Citizen Access Coalition gives direction to those in need
For the three original members of the Citizens Access Coalition, helping those in need within the New Richmond community has become one of their main focuses.
“We want the community to know that it is us working together to be a clearing for supporting people as best as we can,” said coalition member Greg Kier, who is a fifth-grade teacher at Starr Elementary. “And rather than just complaining about lack of resources, we want to make sure that we are incubating as many resources as possible.”
The coalition is in partnership with the New Richmond School District and Community Education and is meant to make a place at the community table for the elderly, physically and emotionally disabled and economically challenged using the resources of the Community Commons as a focal point.
“We are kind of under the radar, where we will help people out without being in the spotlight,” Kier said. “We don’t want to toot our own horns and yet we want people to know we are here as a resource.”
Kier, Sara Peterson of Community Education and Pastor Kevin Morris of First Baptist Church of New Richmond have been working together for the last three years to get the coalition off the ground and help provide resources and develop administrative structures that will promote the representation and support of those who are struggling within the New Richmond community.
“We don’t have any funding and we don’t have any other purpose other than to be brokers of how to get people plugged in so they can be cared for,” Kier said.
The coalition got its start as a small group during an LTI session at the SPACE that was sponsored by the New Richmond Community Foundation three years ago.
“We were looking for something that we could do to give back to the community and this is what we came up with,” Kier said. “However, we didn’t do much with it right away because we were thinking that things would kind of level out at the Community Commons and that we would have a website with links up rather quickly, but everyone was really busy at the time, which meant it was slow going for a while.”
After a period of time where the coalition wasn’t getting much done, the group decided to start simple and it created a brochure to help direct people in need to the right person to help them connect to the resources that are available to them. According to Kier, the brochure was made by a parent helper named Paula Andersen.
“Once we had the brochure done, we sent it back to Sara and Community Education where it was distributed to the people who it can help the most,” Kier said. “We are truly off and running now and we are getting phone calls from a lot of people now that they know we are here. We are even getting calls from groups that want to let us know that they are a resource and that we can connect people with them for help.”
With the three founding members of the group being positioned at different locations around New Richmond, as well as within different organizations, each member is in a unique position to help and give support to a different demographic.
“We each came from a different starting point when we came to this project, so we each have a different area of emphasis that we kind of focus on and have knowledge of,” Morris said. “I tend to gravitate toward the physically disabled or challenged as well as the emotionally challenged. Our concern is to try and make this as friendly a community as we can for them, whether it comes to thoughtfully placed ramps in the city or access for people who have a hard time getting around.”
For Kier, the area he has found that he has gravitated toward is poverty, specifically the needs of students at the school who can’t afford to take part in any variety of extracurricular activities.
“I tend to pull toward the economically challenged in the community, especially when it comes to students who can’t or won’t participate in sports or extracurricular activities because they can’t afford the fees,” Kier said. “I am in touch with the coaches association of this community and the phy ed teachers of this school district to make sure that they are aware that we are here. I want them to let me know that if they see someone who wants to take part but can’t do it because of financial needs or anything like that I’d like to hear about it so we as a group can help them. It can help them feel better about themselves and it keeps them active and busy, which is a good thing.”
Currently, the coalition is running into a challenge when it comes to finding adequate mental health resources for those people who are in need of it.
“The thing that I’m finding is that our biggest challenge right now is having mental health resources for people,” Kier said. “We just don’t have adequate mental health resources, especially pro bono. We see it more and more, that there is a need for young students who just need to have some counseling, but there is no real resources for them without them having to pay for the help.”