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By Nozipo Wobogo
East Palo Alto Today
Posted February 8, 2011


Speakers at retreat                                           Photos courtesy of Nozipo Wobogo
Speakers and participants at the retreat
click for second image

One can always find people in any city who put time and energy into confronting the problems where they live and work so that the lives of their families and neighbors will be decent and safe. The East Palo Alto Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (EPASAPC) is composed of various local groups who are working together to improve the local community. The EPASAPC has been conducting retreats with the purpose of addressing substance abuse issues in East Palo Alto.

Under the auspices of One East Palo Alto (OEPA), the coalition convened its 2011 retreat “Moving Toward a Substance-Free Community” on Saturday, January 29, at the Costano Elementary School. Dr. Faye McNair-Knox, OEPA’s executive director, welcomed from 50 to one hundred attendees to the retreat with a message encouraging the continuance of the struggle to “break the pattern of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs” in the city. McNair-Knox informed everyone that at this session, She then introduced the retreat facilitator, Dr. Omowale Satterwhite, who is the founder of the Community Development Institute in East Palo Alto and the National Community Development Institute, located in Oakland. Satterwhite is well known locally and nationally for his skills as a facilitator as well as for his decades long commitment to the betterment of East Palo Alto.

After an invocation by Reverend Mary Frazier, the pastor of the Bread of Life Evengelistic Outreach Church, the program opened with Satterwhite and Jose Santos, an OEPA community organizer and youth coordinator, who was the retreat coordinator conducting an impromptu survey which identified multiple languages, multiple countries of birth, multiple races/ethnicities and multiple age groups within the crowd.

A number of representatives of the EPASAPC coalition were present and participated in a panel where they were able to highlight activities from their respective organizations: Gabriel Negrete, Senior Program Director/New Perspective Youth Programs; Gloria Flores-Garcia, Associate Executive Director/El Concilio San Mateo County; Reverend Mary Frazier, Bread of Life Evangelistic Outreach Church; Julio Garcia, Community Organizer/OEPA; Gerardo Barragan, Chief Executive Officer/Free at Last; David Wight, Development Director/Bay Area Community Resources (moderator).

Wright gave a panel overview beginning with historical information on the creation of EPASAPC. He told attendees that, prior to 2007, there wasn’t a collaborative effort such as the present one. He explained that while there was good work being done by individual organizations and agencies in the community, San Mateo County suggested that a more broad based approach was needed to get greater results. Thus began the collaboration between many more partners eventually leading to EPASAPC. The collective is presently made up of schools, nonprofit agencies, faith-based organizations, law enforcement, health providers, local businesses and other public and private agencies.

Comments from the Director of San Mateo County Behavioral Health & Recovery Services/Alcohol and Other Drug Services (BHRS AOD), Stephen Kaplan had urged the attendees to continue to reinforce their current efforts by “making more links to develop relationships that also bring resources.” Following Kaplan, Santos spoke on the YouthEPA Environmental Prevention Framework.

The retreat’s participants broke up into smaller workshops to brainstorm ways to increase the effectiveness of the coalition’s efforts and to determine next steps. Coalition members are expected to report back to residents on the accomplishments of their organizations.

During the retreat, attendees lunched on Peruvian food provided by OEPA board member Betsy Yanez, after which Veiongo Finau, YouthEPA Program Assistant facilitated a presentation by YouthEPA. The youth contributors were asked a number of questions to allow them to express their ideas on tackling the substance abuse problems in their community. One member of the group said,”In our family we are very religious so we learn right from wrong at home. We should also be more supportive of those we know that are in trouble.”


To contact the writer of this article, send an email to nwobogo@epatoday.org



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