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$1.5 million family services facility near school?

School board to hear proposal at March 21 meeting
By: Don Chaddock, Managing Editor
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On Thursday, the Folsom Cordova School District’s Board of Education will hear a proposal to consolidate services at a newly constructed facility next to Theodore Judah Elementary School.

Dubbed Folsom’s Hope, the group “was formed by several members of the community in Folsom … to lay groundwork for a local family resource center,” according to a pamphlet distributed by the committee.

Salwa Kasabian, known at the school for her work with student mentoring and reading programs, wanted to take her passion to help a step further and Folsom’s Hope was born.

Uniting various organizations and their efforts under one umbrella is part of the plan.

School district Superintendent Debbie Bettencourt, who is part of the Folsom’s Hope committee, said there is a need for these services and many of them are already offered at the site.

“Many are already happening, just at the back of the campus,” she said. “The school is on 13 acres and typically elementary schools are on 10 acres. What we’re doing is leasing these other three acres.”

Bettencourt said there would be no loss of the fields, despite some critics crying foul, since they are “re-orienting” the layout.

Kasabian said the effort is about creating “stronger families” and improving student learning.

Folsom’s Hope isn’t about hand-outs, but teaching parents and families to be self-reliant and make healthier choices, according to the group’s literature.

“Folsom’s Hope will be a place where children and families are nurtured, encouraged and provided with … services to build on their own strengths, to help themselves and others … to strengthen the family,” their brochure states.

The Assist Local Network is one of the driving organizations behind Folsom’s Hope. Steven McGee, executive director, said Folsom’s Hope will be a resource for other organizations, such as the Orangevale Food Bank, to better manage the care and services offered to the needy.

Bettencourt agreed.

“There is a duplication of services (and effort) at many churches and there needs to be a central point for intake,” she said.

McGee said it’s about communication.

“We’ve been working on a centralized database to maximize benefits so we can manage the family care better,” he said.

The current design of the building in the proposal going in front of the school board does not include a food bank.

“A food bank would go along its own separate (approval and design) process,” Bettencourt said.

Mark Covington, with Marcher Covington Architects, Inc., provided the design services for the building.

“It’s warm and inviting, looking more like a house,” he said.

Original designs, such as those featured on a video, show a previous more commercial version.

When asked if drug and addiction counseling was planned at the site, Kasabian said it’s something she would like to see because it is a real problem.

Jeff Kreiser, director for the ACTS Group (Advancing City Transformation Strategies) sponsored by William Jessup University, said the cycle of children growing up in homes with alcoholic or drug-addicted parents is a problem.

“Sometimes the best-intentioned non-government organizations do more harm than good,” Kreiser said. “Our goal is to give people hope to break the cycle of addiction and make the parents employable.”

Some in the community have questioned the Christian-based organization’s willingness to help those who either aren’t religious or who are part of a different religion.

McGee said it makes sense to help everyone, regardless of religious beliefs.

“Even though we are faith-based, we don’t discriminate to who we serve and some of our volunteers at the Orangevale Food Bank are from the community, like Rotary and other service groups,” he said.

Bettencourt said there has been some criticism regarding her involvement with the committee to found Folsom’s Hope.

“It’s going next to an elementary school campus in our district,” she said. “I choose to be on the executive committee to know what’s happening. … To date, Folsom’s Hope is the only one to submit a proposal.”

Kreiser said children in homes ravaged by poverty and addiction issues presents a problem for the entire community.

“We’ve got to be concerned with what’s happening right here in the city,” he said.

Kreiser said parents caught in a downward spiral of addiction could face joblessness and possible criminal activity and incarceration, thus being a drain on the system. Those same people could become productive members of society and if caught early enough, such as with children, the chance for their lives to always be productive greatly improves.

Kasabian said strengthening families will ultimately strengthen the community.

“We’ll be teaching parents how to parent, teaching English, getting people their GED (General Educational Development certificate) (and) teaching pregnant women how to be mothers,” Kasabian said.

The next step, if the project is approved, is to raise $1.5 million to fund construction.

Some of the partnering organizations include the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, California State University Sacramento, Bayside Church, Community Bible Church, Lakeside Church, Oakhills Church, the school district, Folsom Art Association, Folsom Symphony, Folsom Lake College, Twin Lakes Food Bank, Micron Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Kiwanis Club of Folsom Lake, Rotary Club, Powerhouse Ministries, Folsom Police Department, Deirdre Hawkins and United Way.