Group shot of Delaware County Communities that Care members

By JessicaBautista

jbautista@chesterspirit.com

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lthough it wasn’t first on the agenda, Delaware County Communities that Care (CTC) Network Program Director Neilda Mott could hardly wait to share the news at last week’s CTC monthly meeting that their CTC branch had recently been named the 2011 Pennsylvania Prevention Coalition of the Year.

According to Mott, the recognition and award were sponsored by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). “They looked at all the work we’ve been doing for 17 years,” Mott said to CTC members, “and your work is not going unnoticed.”

Mott initially brought the idea up of applying for the award at last month’s meeting; no one could think of a reason why not. Of the 204 CTC meetings held, according to Mott, only one was cancelled last year due to severely inclement weather. Chester Education Foundation (CEF) Executive Director Cheryl Cunningham and long-time colleague and CTC board member, Charles Gray, recalled that people showed up anyhow. “Folks came anyway,” Gray said, adding, “It’s a sign of people coming together, and not only bonding, but seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The winner of the award was to be a collaboration that gathers data, develops plans, establishes outcomes and demonstrates progress.

“We … have a state-wide network based not just on what we’re doing, but on what we’ve done and what we should be doing,” Mott said at last month’s meeting.  “CTC is not just this meeting on the second Thursday of every month, it’s a way to collectively organize to eliminate problem behaviors and address these problems in the community.”

CTC is a collaborative of more than 125 community organizations, human services agencies, businesses, faith-based organizations and individuals. “Although our focus is on Chester, our resources come from all over Delaware County,” Mott said.

For many years, the network, under CEF’s umbrella, has been dedicated to addressing risk factors including low neighborhood attachment and community disorganization, family history of problem behaviors, academic failure beginning in late elementary school, lack of commitment to school, and poor family supervision and discipline. Their research-based programs include the Strengthening Families Program, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, After-school Tutoring, and Reconnecting Youth.

Reconnecting Youth Program Manager Richard Knox recently reported that of the 10 young male alternative learning students he’d been mentoring, all of whom were dangerously at-risk, almost half of them had made honor roll in the past quarter and all of them had made complete turnarounds in their lifestyles and perceptions. Knox is often praised by his colleagues for his persistence and passion for students.

While CTC, one of the first initiatives of its kind in the state, can revel in the recognition for accomplishments and hard work, in the impact paragraph Mott submitted, she said, “Our plan had to include expectations that our process would be a long one,” acknowledging many strides left in the journey. Social work, however, doesn’t come to social workers for free. To supplement their funding, CTC has recently decided to apply for an evidence-based program grant. Though the grant sees much competition, Mott believes the Delco CTC stands a chance, especially with the success of its Strengthening Families Program. The grant application was due yesterday.

 

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