Children Are The Key to a Thriving Community

By DENNIS PHILLIPS ( , Post-Journal
Republished with permission of The Post-Journal.

The vision of a thriving community is the reason why more than 30 local agencies met at Jamestown Community College on Thursday.

The Chautauqua Connections Children’s Coalition held its second annual meeting in the Sarita Weeks Room at JCC, which featured speakers County Executive Vince Horrigan, Christine Schuyler, county social services commissioner and public health director, and Heather Brown, The Resource Center’s assistant executive director for program operations. The coalition was formed last year to collaborate on services to improve the quality of life for children in the county under the age of 5.

Pat Smeraldo, Chautauqua Connections independent service coordinator, said the coalition was formed after a study was done on the county’s children services organizations.
”When the study was done we discovered there are a ton of services in the county, but none of them were talking to each other,” he said. ”We needed to form this coalition to work on projects for kids and their families to get them the services they need. We’re trying to get all the agencies working together.”

Horrigan said the thrive initiative is one way to develop a healthy community. The thrive initiative is a broad-based community collaboration involving business, industry, education, nonprofit and government foundations in order to improve the overall mental and physical health of the community. He said he knows it is difficult for the agencies to collaborate at times because they often compete for the same grant dollars. However, he said those representing the county’s children services organizations trying to assist families and their children must continue to work so all groups, ”See a win.”

”We all want a thriving community,” he said. ”A thriving community where we all come together.”

Schuyler said the coalition that has formed here in Chautauqua County is rare across the state. She said by organizations continuing to work together, they can be a model to officials throughout the state that collaboration is the key to a better tomorrow for the children in the community.

”There needs to be a willingness to partner like we do here,” she said.

Brown said the coalition has in one year increased communications between agencies, helped to eliminate duplication and ensured collaboration between groups. She said the coalition is an important step county officials haven taken to help solve community social issues.

”It is about understand the issues before solving the problem,” she said.

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