Serving city’s at-risk youth

Daborah Dalton, the Executive Director of Mentor Me talks with RK Wall-Polin, the Petaluma Peoples Services Youth Link Case Manager about the new facility at the Salvation Army on McDowell Boulevard that will serve youth from 16-24 years old who are homeless or at-risk. They hope to complete the renovation of a part of the Salvation Army church building by April. (CRISSY PASCUAL/ARGUS-COURIER STAFF)


Petaluma has long benefited from active nonprofit organizations that provide vital community services. When nonprofits work together, the benefit to the community is multiplied, harnessing synergies that increase monetary donations and volunteer hours and, ultimately, yield better outcomes from the services provided.

One such partnership of Petaluma nonprofits has begun work to create an east side community center designed to help some of the city’s most vulnerable residents: homeless and at-risk young people.

West Petaluma has established services for young residents, including Mentor Me’s bustling Cavanagh Recreation Center, a hub for educational and recreational activities that improve the lives of vulnerable children and teens in the community. The Phoenix Theater’s Teen Health Clinic is another strong service organization serving young people on the west side of town.

But services have been lacking for young people on the east side. The new partnership will allow Mentor Me, Petaluma People Services Center and the Salvation Army to join forces and expand services for young people on the east side of Highway 101 where the need is greatest.

The new center will be based at the Salvation Army’s South McDowell Boulevard campus, not far from Casa Grande High School. Dubbed the Transition Age Youth Service Alliance, the one-stop shop serving youth ages 16 to 24 could be open by April.

At the center, Mentor Me will offer supportive relationships through mentoring while providing education and criminal justice services with its youth advocacy team. Petaluma People Services Center will handle counseling and housing issues and offer referrals to other services while Salvation Army will offer food, shelter and substance abuse services. Information about resources and services from Petaluma City Schools District will also be provided.

The Petaluma Service Alliance, a group representing seven local services clubs, is heading up the necessary building renovation and are working with the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class of 2018, which is spearheading a fundraising campaign.

By collaborating with other groups that have similar goals, the organizations are becoming stronger and more effective in reaching the kids who need help. By working together, they can also avoid duplicating services, and instead work to complement one another.

Still, achieving this lofty goal will take money and lots of volunteer effort, and that’s where you come in.

You can start by volunteering to help local service clubs as they remodel the Salvation Army campus. You can also make a donation to help purchase building materials. Alternatively, you could sign up to become a mentor to work with at-risk kids through Mentor Me Petaluma.

Youth gangs and juvenile crime are serious problems we see every day in Petaluma. Why not make a difference in preventing such crime by helping young people before they get into trouble?