Submitted by Michael Baird
OAKHURST – Oakhurst Community Alliance (OCA) was established in 2011 to be a membership organization which could facilitate support for activities and improvements of community-wide interest and benefit.
The goal was to create an entity which had input from all viewpoints and perspectives in the Oakhurst area, and which could then speak with one voice on issues of common interest.
This objective would be achieved by partnering with other organizations, assisting them in connecting with each other to achieve their common goals. The OAC meets monthly as a board to discuss solutions to issues that are relevant to our community and will begin holding quarterly membership meetings to invite public input into these issues.
Just six months ago I had never heard of the Oakhurst Community Alliance. I was invited to a meeting to give my perspective on the issue of homelessness in our community, and was immediately impressed by this group of individuals. Everyone on the board is someone who is actively involved in our community and a “get-it-done” type of person. Most of them have their hand in numerous local organizations and businesses and really have their finger on the pulse of this community.
Represented in this group of individuals are realtors, attorneys, small business owners, church staff, entrepreneurs, county employees, and retirees. They are members of Rotary, Lions, Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Library, and Mountain Ministerial Association.
The names of folks currently involved with the group are fairly commonplace in our community because of how each of these individuals have for so many years invested in and given back to this area: Tom Wheeler, Angelo Pizelo, Chester Gregson, Chris Baker, Darlene Kelly, Dennis Koch, Greg Chappel, Helen Mansfield, Kent Foster, Melissa Buller, Ed and Shirley Bailey and Tim Madden.
When we talk about the issues concerning our community, each person in the room is uniquely positioned to go back to the people, organizations, and businesses in their sphere of influence and actually make things happen. We really are focused on the things that the that matter most to our community:
Supporting small businesses, encouraging initiatives in addressing unemployment, supporting efforts to serve the elderly, encouraging economic versification in our community, pursuing opportunities for job training and education, protecting the natural beauty of the area, preserving Oakhurst’s small-town qualities, and providing funding and resources in support of community organizations and services are all reasons why OCA exists. They work in cooperation with the county, state, and federal government agencies and other institutions to promote community benefits for Oakhurst and the greater Eastern Madera County Area.
Some of the issues currently on their plate include: creating a collaborative community calendar, establishing a permanent emergency relief fund for the mountain area, and working with the county to acquire a piece of property suitable for long-term supportive housing for homeless individuals with disabilities.
The need to establish a permanent emergency relief fund for the Oakhurst area is a perfect example of why a group like OCA exists. After the fire season we saw last year, the need for such a fund is tantamount. Once established the fund would be available to assist individuals and families involved not only in natural disasters, but also other tragic or emergency situations that our community chooses to rally in support of. The OCA is positioned to be able to garner the support and resources we need to make something like this happen.
The OCA is sponsoring an event on Monday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. at the Oakhurst Community Center. There will be food, a presentation about the OCA, and an opportunity to join their organization as they seek to improve the community we all love so much.