreciate that. This organization is about improving Richmond and that’s what tonight is about.”

The event drew leaders from all corners of the community – including Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, Richmond City Councilmen Jael Myrick, Corky Booze and Nat Bates, West Contra Costa Unified School District Board President Madeline Kronenberg, who serves as For Richmond’s education chair, Contra Costa Community College District board member John Marquez, West Contra Costa Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Bruce Harter and Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus, among others – who shared a meal, catered by Café Soleil, and applauded For Richmond for its work in uniting the community around issues that matter.

Guests were even asked to take an electronic survey and weigh in on issues they would like For Richmond to tackle. In results announced live at the event, the community called on the coalition to help improve local job training and apprenticeship programs, increase educational opportunities and boost resources for small business development, among other leading priorities.

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Dr. Sylvia Greenwood, principal of DeJean Middle School, at the For Richmond Community Celebration

“For Richmond is really a fantastic opportunity to come together around a whole series of really important issues, projects and ideas that are related to one another in terms of being the future of Richmond,” said Chief Magnus, who spoke to the crowd and called on their support for a Family Justice Center where victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault can turn to find help reporting crimes, accessing legal protections and coping with emotional strain.

For Richmond has been working for months to help realize the Family Justice Center by organizing the community and assisting in accessing long-term operational revenue streams to ensure its success.

Supervisor Gioia also addressed the crowd and, in addition to advocating for the Family Justice Center, he applauded the coalition’s work and its growing role in this community.

“It’s always good to have organizations that bring people together to work on important issues,” Gioia said. “The more help we can get the better.”

While the event was designed to solicit feedback from the community around key priority issues, guests were also treated to stories of the organization’s work to date, particularly in the area of education, where the group is actively changing lives.

In the past year, For Richmond has not only increased access to science and math education and programming in local schools but also helped several students get into college and receive full scholarships to schools of their choice.

“For Richmond made it possible for my son, Blake, to go to college,” said Richmond resident Donna Smith, whose son, Blake Evans, has gone on several college tours organized by For Richmond and will attend Coppin State in Baltimore this fall on a full scholarship thanks, in part, to For Richmond’s advocacy and support.

“I really can’t thank this organization enough for all they have done for my son,” Smith said.

Superintendent Harter echoed that support, telling the audience that students in Richmond have been tremendously lucky to have had For Richmond on their side this year.

“We need community-based organizations like For Richmond that have the heart of what Richmond needs at the forefront of everything they do,” he said.

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Blake Evans, a graduate of Pinole Valley High School, attends the For Richmond Community Celebration

Coalition leaders said the soaring success of the event – and the outpouring of support they felt from the community – left them feeling empowered to tackle the work that lies ahead.

“This event is a stepping stone to get us started,” said Don Lau, Executive Vice President of the YMCA of the East Bay and For Richmond’s chair. “Tonight drew a tremendous cross-section of this community – including many nonprofit executive directors, who I don’t think have been a part of the For Richmond discussion before tonight. I look forward to working together now and accomplishing great things for this community.”

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