Pictured (above) is a Community Action Marin staff member sharing information about the organization’s services with a Marin City resident, (below, left) a student enjoying some outdoor time with classmates, and (below, right) is one of the CARE Homeless Outreach teams who meet people where they are to connect them with needed services.. -Photos by Janis Sturdevant and Ashley Girdler
Whether answering a community member’s call for help with rental assistance or ensuring that people of all ages have access to healthy food, childcare or other needed services, Community Action Marin tackles the challenges of poverty. For more than 50 years, the agency has strengthened trusted relationships to make self-sufficiency possible for more than 7,000 households annually.
A whole family approach to well-being is what alleviates the causes and consequences of poverty in Marin, Community Action Marin leaders believe. For example, the Safety Net Services team helps people lift themselves up, covering unexpected financial emergencies so they can keep a roof over their heads and the lights on at home. This past year, the agency provided cash grants thanks to generous donor support, supplementing rent and deposit assistance, as well as other supports like CalFresh and emergency food boxes as people sought pandemic relief. The Community Alternative Response and Engagement (CARE) Teams worked with unhoused people find shelter, stay safe, access tele-health services, and get the help they needed.
“In the past year, distributing packages of potentially life-saving face masks, hand sanitizer and soap, necessities like warm socks, sleeping bags, tents, and comforts like cookies, has been my daily routine,” said Debra Walker, CARE Team mobile outreach worker. “It’s an uplifting job. This week, I moved an older gentleman into his first apartment after years of sleeping on buses and in abandoned buildings. After many months building up his trust and helping him stabilize through basic supports, watching him visit home for the first time, well, that was very rewarding.”
The staff of Children and Family Services kept doors open during the pandemic, offering pop-up childcare within days of shelter-in-place orders for essential workers. The agency was among the first in the region to have COVID-19 protocols in place and it became a resource to providers nationally on how to operate child development sites to help keep the economy going. The team also created learning pods for school-age children to ensure colleagues could come to work. Parents, largely low-wage, essential workers and people of low income, were able to focus on school, work or looking for a job. And the agency’s organic Production Farm in San Rafael fed children nutritious meals and contributed to take-home boxes during weeks when food access was most limited.
The agency has learned from recent experiences and strengthened its delivery model, opening new service hubs in Marin City and San Rafael with partners to meet people where they are. Many of the agency’s direct services remain online and by appointment, with remote support also helping teams from Economic Opportunity and Workforce Development to Mental Health Services to stay connected with the community. From food justice to giving visibility to the need for an equitable pandemic response, Community Action Marin’s team of more than 200 employees is dedicated to making sure the entire community can access what it needs to thrive.
Community Action Marin received a $5,000 Giving Marin Community Partnership grant in February. Giving Marin awarded a record $75,000 in grants to 12 nonprofit organizations that serve Marin County this year. The grant recipients, selected after an application and vetting process, were Bayside Martin Luther King Jr. Academy Foundation – Arts Plus, Canal Alliance, Ceres Community Project, Community Action Marin, Community Institute for Psychotherapy, Family & Children’s Law Center, Gilead House, Marin Foster Care Association, NovatoSpirit, Project Avary, Sparkle Foundation and WildCare.
The initiative’s Partners are College of Marin, CPi Developers, Ghilotti Bros. Inc., Kaiser Permanente, Marin Independent Journal, Nugget Markets, Price Simms Automotive Group, Redwood Credit Union and Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical. Sponsors are Northern Pacific Roofing and PRANDI Property Management.
This article originally appeared in the Marin IJ eEdition, Thursday, August 19, 2021.