Group bands together to help Harvard youth

HARVARD – A grassroots effort that has pulled interest from nearly every facet of the community wants to keep kids of a pivotal age on track.

Formed toward the end of last school year but gaining steam as of late, the Harvard Community Partnership Coalition wants to provide junior high-aged kids with cheap, safe fun while bringing their families closer to mental health agencies, should they need them.

The effort has engaged members from the police force to the schools and from social workers to concerned parents. The expansive backgrounds of members is reflected in the efforts the group has put together.

So far, they have partnered with agencies like Rosecrance, Pioneer Center for Human Services and the Mental Health Board to bring their existing services to Harvard on select days. They have also hosted simple recreational events like a New Year’s Eve party and bowling night.

“Wanting to help the youth is not something that’s new in Harvard,” said Steve Torrez, a social worker at Harvard Junior High School who helped get the coalition started. “There’s a lot of people doing a lot of hard work and trying to help the community. The coalition, what it’s trying to do is coordinate those efforts.”

For families on tight budgets or strapped on time, the drive from Harvard to agencies that offer help can prove challenging, Torrez said.

“What we’re looking to do is get those services in a timely manner right in Harvard,” he said.

Charity Saunders – a local whose involvement with the group began as a representative of Durham School Services but has evolved to a role of concerned parent – said providing safe hangouts for young people could go a long way.

“We kind of identified that drinking is a big issue for a lot of our students in Harvard,” Saunders said. “Kids get together and do things they shouldn’t be doing.”

Saunders headed up the New Year’s Eve party, an event that had a less-than-stellar turnout, but also was put together in the 11th hour. After more planning and time to get the word out, the Brilliant Bowling Bonanza brought out 46 people earlier this month.

The group has planned an April trip to Rockford to see the IceHogs. Saunders has been working with businesses to get discounted rates.

“The more cost-effective we can make it, the easier for parents to allow their children to attend,” she said.

How to help

The Harvard Community Partnership Coalition is looking for business to offer reduced rates during events for youth. Email Charity Saunders at tcsaunders1@att.net.

For information on the Harvard Community Partnership Coalition, visit http://harvardcommpartnercoalition.webs.com.

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