One can fight City Hall but why fight if we can work towards building it into the City of God?
Community service is one of the most important factors when it comes to bettering society. Through my own experiences and observations, I have come to support and believe in the power of community service.
My experience started in the late 1980s – during this time, our community was struggling with the immense challenge of raising rebellious children amidst the epidemic of drugs and gangs. It would take all of our life savings and possibly a miracle to save our community. Along this journey, I came across a harsh reality, although I may know how to knock on doors for help, no doors existed for us. It was disheartening but I was not going to let anything create a barrier towards saving our children and through faith and love, I set out to create doors that at one time never existed.
I joined People Acting in Community Together (PACT) to awaken the hearts and conscience of my community. Violence was all too prevalent around us but the victims and perpetrators alike where our children, our family. Together, as a community, we organized and developed leaders to hold our elected officials and other authorities accountable for the well-being of our families and communities. We created a program that treats offenders with justice. Justice brings forth opportunities for change and transformation through services that encourage a change of heart for the youth offenders. Thus San Jose Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force was created—a city program that offers a continuum of services for youth, prevention, intervention, suppression and rehabilitation (after care). We forged a partnership which included residents, clergy, city and county officials, community service providers, park recreation and neighborhood department, San Jose Police Department, Sheriff & Probation.
Today, this program is evolving and expanding in the public health, drug and mental health sectors across many cities. Through research, we learned that other key organizations must be included such as, FIRST 5 Santa Clara County with its programs and services towards young children. It is imperative to establish relationships with private and industry sectors as well as provide opportunities for our youth to be ready for college and lifetime careers. Today, we embark on an exciting journey once again, to embrace our faith in community. We will address our challenges of youth violence and the impact on our families and community by working together as a smart team. Adults in our community will need to be more visible as role models of love and justice. As a community, we must be accountable for keeping the U.S. as the greatest country in the world for our children.
Once again, I will knock on doors in San Jose and other cities of Santa Clara County. When asked – will you answer…here I am – send me!
Corazon "Cora" Basa Cortes Tomalinas is a Filipino Immigrant, a full-time community activist, and a registered nurse. For over 20 years Cora Tomalinas has been the “heartbeat” and lead community activist behind the Mayors Gang Prevention Task Force (MGPTF) in San Jose, California.