Groups start rebuilding process

Organizations take 1st steps to revitalize Stockton’s southside

STOCKTON – Daring to rebuild Stockton, particularly its southside, from the foundation up, two groups met separately Thursday to discuss the profound:

How to strengthen the city’s families.

“Part of the purpose for this meeting was to get the community-based organizations talking to each other,” said City Councilman Michael Tubbs, who is spearheading a Reinvent South Stockton project that is under way with a series of roundtables.

Two dozen community leaders met Thursday afternoon for a family-strengthening discussion that focused on what their respective agencies provide, gaps in service, and opportunities to do more.

Tubbs saw value in the connections around the table.

“Everyone can’t do everything,” he said. “I hope they buy in to collaborating on this project for south Stockton. Let’s be strategic. The challenges are too big for one person.”

To that end, the room was filled with nonprofit organizations, government representatives and the leaders of faith-based groups. They were introduced to Tubbs’ vision for change.

One of the participants was Fred Sheil, administrator of Stocktonians Taking Action To Neutralize Drugs, or STAND.

He bought in.

“I’m impressed because Michael is creating a structure that will live on after he is out of office,” he said. Like others, Sheil brought a dose of reality to southside problems.

“People down here feel alone, forgotten and ignored – and because of that they’re cynical,” he said. “They’re looking for concrete success.”

Part of the exercise inside the community room at the Maya Angelou branch library on Pock Lane was to identify assets already in place. Part of that list:

» A strong sense of community and a willingness by neighbors to help each other.

» Passion and energy for improvement.

» Under-the-radar “village” elders who dispense wisdom and advice.

» Community centers that serve as places of comfort, safety and acceptance.

» A proliferation of churches.

» The shared struggle of living in low-income neighborhoods.

Just as easily, the group came up with deficits:

» Family breakdowns that result in grandparents raising children.

» Substance abuse.

» Overwhelmed prevention programs and mentors.

» Lack of grocery stores.

» Lack of knowledge and information about available resources.

» Thugs, even more than gang members, who terrorize neighborhoods.

» Infrastructure failures such as sidewalks, accessible public transportation and clean water.

» Language and cultural barriers.

» City-county government cooperation.

» Trust.

Pastor Amelia Adams of Stockton’s Open Door House of Prayer was the facilitator.

Two hours earlier, a group of faith-based leaders sat around a table inside her church on Poplar Street.

They, too, want to help improve parenting outcomes in Stockton.

“Family life is unraveling,” said Wayne Bibelheimer, co-founder of Stockton Leadership Foundation. “It is the undoing of our culture.”

Bibelheimer introduced a program first adapted in Chattanooga, Tenn., that is known as First Things First.

It is an outgrowth of the newly created Restore California Foundation.

The program strives to decrease the divorce rate, curtail births outside wedlock and reduce fatherlessness.

A Stockton-centered version of First Things First is in the embryonic stage.

Contact reporter Kevin Parrish at (209) 546-8264 or Follow him on Twitter @KLPRecord.

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