United Way is working diligently to establish another five SparkPoint Centers in the Bay Area during the next 18 months, which will join four existing centers in Oakland, American Canyon (Napa), San Bruno and San Rafael.
In Contra Costa County, Mechanics Bank Vice President Erwin Reeves is one of several leaders United Way has gathered to spearhead the planning and launch of the SparkPoint Center in the city of Richmond, which is slated for Spring 2011.
Erwin is a member of the “sustainability committee,” which will ensure the SparkPoint Center in Richmond serves the community’s needs for many years – beyond just the launch – and secure the funding and other commitments necessary to do so. I recently spoke with Erwin about his partnership with United Way and SparkPoint:
Q. Why are you and Mechanics Bank supporting SparkPoint in Richmond?
I’m impressed by the vision around SparkPoint, as well as the enthusiasm of nonprofits and the County to build the SparkPoint Center in Richmond. The bundled, integrated services that SparkPoint offers to clients is a very promising approach to tackling poverty in our community.
Richmond already has a plethora of nonprofits who work together on various projects. SparkPoint is an opportunity to build on those existing partnerships and better integrate programs. SparkPoint offers the opportunity to truly integrate programs and services and get everyone – the County, nonprofits and their clients – all moving in the same direction.
Q. How will the new SparkPoint Center benefit the Richmond community?
With money shrinking, many different organizations are competing for the same foundation dollars, community block grants, and public sector money. This competitive environment has made it difficult to collaborate effectively. With the creation of SparkPoint, all of the organizations are coming to the table as equals, and everyone is on the same page about working together.
Ultimately, this is going to benefit the clients. Someone who comes into SparkPoint with a need for housing assistance won’t have to go back across the city to get job help. Simply by locating everything in one spot, we’re removing significant barriers for clients.
Q. What are the most significant challenges?
While we’ve got a lot of great partners already at the table in Richmond, we need to bring in even more support to ensure the Center is going to be sustainable. It’s easy to get people excited when something is shiny and new, but we need to have long-term commitments too.
Chevron has already stepped up with a financial pledge to support the Center. The County is providing a building that will house the Center. I think we need to gain the support of smaller, mom-and-pop businesses, through the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. It’s going to take the whole community coming together to make this happen. We’re all in this together.