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Midvale residents, city join forces

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More than nine years ago, an octopus began to grow within Midvale, getting its fingers in all of the city's problems, finding solutions for many by tying the city, agencies and residents together.

Mauricio Agramont, community developer for the Community-Building-Community program, compared the program to an octopus to describe its many functions and programs within the community.

In 1997, the city received data from the Utah Health Department indicating high levels of suicide, infant mortality and mobility rates within their community. As an effort to solve its community troubles, Midvale began this way to find the solutions.

"Mayor (JoAnn) Seghini was very interested in approaching and addressing the problems of the community," said Agramont.

The CBC originated through a national program, which other cities in the state use, Healthy Communities, Agramont said. The Healthy Community program helps cities form a committee composed of volunteers from the community and agencies that get together to discuss the problems within the community and find solutions.

Many of the communities that participate in the Healthy Community program never formalized their committees, but Midvale chose to formalize its committee, and it has grown into the CBC, Agramont explained.

What makes the CBC different from the Healthy Community program is its growth to five committees: health, stable families, safety, education and youth. Agramont noted a big help in establishing the five committees within the CBC was Midvale's success in receiving a grant to pay for a community developer who could formalize the work of the Healthy Community committee.

The CBC brings together residents, agencies and the city to its committees to identify problems and create solutions that respond to the needs of the community and are implemented by the community, Agramont said.

For instance, when the CBC was first formed, one of their first solutions was the Neighbor to Neighbor program. Through this program, outreach volunteers went door to door providing information on prenatal care and other health care issues.

The goal was to decrease Midvale's high infant mortality rate, which was at 11.5 percent. Through this effort, and prenatal classes the CBC offers, the community was able to reduce the infant mortality rate to 5.2 percent.

This is "one of the biggest accomplishments of the CBC," Agramont said, adding anyone can volunteer for the Neighbor to Neighbor program that has now changed its name to Comunias Unidas (Community United) and is now a separate program from the CBC.

For instance, Claudia Gonzalez, 30, mother of two, started as a volunteer for the neighbor program but now serves as the program coordinator for Comunias Unidas.

In 1999, three months after Gonzales moved to Midvale, she needed something to occupy her time while her 6-year-old son was at school. Since Gonzalez did not have a job, she began to volunteer through the CBC's neighbor program, going to her neighbors to give them information about the various organizations in the community.

Gonzalez soon started her own summer reading program in her neighborhood with the help of the CBC.

"I was able to read to the kids in English and Spanish, and that was one of the biggest needs that I saw, because a lot of the parents in the apartment complex where I lived didn't speak any English," Gonzalez said, adding she read to the children under a tree.

"The immigrant (children) that came from Mexico where struggling in school, so that made me really want to help. I just donated one hour a week and read to the kids in my own apartment complex with my son being there," she added, noting the reading program has spread and now many exist in different neighborhoods within Midvale.

Later, Gonzalez got involved in many other aspects of the program, such as translating, and soon she became the program director of Comunias Unidas. Since Comunias Unidas became its own nonprofit agency more than two years ago, it is able to spread to other cities in the county.

Throughout the years, the CBC has identified problems within the community through other data collected. More than two years ago, the CBC received data on teen pregnancy in Midvale. The data ranked Midvale as the city with the third highest teen pregnancy rate in Utah.

This data caught the eye of the CBC, the city, residents and agencies. All met in the health committee to solve the problem and soon decided to form the sixth committee, the CBC teen pregnancy committee, to find solutions for the problem, Agramont said.

"It is a problem that hasn't been addressed, because sex is something that is very hard to talk about," Agramont said, adding the community believes in abstinence and has held two teen summits within the last two years to provide information and is in the process of planning its third summit for 13 to 16 year olds.

Midvale is fortunate to have an organization like the CBC that operates as Midvale's ears and provides a voice to residents, Agramont added.

"Without the CBC, a huge gap in communication would exist between those who govern and those who are residents of this community. The CBC has empowered the community to be able to go and stand up for their rights and needs and voice (them)," Agramont said.

He added residents are not afraid of going to City Hall or to a City Council meeting and telling the city about a problem, because they know the mayor and City Council will listen to them and help them find a solution through the CBC's committees. Many times the mayor and City Council will send the community member to one of the CBC's committee meetings that take place once a month.

For example, when the Boys and Girls Club of Midvale lost funding a few years ago due to a public scandal with the Salt Lake County government, the CBC was informed that some of the Boys and Girls Clubs programs would be cut. The moms in the education committee formed a group and spoke with the mayor and City Council asking for help to keep the Early Education Program running.

The program prepares children ages 6 months to 5 years for kindergarten along with teaching them other skills while teaching their parents how to encourage their kids to learn and how to read to their children. The CBC was able to find the necessary funding, keeping the program alive.

The idea was that the CBC would find funding for the program until the Boys and Girls Club was able to take it over again; however, the club has not recovered all of the funding it lost due to the scandal, and the Early Education Program is still under the CBC, Agramont said.

Currently, the Early Education Program has more than 30 kids, Agramont added, noting many of the families that participate are working families that do not make enough money to put their children in a private preschool setting but make too much money to qualify for Head Start.

For more information contact the CBC at 801-566-6190.