Fairfield’s Community Heroes Provide Fun on the Run

The City of Fairfield won an Award of Excellence in the League Partners category of the 2006 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more information, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam

The City of Fairfield’s Community Services Department, city council, Youth and Community Services commissions, Community Services Foundation and staff came together to develop a strategy for dealing with challenges the community faced to:

  • Seek, develop and inspire community leaders as long-term partners and heroes;
  • Overcome budget cutbacks;
  • Deliver services to the most underserved neighborhoods; and
  • Make Fairfield safer.

Heroes for a Day

Engaging all of its internal resources, the city created a Community Heroes program to solicit the community’s help by appealing to the hero in everyone. This program provides an opportunity for private-public partnerships to support a variety of recreation and arts programs, either financially or through in-kind contributions.

The goals of the Community Heroes program were to educate the private sector about partnership opportunities with the city, foster new community leaders, build sustaining alliances with businesses and community organizations, raise funds for seven key service areas and recognize community heroes throughout the year in a variety of ways.

The seven service areas that would make a critical difference in improving the community included three new neighborhood centers where the city could offer youth and neighborhood programs, scholarships to fund participation by low-income youth and senior citizens, and a new mo-bile recreation program designed to reach underserved areas called Fun on the Run.

To implement the Community Heroes program, the city first hired an independent contractor to coordinate the campaign, educate the community about partnership opportunities, develop those partnerships, and raise the funding and in-kind support needed.

Next, Fairfield sought and received the support of the private, nonprofit Community Services Foundation (CSF) to open doors with the business community. The foundation was very enthusiastic about Fun on the Run, and adopted the program as its number one funding priority for the year.

Sponsorship Packet Raises Funds

A Community Heroes sponsorship packet was developed, which staff then used to promote the campaign and make personal visits to businesses and organizations in the community seeking their support. The response was astounding:

  • Fifty-one businesses and community organizations donated more than $100,000.
  • An “out-of-service” commercial van needing “a little work” was donated.
  • The local correctional institution read about Fairfield’s efforts, and inmates decided to provide first phase mechanical repairs to the Fun on the Run van and paint it bright yellow.
  • The local newspaper donated ad space to promote the campaign. It also printed, free of charge, the weekly schedule of where the Fun on the Run van would be each day.
  • The Fairfield Lions Club raised $10,000 through a Prime Rib in the Park event.
  • The local mall manager joined CSF and personally promoted the effort to his mall tenants.
  • The Fairfield Rotary Club made a substantial, three-year commitment to the Fun on the Run program.
  • The city obtained a Community Development Block Grant allocation from HUD to support Fun on the Run and a grant from the Fairfield Police Department’s Drug Asset Forfeiture funds.
  • The local school district provided in-door facilities at schools for Fun on the Run during rainy days.

Funding Enables Expanded Services

In summary, funding raised through the Community Heroes program allowed the city to improve services at the Fairfield Senior Center and the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts, and to provide scholarships to low-income youth and seniors to participate in fee-based programs, such as the Senior Day Care Program for the frail and elderly.

Fairfield initiated the Fun on the Run program to great success and fanfare. The community has embraced this program, which is improving kids’ lives and making Fairfield safer. The city has also engaged youth as instructors and volunteers in the program.

Crime Rate Down

Late in 2005, the mayor and city council personally thanked the Community Heroes at a luncheon by presenting each with a plaque and a Fairfield Community Heroes pin.

The ultimate measurement of success for the Fun on the Run program, however, was that more than 130 youth most in need of services engaged in free, safe and organized fun with their friends in parks or cul-de-sacs near their homes.

Perhaps not so surprising, Fairfield’s crime rate, including juvenile delinquency, declined sharply in 2005, thereby achieving one of the city’s key goals. Overall crime in Fairfield dropped 6 percent in 2005, and violent crime was down 23 percent.

Additional Benefits for The Community

The Community Heroes outreach campaign has generated a new sense of civic pride in Fairfield. The city government is now viewed as a catalyst for bringing the community together to mutually solve problems. The Fairfield CSF, with its newfound success through Fun on the Run, is gaining new members, some of whom are among the 51 community heroes who have stepped forward. These win-win partnerships are allowing the city to better meet the needs of the community.

Success begets more success. Community services programs were the designated beneficiaries of the community’s biggest charity golf tournament of the year. Unsolicited testimonials are received on a regular basis about the benefits of the programs from participants. This is helping to attract more participants — and volunteers — and has prompted statewide recognition of the programs.

While it’s gratifying to start an award-winning program such as Fun on the Run at no cost to the city (or its taxpayers), the greatest reward is positively affecting the lives of many at-risk youth and making the community not only a safer but also a better place to live, thanks to Community Heroes.

Contact: John De Lorenzo, community services director, City of Fairfield; phone: (707) 428-7470; e-mail: jdelorenzo@ci.fairfield.ca.us.

This article appears in the April 2007 issue of Western City
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