“Nothing to Do”, Has Changed
by Amanda Giannelli
Community Outreach Alliance (COA) is a local nonprofit closing the gap offering free activities to kids of all ages and talents. While there are some organizations with a similar blueprint, COA is different, incorporating education of the effects of drug use and of addictions into their environment.
Program Director Teri Steel has helped it grow to what it is today, “We really appreciate TLC Ministries for supporting us in the beginning, it was a great way to get our start.” Talega Life Church, Pastor Pondo Vleisides founded the organization in 2014 and served as Executive Director/CEO. COA is now standing as its own nonprofit with the help of another founding sponsor, Stego Industries.
When Paul Blasdel, Founder and CEO of Stego, was approached by Vleisides he said, “I saw a need, a person with passion, and a chance to give back to the community I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help.”
Starting with a focus on recovery, COA, this mission has since evolved. Steel says, “It can’t just be about recovery. It also has to be about prevention.”
COA has been weaving this new focus into the organization by adding programs like Thrive Alive (TA). Thrive Alive is a seven-week series where teens are offered additional activities while also being educated in nutrition, self-esteem coping skills, addiction and anything else can be added to a Teen Toolbox.
Executive Assistant Corrie Melcher says, “the goal is to provide education as well as activities so kids won’t even be tempted to self-medicate.”
The start of TA would not have been possible without the help of the San Clemente Junior Women’s Club, raising enough to carry out five Thrive Alive programs.
On average, kids typically self-medicate during middle school, so COA advises to start TA as early as 6th grade, and this year, it is excited to include parents in the program.
“Parenting is tough!” says Steel, a mom of three boys herself, “We want to bring back families doing things together, especially during this phase that goes so quickly.”
COA has centered the organization around four pieces: Entertainment, Leadership, Fitness and Community. The Music Outreach Program is composed of talented young musicians who want to learn and perform. Music Outreach Coordinator Joanie Angeli says, “The Music Outreach Program is meant to be a vehicle for COA, transporting education and music all over Orange County.” Participants have performed each year at major events like the Fiesta, OceanFest, and Puttin’ on the Glitz.
The Leadership Program prepares kids for future careers. WayMakers provides a grant specifically dedicated to training teens in event planning. The kids run these events themselves, they learn time management, how to delegate and how to work together as a team. Steel says, “We want to make sure kids are focusing on their talents. Everyone has some way of succeeding.”
The Fitness Program offers biking, tennis, fishing, yoga and more for those interested in fitness. Additionally, in the coming year the organization hopes to create a Mobile Fitness class.
As we enter 2019, COA welcomes new changes including a new building and new leadership. The Arts Project of San Clemente opened their space to be its new home and as the founder steps down, it welcomes Ed Molina as the new CEO/Chairman of the Board.
Molina has been an integral part of San Clemente as the representative of the Gang Reduction & Intervention Partnership Program (GRIP). As a former PTSA president of SCHS, a long-time youth soccer coach, and a Realtor, he now looks forward to helping the leadership take the next steps.
COA’s plan for the Community has two main parts. First, Molina says the board members will be joining and supporting outside organizations. “For us to be successful, we need to collaborate with other organizations in town,” he remarked. Second, COA has transformed what used to be TLC’s Hunger Van into the Food Connection, bringing groceries to families and those in need all over San Clemente. “When the community is strong, we are strong,” says Molina, and COA has never been stronger.
This organization wouldn’t be standing where it is today without the consistent love and support of San Clemente, especially TLC Ministries, SCJWC, and Stego Industries. Moving into 2019, Stego has committed again as a major sponsor.
“We are just here to help,” says Blasdel, “these are the people who do the hard work. Their love and support is what we need in our community and I hope more people in the community can see that and support them as well.”
COA is currently working to celebrate its fifth anniversary by hosting a community celebration. Please see communityoutreachalliance.com to learn more.
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