-Refreshments were needed for the community meeting, and on January 9, 2006, Publix Supermarkets were contacted in order to determine their support. The correct procedure for requesting donations was secured, and on January 19, 2006, a letter was sent to community relations for support. Several phone calls followed to ascertain the status of the request, and by February 13, 2006, other businesses were contacted in person for their support. Several follow up phone calls to these businesses finally resulted in generosity from both Publix Supermarkets and BJS, who were publicly recognized at the formal neighborhood meeting on March 6, 2006.
-A meeting was arranged on January 26, 2006 with the County Commissioner of the West Boca Community. The PACE EH project was discussed. Efforts in the past to work with this community have not been very successful, but it is hoped that a unified effort on the part of residents of the community will be evidence of their desire to work with the County officials. It was concluded that if that unified effort is displayed on the part of the residents, the County Commissioner will be supportive of improvement efforts.
-WE CARE has been invaluable to the PACE project in providing information, contacts, addresses for flyers and support. The project is seen as an extension of their good will.
-A joint effort to engage the community on the part of the Health Department and the Calvary Chapel resulted in the date of March 6, 2006 for a first community meeting.
-Much time and effort was spent securing donations for refreshments for the community meeting. The process was approached as a social marketing campaign, and it was discovered that in the evaluation that the costs outweighed the benefits, necessitating a tip in the balance. The food reward helped achieve this imbalance. Publix Supermarkets and BJs Wholesale Club were acknowledged for their generosity at the meeting.
-It was a major task to mail out over 800 flyers announcing the community meeting. Several were returned but the community itself has identified problems with mail and the post office.
INITIAL NEIGHBORHOOD MEETING:
Nancy Lashway briefly introduced the PACE project with emphasis on the need for community engagement. Afterwards, the floor was opened up for discussion of issues. Those immediately expressed were:
-The need for a centralized place for community meetings and activities.
-The lack of activities for youth resulting in destructive behavior and drug activity.
-Vacant and overgrown properties seen as eyesores and bringing down the general image of the community.
-The rat population especially as seen in the dirty canals filled with overgrown plant material and trash.
-Stray animals/irresponsible pet owners.
-Past efforts and promises made to assist the community gone astray.
Volunteers were solicited from the audience who seemed the most vocal to serve on a team of core representatives from the community to meet in two weeks.
-A presentation was made by the Calvary Chapel regarding their youth program, Firewall, but the audience seemed able to separate this from the PACE project. It was unfortunate that the power point presentation prepared to explain the PACE process did not function correctly with the electronic system at the Chapel, and the project had to be explained without that teaching tool. Although the community seemed to understand that PACE and the resources of the Health Department were there to assist in problem identification and solving, the other planned methodology for discussion was not clear.
-The presence of the Palm Beach County Sheriffs office resulted in discussion about policing issues; the audience had to be frequently brought back to the task at large.
-The presence of community groups identifying their favored issues needed to be curtailed as it began to monopolize the discussion.
-Separate entities within the community are striving for recognition. They each can bring to the table valuable assets and resources, efforts to bring all together continue to work for positive effects.
CORE NEIGHBORHOOD MEETING:
The presence of the Palm Beach County Sheriff and Code Enforcement prompted questions as to their functions and jurisdictions. Residents questioned them on a case-by-case basis, and need to develop a better understanding.
The community thus far had not been committed to the PACE project, and residents were questioned to this effect. They will support it, and additional volunteers are promised for adequate neighborhood representation. Residents suggested that they themselves administer the survey. A resident has volunteered to represent the community to lead the project; other community members will work to recruit additional volunteers in order to have adequate representation and to administer the survey.
Residents will present this at the next organized meeting along with their input on the draft of the survey provided for pretesting purposes.
- The design and implementation of the survey were uncertain due to the variability of anticipated issues identified and the geographics of the selected community. It was the communitys decision to administer the survey themselves, and it is hoped that the questions will adequately probe issues. Issues with short-term solutions as well as longer term problems are desired. It is hoped that some issues identified will involve solutions utilizing resources already available within the county.
-Pretesting of the survey with the core members of the community yielded some information; problems of overgrowth of properties, need for youth activities, and drug activity. Comments concerning health matters were only determined with probing; the survey needs to include a method of prompting these.
-Additional community members are needed to balance out the neighborhood geographically. The core members are female at present, although there were men expected in attendance. Recruitment of additional members is anticipated, but it is desirable to keep the total number of the core team under 15 for the purpose of simplicity and cooperation. Current members are those targeted as in the contemplation stage of change.
-Although they were called by phone of the meeting, the time of the meeting and the rainy weather on the 23rd may have been a factor, for those not in attendance.
-There is a small police substation on the property now used by the Palm Beach County Sheriff. It is hoped that when this is ready for use in the near future, community meetings can be held there as it presents a difficulty to depend solely on the utilization and availability of the Chapel. Ideally, a time and place can be scheduled on a regular basis for these meetings.
-The community at the next core meeting will come with suggestions for the survey so they might adopt it as their own. The plan of action can be discussed at this time and the second large community meeting can be scheduled at this time to introduce the survey to the community and discuss progress thus far.
-The presence and scope of Code Enforcement within the community continues to be misunderstood. Although called upon for issues at present, residents with older properties fear their responsibility for improvements made on the properties prior to their ownership. It is hoped that open communication will improve the function of Code Enforcement in Watergate Estates.
-Nancy Lashway continues to receive phone calls from concerned community members indicating that trust has been established within the community. Residents have indicated that others within the community are now interested in participating; the next community meeting where the survey will be discussed will be documentation of increased community engagement.
-Plans are to present the PACE project to West Boca Community Council (tentative date June 1, 2006) and the CCRT in the near future. The support of the OCR and the CCRT will help with identification of resources in finding solutions to priority issues in the community.
Past Palm Beach County Updates