MODESTO -- Carole Collins has worked since 1995 to improve the lives of the children and the families who live in west Modesto. It may well be the city's most diverse area, with Asian, Latino, black and white residents living in a variety of neighborhoods, from the very poor to solidly middle class.
Collins, 62, is the program manager for the the Stanislaus Multi-Cultural Community Health Coalition West Modesto King-Kennedy Neighborhood Collaborative.
The collaborative's offerings include a prenatal program, a wellness center for the homeless and those suffering from depression and substance abuse, a families-in- the-park program aimed at helping youngsters get ready for school, and a program that provides affordable fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income residents.
Collins recently shared her thoughts about west Modesto:
Q: What are some of the good things about living in west Modesto?
A: Many families- residents have resided in the area for years, and there remains cohesiveness in neighborhoods that may not exist as much in others. We define our community as a "salad bowl," with different ethnicities coming together to create a veritable salad, while maintaining the culture and values of each. Residents can come together to advocate and create change when necessary. We believe that everyone brings an asset to the community.
Q: If you could change one thing about west Modesto, what would it be?
A: If I had the power to bring jobs that would train, encourage and equip our young people in west Modesto, I would.
Q: What are law enforcement-community relations like and how have they changed over the years?
A: During the past 10 years, relationships with the Modesto Police Department and the sheriff have improved. In my opinion, this was due in part to an emphasis on community policing and relationship building. As with every neighborhood, we've experienced a decrease in law enforcement's presence. Law enforcement has renewed efforts to meet with and address community concerns. Residents also recognize we have an obligation to partner in bringing about change.
Q: Have district elections for City Council made a difference for west Modesto?
A: West Modesto residents have enjoyed a wonderful and supportive working relationship with Dave Geer, the City Council representative for west Modesto.
Q: How has west Modesto changed in the 18 years you have been with the collaborative?
A: Improved relationships with the local schools, resulting in partnerships to provide mentoring, after-school program support and healthy lunches-snacks; establishment of the Paradise Medical Office was a major accomplishment for the residents upon the closure of the county hospital. The city of Modesto has revitalized the Maddux Youth Center and established the Neighborhood Center at Marshall Park. There are more fast-food establishments than 18 years ago; some sidewalks and lights and crosswalks (more are needed) and we are exploring the possibility of bike lanes in the area.
Q: If a donor gave your organization $1 million, what would you do with it?
A: Complete the Helen White Memorial Trail and establish an endowment for the organization. (White, who died in 2008 at the age of 79, was a longtime west Modesto community leader.)
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.
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