Published in the Longmont Times on Sunday September 25, 2011

Collaboration Breeds Success

El Comite de Longmont is beginning our 32nd year.  Over those many years we have worked with many other non-profits and contributed to the formation of some.  El Comite’s focus is on helping the underserved in our community, primarily Latino, have access to services they are entitled to, solve legal problems, achieve citizenship, recoup unpaid wages, etc. and directing people to other agencies, both non-profit and government.

El Comite’s effectiveness in large part depends on collaboration with other non-profits, county agencies and City of Longmont agencies including the Longmont Police Department.  All non-profits benefit from collaboration.  Two groups that promote collaboration are the St Vrain Valley Latino Coalition and the St Vrain Community Council.  Each group meets monthly and shares news, collaborates on various events, and invites a variety of speakers to inform of us on many important issues.  The Multicultural Action Committee also brings many of us together to improve our community.

The Ed and Ruth Lehman YMCA and El Comite have worked together to form an extremely valuable collaboration.  El Comite has helped the Y reach out to the Latino Community. The Longmont Y has brought valuable procedures to El Comite.  El Comite holds many events at the Y including our naturalization workshops during which 20-30 permanent legal residents are helped to complete citizenship application paper work with  Attorneys from Denver Catholic Charities who provide the legal support.  Other events include learning sessions where attendees are presented with essential information around health, family finances, resident responsibilities, etc.  The Y collaborates with many organizations including Intercambio (dance classes) and the Salud Family Health Center (Activate for Life) among many others.

El Comite and the Y collaborate together with other Boulder County agencies.  Health Clinics provide information and free testing for hundreds of people each year.   Last year a health clinic held at the Y, Sabroso y Saludable (Healthy and Tasty), Health Fair and Mexican Independence Day Celebration, attracted nearly 600 people with a strong attendance this year. Music, entertainment and food attracted many families.  Partners included the Longmont YMCA, the Salud Family Health Center, Boulder County Public Health and Aging Services, and several others.

The collaboration between the Y and El Comite and extended to other organizations has attracted national attention.  Y CEO Tony Shockency and El Comite Executive Director, Marta Moreno were selected by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) to conduct a workshop on how YMCA’s and local affiliates can work together to better serve their community’s. The Ed & Ruth Lehman YMCA and El Comite where selected because both organization have been greatly strengthened through this partnership. This workshop was presented at the NCLR National Meeting in Washington DC

When clients come into the El Comite office they complete an intake sheet and their needs are met.  Either Marta Moreno or Robert Munoz will meet with the client and determine what is needed to resolve their issue. Immediate need for food is frequently met by sending them to HOPE or the OUR Center.  El Comite also provides a box of food for clients only on Thursday mornings.  Clients with housing needs for the day are connected with the OUR Center or HOPE. Longer term housing needs are met with the assistance of the City of Longmont and the Inn Between.  Clients with domestic violence issues are connected with Safe Shelter and when appropriate, advised to contact the police department

Clients who have legal issues are referred to pro-bono attorneys who hold regular sessions in our office.  Marta Moreno frequently meets with a client and a police officer to help sort out issues, helping resolve issues and misunderstandings.  Our relationship with the department has been beneficial to all and demonstrates how non-profits and government agencies can beneficially work together.  Commander Tim Perkins is a liaison to the El Comite Board and a friend.  Commander Perkins and Detective Steve Desmond participated in a know-your-rights and identity theft presentation at a picnic at Collyer Park.  Such events provide much needed information to the community and help build trust between the community and Longmont law enforcement.

Often three or more entities may work together.  El Comite works with police officers to encourage people that have been arrested for minor infractions to use Restorative Justice through the Longmont Community Justice Program where the accused and the victim can meet with a group to settle matters.  The out comes have a very low rate of recidivism and reduce costs associate with the accused being processed through the courts.

Your collaboration is needed through joining a non-profit board, volunteering, and/or donating.

Bob Norris

Board President El Comite de Longmont

720 244-2683