Petaluma Corps partners with local agencies to serve transitional age youth

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Unused areas of corps building were transformed to create a new nonprofit center with various services

By Vivian Lopez –

The Salvation Army Petaluma Corps recently partnered with local agencies Mentor Me and Petaluma People Services Center to broaden their scope of services for transitional age youth on the east side of Petaluma, California, where social services are limited. The corps turned an unused portion of its church building into a nonprofit center for its new Transitional Age Youth Service Alliance program.

“There is a great need for [TAYSA],” said Major Mitham Clement, Salvation Army Petaluma Corps Officer. “When we learned there was a need and an opportunity to team up with agencies in the community, we decided we needed to do that to…help people in this area.”

The Petaluma Area Chamber of Commerce raised the funds for the remodel and repairs to develop the center. Now, the newly remodeled space includes a community room and lounge area where clients can receive food, charge their phones, access the Internet, computers and printer. Additionally, there are offices used for mental health counseling and career and vocational guidance, as well as a conference room area for meetings with larger families. Youth can be matched with and meet mentors and caseworkers. The center will initially be available only by appointment, but that could change as the facility adds more service hours.

TAYSA had been a year in the works, with the idea stemming from The Salvation Army Petaluma Advisory Board. Deborah Dalton, Mentor Me executive director, is on the board and recommended the collaboration after the board met with the director of PPSC.

“We’ve always wanted to do more collaborative projects,” Dalton said. “We can just do much more when we are working together and having collaborative projects and sharing space is a natural way to sustain that.”

PPSC needed office space to connect transitional age youth to employment and vocational programming in the east side of the city, while Mentor Me was also looking to expand its presence in Petaluma.

“On the east side of town there aren’t a lot of social services—The Salvation Army is it,” said David Adams, Salvation Army Petaluma Advisory Board chairman, who oversaw the logistics for the remodel. “These programs [Mentor Me and PPSC] are on the west side of town. The east side of town didn’t have those organizations represented. TAYSA became a total win-win for all of the organizations.”

So, together with The Salvation Army, the organizations form TAYSA, cross-promoting each of their areas of service.

The Salvation Army offers help through its utility assistance services and food distribution program, which it took over earlier this year when the city’s only major food bank shut down. The corps also connects them to its social services for housing, substance abuse rehabilitation at a local Adult Rehabilitation Center, and its Tuesday mobile shower service if they are homeless.

Additionally, the corps provides youth served by Mentor Me and PPSC with required community service hours for their education or careers. Mentor Me is focusing on linking youth with mentors to get them back on their path to educational re-entry and high school completion. PPSC works with the youth to connect them with housing assistance, counseling and postsecondary education and career development.

“It’s big deal to have these programs—which have been established programs in our town for 40 years—come into the Army,” Adams said. “[Now] we can offer more, utilize the campus better, get more folks here [and spread] more awareness of the Army in the community, which has paid off because we are now finding more volunteers to help us [and] companies are approaching us, asking, ‘What can we help you with?’”

Dalton said she hopes she is able to engage the youth, while also spreading awareness of all The  Salvation Army is capable of accomplishing in Petaluma.

“This [age group] is a very hard to reach population. They are disconnected from everyone—from their education and their families,” Dalton said. “My goal is to not only be able to make a significant difference in housing these young people and getting them clean and substance free and back in school and into the workforce, but also for the community to see The Salvation Army as a nonprofit partner agency.”

As far as plans for the future, Dalton said the agencies will work together to coordinate events and street outreach to reach more youth in need.

“I really [want the youth to] learn to identify and utilize resources and develop trust in adults again,” Dalton said. “We want to reconnect displaced and homeless youth to families, to sobriety, to education and to employment to really re-instill hope in these people who are really on the edge and are probably our most vulnerable population in our city.”

Clement expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to collaborate for the good of youth in the city, and excitement for what’s to come.

“Hopefully, we are able to grow and meet the needs of the youth, not only on this side of Petaluma, but in all our service areas as needed,” Clement said. “We’re really looking forward to continue working with the other organizations to provide this wonderful service to the community, [while] extending the Lord.”

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