At least once a year, Carmen Madera has to spend an entire day traveling to Stockton to fill out application forms for social services. The seasonal worker and mother of three young girls has to miss work and take public transport to apply for aid.
"With kids and a lack of transportation, it's hard," Madera said through a translator. "I have to ask for days off and take the bus. It's a very difficult thing to do."
Fernando Trujillo, director of Community Partnership for Families' Lodi site, said there are hundreds families in Lodi who can't apply for the social services they need without going to Stockton.
Though it's still a few years from being a reality, Trujillo hopes to have a community resource center that would provide a host of social services to low income families right here in Lodi.
Community Partnership for Families of San Joaquin has three resource centers in Stockton that bring social service agencies under one roof. The group's fourth site, in Lodi, operates out of a cramped office at the Lodi Boys and Girl's Club. Administrators are forced to refer families to Stockton to receive the needed services.
CPF partners with county and nonprofit groups who provide job skills training, nutrition programs for children, citizenship classes, English as a second language classes, and other services.
The organization recently rolled out plans for a $1.4 million resource center, which is planned for Blakely Park on the Eastside. The 5,000 square-foot building would be built next-door to the Boys and Girls Club.
According to the architectural plans, the center would have space for eight social service agencies as well as interview rooms to help protect families' privacy. Trujillo said he is sometimes forced to vacate his office when a social worker needs the space to interview a family.
"I literally have to do 'under the tree' meetings," he said.
Trujillo said it is a challenge to serve the 400 needy families in Lodi without a resource center.
"When we have to refer families to agencies in Stockton, it builds another barrier for families who can't travel," he said. "Having a resource center within walking distance would better serve families in this community."
Ruth Hernandez spends a lot of time and money traveling to Stockton for services that the new resource center will provide.
"The cost of traveling with kids on a bus to Stockton is another barrier," she said through a translator. "It's a huge expense in time and money."
The organization brings social service agencies under one roof.
They have three resource centers in Stockton and one site in Lodi
located in the Boys and Girls Club. A new resource center planned
for Lodi could house the following agencies:
• Women, Infants and Children (WIC): This U.S. Department of Agriculture program provides supplemental nutritious foods and nutrition education to breast feeding mothers and children up to five years old.
• WorkNet: This agency provides assistance finding jobs and information on childcare and affordable housing.
• CalWORKs: This is a state welfare program that gives cash aid and services to eligible needy California families.
• Head Start: This is the longest-running national school readiness program in the United States. It provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families.
- News-Sentinel staff.
Trujillo said he hopes to break ground on the center in 2009. In the meantime, the organization has a lot of money to raise, and the city of Lodi may be their strongest partner.
The organization is funded by the state, county and various foundations, but has received some help from the city in the past. Lodi is essentially donating the land for the center, leasing it to CPF for the nominal cost of $1 per year. The architectural plans for the new center, which have been in the works for the past two years, were funded from $140,000 worth of Lodi's Community Development Block Grants.
City Councilman Larry Hansen is a strong supporter of CPF and would like to see the new resource center built. He said there are a number of ways the city can help, including using Block Grants and money from a proposed redevelopment project area, if it is approved.
"It is my hope that the city will provide some of the funding but not all of it," he said. "This is a worthwhile project and I think it is really needed in Lodi."