3 organizations progress toward possible merger

Exploring a possible merger since earlier this year, STEP Inc., The Campbell Street Family, Youth and Community Association and the Community Alliance for Progressive Positive Action will take a major step forward with that exploration as they will partner together to provide a summer program to the city’s youth.

The three organizations teamed up to present Summer Counts!, an eight-week program that they are looking to serve 100 children with, beginning Monday.

The program not only is serving the area’s youth but shows progress of a potential merger of the three organizations.

“It kind of evolved, actually, naturally evolved as a logical step in the partnership and really is a progression ultimately and hopefully to the merger,” said Terry E. Roller, STEP president and CEO.

Students will be split into two groups, one starting with The Center and the other with CAPPA, which will switch in the afternoon. The Center will provide recreation and nutrition, while CAPPA focuses on academics.

“We were looking at the strong aspects of all of the programs. So we really captured the organizational strengths of all three agencies. So with CAPPA, they’re really focused on academic curriculum. The Center’s really focused on the recreation component. and then STEP, we’re working on the administrative portion and the financial piece,” said Rachelle Abbott, director of planning for STEP.

As discussions began about the summer program, Eileen Harley, academic enrichment coordinator for CAPPA, noted that a full-day program was need with many parents working full-time.

“It’s huge because parents have to work and they have to be able to provide. And it would leave a lot of unsupervised kids home alone or wherever,” she said.

The organizations have hosted summer programs in previous years separately but now are looking to bring a “total program” to the community. But the partnership doesn’t just make sense program-wise but financially, as well.

“It’s clear from an economic stand point, if you look at all of the other communities across the country, what they’re doing is pulling resources together. So it’s clear this is what works, especially at these times that we’re living in. We come together and we’re able to operate more effectively by pulling what we all offer together,” said Loni Gamble, founder of CAPPA.

And as discussions picked up momentum, John Kiernan, board member for The Center, said there was a “buzz” in the room, as they were creating solutions instead of focusing on problems.

“In the last 10 years you see a lot in the papers and hear in the media about what can’t work, why we don’t have enough money and how services are going to eliminated or decreased,” Kiernan said. “But here’s an example where you are increasing services, increasing delivery, collaborating and working together.”

The program also will utilize partnerships and services with the James V. Brown Library and YMCA. But despite receiving the support of the county commissioners, Those involved said there still is some hesitation on the possible merger. Roller said that some in the community think that it is “too good to be true.”

“With anything new there’s a little bit of hesitation,” said Heather Eisner, operations manager for The Center.

But Kiernan said the organizations are excited about the program and described the partnership as a “win-win-win” situation.

Abbott said the summer program will serve as a litmus test to see if the community ultimately supports the collaboration between the programs as they continue to work toward a possible merger.

“Summer Counts! is an essential piece to not only the partnership but the bigger picture of the merger,” Roller said.

To help raise support and funds for the program the organizations are planning a benefit concert featuring Loni Gamble & Sound Cheque in early August.