The Commerce Journal

December 31, 2013

Getting the community to act

Community leaders form program to help disadvantaged

By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — Effecting lasting change in a town requires a community effort.

That’s what Dr. Bob Johnson, chair of the Commerce Community Action Program (C-Cap), is hoping to bring about by gathering members of the community to work together to enrich the lives of residents of Commerce.

Johnson said he is wanting to work alongside current service organizations such as the Commerce Food Pantry and Commerce Community Plaza (CCP) to compliment the work they are doing.

“What we do not want to do is duplicate services,” he said. “We want to work with existing people and groups where it seems appropriate and necessary. We are identifying those people who want to work with us and work toward those ends.”

Although the program is in its infancy, Johnson said they have been able to get some key players involved in their meetings including members of Texas A&M University-Commerce, Commerce Independent School District and the Commerce Police Department.

“We don’t have everybody on board to do everything we need, but we’re adding members every week,” he said. “We are trying to get momentum growing right now.”

Johnson said the program is working toward a holistic approach to meeting the needs of Commerce residents; from working to the food pantry to help people who are indigent to working with Communities In Schools to help mentor children to become better students, the program is designed not to focus on one particular need in the community.

Johnson said they also plan to partner with the CCP to help people get their GEDs and help them become more marketable for companies looking to hire.

According to Emma Martin, councilwoman for the city of Commerce and fellow member of C-Cap,

“We are trying to devise a system that has nothing we’ve done before in this area,” she said. “That is our focus; to work with the community hopefully to the betterment of our children.”

One focus Martin said she wants to work on is to educate the African American community on getting their GEDs.

“I came from the Norris Community,” she said. “I can’t express myself enough because this is great for the city. I consider the Norris Community part of the city of Commerce.”

Johnson said he wants the program to work with the school district to have a social worker in each school to “meet the needs of students who are disadvantaged.”

To that end, Johnson and Martin have held meetings in the Norris Community, as well as other areas of Commerce, to meet with residents and brainstorm ways to make Commerce a better, safer city to live.

“We need the community to let us know how to fully represent the community as a whole,” he said. ‘First of all, we’ve got to get the problems identified. From there we have to move to the point of community support, then implement services. We want a holistic approach to community problem solving.”

The next meeting for C-CAP is a tentative date of Jan. 10 inside the First Baptist Church of Commerce from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will be a brown bag lunch.