Brentwood’s Village Community Resource Center (VCRC) has been serving children and families in the community for 22 years, and it aims to continue to do more each year.
The center, located on Village Drive, opened in 1997 when residents and city leaders banded together after a 15-year-old child was shot and killed on the same street in a gang-related attack. VCRC was established as a place of refuge, solace and hope for community children and their families — a way to not only fight back against violence, but to educate, expand resources and allow kids and their families to thrive.
VCRC is a nonprofit organization serving over 1,500 people annually in the realms of education, youth development, family leadership and health services — focusing on underserved families in East Contra Costa County.
For a while, the center primarily concentrated on educational support for the children it serves. But as it evolved, Executive Director Kirsten Rigsby said VCRC has grown to support not just children and teens, but the entire family as a unit. Because as parents or guardians receive the support they need, they, in turn, can best support their children, too.
“Now, our parents are really taking active steps to lift up their own children,” Rigsby said. “So that’s kind of the birth of our new logo that shows the adults really lifting up their children and reaching our product. They’re still rooted in their family’s strengths and in their community, but there’s this image of growth and of raising the next generation up.”
Aside from VCRC’s main areas of education and youth development, it has recently utilized its partners to bring in mental health services and grief counseling — both in English and Spanish — as well as a parent leadership and organizing program, which helps parents and guardians navigate the school system; learn to whom they should speak if their child is struggling or if there’s confusion and, in general, know how to engage in or with the school. This program also emphasizes goal-setting, and parents or guardians attend monthly meetings and do volunteer hours each trimester. Many of those volunteer hours are spent engaging in the child’s school, Rigsby said.
In addition to VCRC’s staff and partners, many volunteers help at the center, including junior volunteers — an idea spearheaded by a former student who was in seventh grade at the time.
“She said, ‘I want to volunteer here,’” Rigsby said. “And we said, ‘Well, when you get to high school, that’s fine, but you’re pretty young, so focus on your studies.”
The student wanted to be a teacher and felt volunteering at the center would be a great learning experience, and so the junior volunteer program was born.
“It’s for those graduates who wanted to come back and mentor, and really give back to the kids coming after them. I think having volunteers and kids who have come through the program, it makes them realize that it’s hard work, but you can be successful.”
After-school program volunteer and board of directors member Steve Walker — who became involved about four or five years ago, after connecting them with resources such as bookcases and desks — said VCRC is a powerful force in the community.
“I truly feel like I’m giving back,” Walker said. “One of my biggest goals now is increasing the recognition of our organization.”
The center is seeking volunteers, and Walker — who usually helps with homework, math or reading — said even a one- or two-hour commitment per week can make a difference.
For more information about becoming a volunteer, call VCRC at 925-626-7892.
VCRC relies on grants, donations and fundraisers to serve the community. Its next fundraiser is Saturday, Nov. 23, from 2-5 p.m., at Brentwood Craft Beer & Cider, located at 234 Oak St. in Brentwood. Tickets are $50 and include two drinks, a menu item and a musical performance from local easy listening duo The Breedloves. To purchase tickets, call 925-626-7892.
Village Community Resource Center is located at 633 Village Drive in Brentwood. For more information, visit www.vcrcbrentwoodca.org.