The idea for the venture as notions often do came from the least likely of sources in the most unexpected of places.
We were actually discussing Oakley's (mandatory landscape) maintenance program, said Councilman Kevin Romick, and the thought came up: what about those who can't afford to make those repairs to their yards, or can't afford to keep their lawns watered? What happens to them? What if there was a group or organization that could help them out financially?
Oakley Planning Commissioner Jim Frazier agreed, and with a little creativity and a can-do approach, Romick and Frazier, along with Oakley Councilwoman Pat Anderson, Dr. Mike Painter and local resident Shirley Darling, set about creating the Friends of Oakley, a nonprofit, community foundation created to meet the needs of a broad-based constituency.
Which in layman's terms means what? Well, it means we're limitless, said Frazier. We can help whomever we want, unlike charity-specific groups like, say, the YMCA or the Salvation Army. We can see a need and fill it.
And the need appears to be abundant. From setting up scholarship funds for students, to creating art and cultural endowment programs, to pooling dollars for a community center, working with hospitals to fund a local medical clinic, or even helping a senior with yard maintenance or household repairs, if you can think of it, says Romick, the Friends of Oakley can do it. This (Friends of Oakley) is broad-based and flexible in its approach to meeting the community's needs.
There is so much money out here that is leaving East County because people don't know what's available out here. I don't think there is currently anything like this out here.
All of which is good news for those in need. I think this provides an opportunity that this community has needed for a long time, said Anderson. I'm just happy to be a conduit. I feel very blessed to be a part of this.
The group is currently in the process of acquiring its nonprofit status, which it expects to receive before the end of the year. From there, it's full-steam-ahead. Which project the Friends will embark upon first is still up for discussion, but Frazier and Romick have a few ideas.
I would like to help the YMCA reach its goal for the (special needs) playground, said Frazier. But I would also really like to get a community center here with a senior and teen wing on it so that we can have and host events in our own city.
Personally, one of my goals is to help the city set aside that corner of Norcross and Main Street for a veteran's memorial, said Romick. There used to be a war memorial here in town which I think is now in Pleasant Hill or somewhere and if I can't get that back, I'd like to get a new one. We could be the fundraising arm for something like that. It's very exciting. The sky's the limit.