By Benjamin Kibbey
Getting things done even in small communities takes coordination and cooperation.
Enter the Kern River Valley Collaborative.
The collaborative helps local organizations be more effective in their outreach and efforts and avoid overlap and wasted activity.
Melissa Vittoria is the program coordinator for the Kern River Valley Collaborative. She recently told the Kern Valley Sun that the collaborative is accredited through the Kern County Network for Children.
As an accredited community collaborative, they can help focus concepts from the community — such as people wanting a sidewalk — and help find the resources to make those ideas real.
“We as a collaborative are going to come together and see how we can get these sidewalks put in, who’s going to write the grant, [and] how are we going to bring in stakeholders that are needed for that grant,” she said.
The association with the Kern Valley Network for Children means that the collaborative has an established organization to turn to for expertise and assistance with objectives such as securing a grant, Vittoria said. Additionally, since the network participates in every collaborative in the county, they keep their finger on the community’s pulse and stay on top of evolving programs and offerings — such as new grants — to inform the collaborative and its member organizations.
Vittoria noted that the collaborative isn’t working to create new programs or start initiatives so much as providing a conduit to help build cooperation and partnerships through member organizations.
That familiarity can mean that if one organization is working with, for instance, a family in need, they will be aware of what other organizations do and what services they can offer the family.
“Everybody knows what everybody else’s organization is doing,” Vitorria said.
The collaborative additionally serves as a liaison for smaller local organizations, such as if someone needs to make contact with the right person in Child Support Services in Bakersfield, she said. They also coordinate temporary office space for larger agencies that don’t have a permanent office in the community to have regular office hours locally.
The collaborative holds regular meetings at which member organizations and outside agencies make presentations to help build the aforementioned familiarity, Vitorria said.
Though the pandemic has pushed the regular meetings to Zoom, the fact that busy members don’t have to make an in-person meeting has been helpful.
“Right now, on average, we probably have about 20 members who participate monthly,” she said.
In addition to the presentations, members are able to ask questions or check on any problems, such as if they sent someone to another organization seeking assistance and there were issues, Vittoria said. It also presents a good way to disseminate information about things like new grant programs so that any questions can be addressed on the spot.
The collaborative meets on the third Thursday of every month except December, June and July.