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Coalition on Race Gives 15th Annual ‘Report to the Community’

CCR updates members on the work done this past year and going forward.

The (CCR) gave their annual Report to the Community on Wednesday evening at .  The event is used as a forum for the various committees in the organization to update residents on the workings of CCR in the past year and for the future.

“We call it the ‘Report to the Community,’ but I look at it more as a shareholders meeting,” said CCR Chairman Chip Madsen.  “Members of the community can learn more about the return on their investment…This organization was birthed by the community, works for the community and has responsibility to the community.”

The Coalition’s executive director, Nancy Gagnier, opened the report by giving a brief history of the organization.  While the roots of CCR go back to 1953, when residents of both villages came together to discuss the racial divide that they had been facing for years prior.  Gagnier recalled a story from her childhood that helped her realize that while the racial divide was strong, it was possible to overcome it.

“I went to school with only one girl of color, we had regular playdates,” recalled Gagnier.  “We didn’t think there was anything different about this.  As I grew to become an adult and discussed these things with my parents, I learned that something special was happening there.”

Audrey Rowe, the Program Director of CCR, started off by explaining that CCR is divided into individual committees.  Each one does a separate part for the overall mission.

The Neighborhoods and Civic Engagement committee talked about their work in reaching out to each individual neighborhood association in the two towns.  The members of this committee are frequent guests at block parties as they spread the mission of the Coalition.

CCR is a volunteer driven non-profit and the committee is working on a handbook to provide to the volunteers.  They hope to have one available on their website soon.

The Schools committee talked of their work dealing with integration in the school district.  They have had guest speakers and authors come and discuss the issue with teachers and students.  The committee also during the Board of Education elections to ask the candidates about racial issues in the district.

The committee has also started providing seminars for residents to assist in choosing pre-schools that fit each family’s needs in terms of racial issues.  The committee also produces various pamphlets for parents with tips to help their children in school.

The Monitoring, Evaluation and Testing committee presented a graph that showed the racial shifts in the two towns since 1990.  The trends on the graph showed that the minority population of the towns has been steadily increasing.  The increase in population is leading to less segregation in the towns. The committee was pleased that real estate values maintained alongside the increase.

The Interfaith Outreach committee was tasked with making sure that the racial population was comfortable regarding their religious orientation and their relationship with others.  .  They worked together with the school districts and various religious institutions.  This year’s event will be on January 16, 2012 at . 

The Marketing and Communications committee discussed their work in promoting the towns and the organization.  This past year, the committee updated the Coalition’s logo and pamphlets.  The other big item on the committee’s agenda was a survey to ask residents what they thought regarding the Coalition’s work and presence in town.

While the results aren’t final, the committee updated members on what the responses have been so far.  Roughly 66% support the mission of CCR.  58% of those surveyed believe that an integrated neighborhood adds value to the housing market.  85% of those who responded knew that the Coalition sponsors free events and workshops; however 34% have never attended one. 

The survey will remain open for responses through the month of October. 

The Touring committee talked about their work giving tours of the two towns to potential buyers or renters.  The tours show those interested all the major public locations as well as the schools and municipal buildings.  The committee has also started to give tours to municipal employees.

The Finance and Development committee gave an update on the Coalition’s budget.  For the 2011 fiscal year, the budget for the Coalition was $135,000.  42% of that budget comes from municipality support.  The rest is from fundraising.  33% of the budget is spent on operations while the rest is spent on the programs put on by the Coalition.  Attendance and revenue of events both rose above the national average this past year. 

This past year, towards their costs, while .  Recently, the South Orange Board of Trustees has discussed .  That would include office space, telephone service and IT services.

The Financial Initiatives committee talked of their work with the Prism program. 

The Integration through the Arts committee talked of their work this past year including children events such as a , a choral concert called and a . 

During the questions portion of the report, a resident asked for the Coalition’s opinion on leveling and de-leveling.  Carol Barry-Austin, the co-chair of the Schools committee, stated that the Coalition did not yet have a position.

Responding to a question about touring, the Coalition announced they would be looking into virtual tours.

Nancy Gagnier thanked everyone for coming and asked that members reach out to their friends and neighbors about the Coalition.

 “We’ve been doing this for 15 years,” said Gagnier.  We haven’t stopped, we haven’t given up and we think we have a promising future ahead of us.”

For more information on the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race, visit twotowns.org.

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