Two years ago, when the Indian Valley Community Center was still under construction, Dennis Thibeault, executive director of Plumas Crisis Intervention and Resource Center, toured the site and envisioned a partnership between the Indian Valley Recreation and Parks District and the Indian Valley Family Resource Center.
That vision came to life last November when the community center opened to the public.
People of both the resource center and the recreation district believe in services and activities that strengthen families, so the partnership between the two organizations was a perfect match.
The community center has been available every day due to the resource center tenancy.
"A building alone does not make a program," Thibeault said. "It’s all about the people."
Resource center staff and volunteers are what give the place a heart.
Josie Litchfield, who works there as a family advocate for the crisis intervention and resource center, also promotes the vision of the community center.
When the Indian Valley Community Services District closed the civic center this winter, it coincided with the opening of the community center, which is operated by the recreation district.
"It was a seamless transition," Litchfield said. "The resource center needed a new home and the community center was in need of a tenant."
Since the move in November, the resource center has become less of a tenant and more of a partner: providing volunteers for the center, assisting people to register for classes, giving tours of the building and other services.
This arrangement has made it possible to keep the community center doors open each day.
The Indian Valley Family Resource Center is a program of Plumas Crisis Intervention Resource Center, based out of Quincy, with a resource center in Portola as well.
The crisis and intervention center is a private, non-profit corporation dedicated to maintaining a 24-hour crisis line, where people provide information and referral services; give direct services or help individuals and families in attaining services; provide educational opportunities in the community; and respond to emerging needs in the community.
Indian Valley Resource Center staff members, like Litchfield, provide a variety of services, including family advocacy; help with utility bills, rent and deposits; free phone, fax and Internet; crisis counseling; monthly community suppers; resume building and job-search help.
The services are always free and confidential.
The center is open Monday-Friday 9 a.m.—3 p.m. The small office may sometimes need to be closed unexpectedly, so it is always best to call first, at 284-1560.
Litchfield is joined by two other advocates who work on a part-time basis, Jeannie Souza and Tami Williamson.
Litchfield grew up in Colorado, with adventurous parents who raised their children between a sailboat and a tipi, where her parents still live.
She loves Indian Valley and moved here in 2004 with her husband, Dan, and their two small children.
Litchfield has worked as an advocate for about 10 years and has been with the resource center since 2005, although she took some time off to be at home with her children.
"It’s great to be back," she said recently. "I’m privileged to work in this great location. "
Her experience in social work comes from all over.
After college, she trained in a Nicaraguan orphanage and spent a summer in Central Africa.
In those countries, she never saw a resource center.
If a person needed support, there was simply nowhere to go if he didn’t have family.
After that, she moved to Santa Rosa and worked for several years at a YWCA women’s shelter.
"That was a tough job too," she said. "I worked with women who were locked in rooms for 20 years — with 3-year-olds who knew more four letter words then I did."
It was mostly a tough job because she’d work so hard to help people and then might never see them again.
The resource center is just the opposite.
People plan to just stop by, but they usually end up staying for several hours, she said.
Sometimes they come every day, or every week, to check the job postings or to make phone calls.
Sometimes they want to talk, and sometimes not, either way is OK by Litchfield.
The greatest part is being able to see people six or eight months later, with a new job or a better place to live.
She has just had the busiest winter in the history of the center.
"Sometimes we would have clients out the door or waiting in the hallways," she said. "We’ve worked with families living without heat or running water.
"You might think this only happens in other countries, but it’s the reality for a lot of people in this valley."
Nobody wants to ask for help. But one day you get it, and another day you can give it back.
"That’s nothing to be ashamed of," she said.
Every day, people walk in from the street and ask, what can I do to help?
Sometimes people say that a resource center advocate helped them five or 10 years ago, and now they want to help someone else.
"We’re happy to put them to work sweeping the floors of the community center before a class, or helping to oversee the children at the Bouncy House Play Group," Litchfield offered.
She and other staff members also work with the Community Connections program to help manage these volunteers.
Through the volunteer program, people can choose to do an hour of volunteer work, and then attend a class at the center for free.
While the resource center is mostly known for helping with immediate issues, staff members also focus on the long term.
They created a job-postings board that is updated every morning with information from the Employment Development Department.
"When we’re not meeting with clients, we’re researching local and national resources which may be of help to local residents," Litchfield said. "Need to replace your windows with more energy efficient ones? There’s a program for that."
"Does your child need health insurance?" Litchfield asked. She is a certified application assistant and can do the applications right there at the center.
Or perhaps someone has a good idea, but is not sure how to move forward with it.
Center staff members can help guide people to grants and any training required.
“It’s more than a resource center," she finished. "It’s also a problem-solving center.”
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