While it was just a normal interchange at the TCC, it was Conley’s last day at the center, which has had an open-door policy in place for the last 14 years in its current location, 5959 8th Ave., next door to Tahoe Elementary School. But as of Saturday, Jan. 11, the center’s day-to-day operations have shut down, at least to a certain extent, as some partners like the Girl Scouts of America which offers a lunch-time program for Tahoe Elementary students, will continue to operate as usual, but will have to go directly through the school to obtain use permits. Conley announced the center’s closure on Dec. 31, 2012 to about 700 neighbors and supporters on the TCC email list.
She wrote: “For almost twenty years, the Tahoe/Colonial Collaborative (TCC) has contributed greatly to the fabric of our community and those of us around the table – some newer faces, some from the 1990’s – feel so blessed to have called this our work for so many years. The time has come, however, to let TCC be a part of our community’s history, and put our energy into some of the initiatives of the future. Effective January 1, 2014, TCC will be closed, but the work of building a healthy and safe community for all our children will continue!”
In an interview with the East Sacramento News, Conley discussed the fond memories she has had working as the TCC’s coordinator. “I’m going to miss working here. This place has been my life for the past four years,” she said, as her 18-month-old daughter Sarah and 9-year-old daughter Julia wondered in and out of the center over the course of the interview, keeping each other entertained.
TCC held a farewell celebration on Saturday, Jan. 11 where photos and archives from the past were shared amongst attendees. Conley gave away the last of the TCC memorabilia and they shared snacks and stories. It wasn’t much of an emotional farewell, however. “It was more like laughing and enjoying the years of services over the years. It didn’t feel like a mourning kind of thing. Just let’s celebrate what we did for the community and not mourn what we are losing. We did provide 20 years of service to this community,” said Conley.
Opened in 1994, the Tahoe/Colonial Collaborative celebrated its 19th anniversary last December and the organization has been at its current location for the last 13 years. TCC’s formation began out of humble beginnings with parents and friends working out of each other’s homes and through a program called CARE which met at Colonial Park (address).
In its early years, TCC took on big initiatives, including several 4,000-home surveys, fights against prostitution on Stockton Boulevard, take back the night initiatives, and more. As time went on, the focus became more and more on supporting families and kids, making sure they felt connected to one another and to this quaint little community many of us call home.
TCC was instrumental in partnering with local elementary school principals to bring State Department of Education dollars to the community for resources and support staff, and together in 2000 brought a Community & Family Resource Center to the neighborhood. For the last fourteen years, this Center has been a hub of community, offering thousands of hours of mentoring and homework help, recreation and education camps, free meeting space for small community groups, and access to information.
True to that since the start, TCC has been a place for families and the community to gather as well as being a hub of information. Fliers and pamphlets decorate the walls with bulletin boards, updating folks with the latest neighborhood news and an entire computer lab has been available to visitors all free of charge.
As the coordinator for the center since September 2009, Conley has taken up the task of helping people with the computers and connecting people with resources, such as the Second Harvest Food Bank and the Women’s Wellspring Center. It has offered a health and safety fair in Tahoe Park each June and has organized a Bike Rodeo held in the Tahoe Elementary playground where children were offered helmets free of charge. The center has offered free spring, summer and winter programs for children. “I’d have a lot of kids. During our winter and spring program, I’d have been 20 and 30 kids, depending on the year and it was a good mixture of children from Tahoe Elementary and Mark Twain Elementary where we’ve collaborated with both communities and both neighborhood associations or neighborhood groups. Some older people would use the computers and I would help them with what I could, and they would just come in, do what they needed to do and be on their way.”
Conley, a mother of four and 19 weeks pregnant with her fifth, said she has two older children who have been a part of the TCC “for a very long time. I would say eight to 10 years. My older boys are 17 and 14. We are a little bit crazy, but we enjoy having children. And TCC has been fantastic.” When she and her husband Jason decided they were going to try for their fourth child, Conley went to the TCC advisory board after she was pregnant and said she would continue working if she could bring her new baby to work. And everybody who was on the board was on board, she said.
“It was challenging at times (with Sarah at work), especially when I was trying to write an email and she just turned off my computer. Thank goodness for auto-save. So there have been little challenges here and there with having her here, but it has been a blessing having her with me and not have to find daycare. Having my fifth child and soon to have a 2 year old and a newborn, I will be a stay-at-home mom and a volunteer to the community.”
Asked how many groups have used the space, Conley said: “I can’t even count on the top of my head how many, but currently we have the Tahoe Park Neighborhood Association and three home-school groups that use it during the day time for classes. So we have a science class on Fridays, a writing class on Wednesday, and a labor and technology class on Tuesdays.”
For groups that have charged their members to their particular clubs, the TCC just in the last year, has charged them $15 per use for the room to help offset insurance and Internet costs. “So the groups that charge to use, we charge them, just a small fee. So $15 and they have about 15 kids in a class, so they charge a $1 per kid per session, then it pretty much pays for it. It’s not anything we were trying to make it uneasy for them.”
Conley said while the Bike Rodeo, the annual health and safety fair and the day-to-day use of the site will no longer be offered, those interested in using the community center, should contact Tahoe Elementary. “This room here is open for community use, so they will have to go through the school to get a school district permit to use the center. There will be a small fee for that.”
The center has relied on grants from the Sierra Health Foundation and an endowment from the Building Healthy Communities Foundation, among others, to operate the roughly $2,000-a-month facility.
Conley said TCC is working with Tahoe Elementary School Principal Katie Curry to transfer leadership of the center to the Tahoe Park Neighborhood Association; and we are pleased to share that much of our supplies have gone to support the work of Rose Cabral and Rosette Nguyen in Colonial Park, as they revive Shirley Johnson’s after school programs. The TCC webpage and Facebook page will remain up for six months, after which we will close those as well.