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More MS news articles for December 2002

Fontana residents help neighbors

Nonprofit organization serves residents in need,1413,203%257E21481%257E1056667,00.html

Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 2:33:11 AM MST
By Stephen Wall
Staff Writer

When Steve Glenn was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, his life started on a downward spiral.

He quit his job, got divorced and was unable to take care of his house.

His property became an eyesore, prompting visits from city code inspectors.

But instead of issuing a citation, officers referred him to a nonprofit organization that was quick to provide assistance.

In a matter of days, volunteers descended upon his Southridge home to remove trash and pull weeds from his yard.

The Community Assistance Program, to be officially launched today at a ribbon-cutting ceremony, links needy residents with individuals and groups interested in helping their neighbors.

"Programs like this help a lot because they relieve a lot of stress,' said Glenn, a 30-year-old father of three who uses a walker and scooter to get around. "My kids are all young. My mother is ill and lives in Riverside. I'm kind of helpless.'

The program is an extension of the Transient Enrichment Network for Fontana, a nonprofit group that has provided housing assistance for nearly 2,000 homeless people since its inception in 1997.

Services that previously were reserved for the homeless will be made available to the general population, said Margo Smith, a Fontana pastor who runs the program.

"We will be offering assistance to all residents who are in need of these services as opposed to just the homeless or near- homeless,' said Smith, a chaplain at the Fontana Police Department.

The Community Assistance Program provides free or low-cost referrals for families who have children with substance abuse or behavioral problems; temporary shelter or housing referrals for families; emergency housing repairs or maintenance for seniors or people with disabilities; and general assistance for residents with unexpected emergencies or disasters.

"It's a one-stop shop,' said Capt. Larry Clark of the Fontana Police Department, which refers people to the program. "If you need assistance, call the number and we can get a hold of the right people. We're going to make sure the service is provided.'

Clark said church groups and organizations such as the Boy Scouts can fulfill community service requirements by mowing lawns, cleaning back yards, fixing window screens, trimming trees, painting and doing other household tasks.

Clark credited Councilwoman Janice Rutherford with coming up with the idea for the program shortly after she was elected two years ago.

"I believe we needed a way to meet some of the needs of our neediest residents,' Rutherford said. "I believe there was a way to do that, not by spending a lot of tax dollars, but by leveraging some of the resources and talents of the diverse residents of Fontana.'

The city has set aside $16,000 for the first 10 months of the program to pay for one part-time employee, office supplies and other expenses to operate the four-room facility at 16820 Valley Blvd.

Officials hope to obtain grants to continue the program into the future.

Ida Valentine, 49, said the Transient Enrichment Network turned her life around after she was robbed at gunpoint while working at a convenience store several years ago.

"I don't know where I would be without them,' said Valentine, who now manages an apartment complex and a shopping center in Fontana. "I felt like I was going to lose my mind. They helped me a lot. I went daily for counseling. When you talk to somebody, they give you understanding and bring you back to reality. You can't be anything but grateful.'

Copyright © 2002 Inland Valley Daily Bulletin