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Community Forum Highlights Concerns
0205 Forum
Mayor Richard OBrien, at far left, facilitated the recent Community Forum that included city council members, city staff, non-profit groups and religious organizations, designed to build more effective working relationships to improve community relations and services. Ric McGinnis/The News

From gang prevention to community needs, several local residents and officials gathered for a Riverbank Community Forum on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at the Teen Center in Riverbank to continue discussions regarding key issues.

The overall idea is encourage and develop direct communication between different organizations to build working relationships and improve community services.

Mayor Richard O’Brien was the facilitator for the forum and representative from several different groups attended, all with the same major goals in mind.

The organizations on the guest list included but were not limited to non-profits, religious organizations, Riverbank City Council members, and city staff.

There were teachers, administrators, and coaches from Riverbank City Schools as well as members from the Oakdale Shelter Pet Alliance.

A member from H.O.P.E. (helping other people expand), which is a community outreach and gang awareness prevention, intervention non-profit from Stockton, addressed the participants of the meeting. They have done extensive work with the youth that have gotten involved with gangs and have assisted in getting them out.

Their vision is to establish mentoring relationships, and provide safety by helping youth and families to achieve positive change, starting with families and surrounding communities.

“I was impressed with the experience of the group,” said O’Brien following the forum. “This isn’t a city program, this is a program that non-profits and religious organizations created to help the school system.”

The other topic at the meeting was the needs of the Riverbank food bank. O’Brien expressed that there are four or five competing entities that collect food for distribution within the community.

“We all recognize that the need for giving back, giving to those that don’t have it, is going to be more important if the farm bill cuts out the food stamp program,” said O’Brien. “We are going to see a sharp increase in the number of people that will be in need.”

On the agenda was an update on the holiday outreach efforts and it was noted that last year they fed 350 families without incident for the holiday period.

While the Wednesday night session was a good start, officials said there will be future discussions regarding gangs, troubled youth, and food distribution.

“We are so appreciative of the non-profits and faith based community that care for Riverbank, they have a heart for Riverbank and it shows,” said City Manager Jill Anderson.

“I was very pleased with the participation,” added O’Brien. “They were very positive and upbeat.”