Right now, I’m attending a family summit at the City of College Park’s Youth and Family Services (YFS), which is located in my district. The YFS organizes this summit annually to brainstorm and find solutions to the challenges our families and communities are going through. The participants included community leaders, educators, social services workers and the members from the law enforcement agencies.

familyOverall, I must say that this was a great event. My thanks and kudos goes to Peggy Higgins (YFS director) and the YFS staff in general for organizing such an impressive event.

The groups identified the challenges our families and communities are facing, and there are many of them (no wonder!).  The most important ones are: communication gaps between different groups in the communities, public safety concern, weak connection among the family members, and lack of resources from the local and other governments.

A great deal of ideas came out from the participants on how to address these challenges. Again they’re many. They include: having a national / local database with the listing of pool of volunteers, stronger and improved Neighborhood Watch programs (my favorite), improved communication between family and community members, streamlined and better funding for community based programs, more participation of parents, encouraging the youth to be part of family, recognizing and getting ethnic communities more involved in civic activities.

Out of all these great ideas, if one thing I’d say resonated throughout the summit was a greater need for community activism and volunteerism. Many of our community based programs, such as tutoring, organizing focus groups, Neighborhood Watch program; annual community cleanup events, civic association activities, family counseling etc. are in a great need of community volunteers and activists. Programs such as these not only bring the neighbors together but also reduce cost of services that our city and local governments pay at the expense of our tax dollars, especially in this hard economic time our community is going through.

The key to the success of these ideas much depends on strong community leadership in the local government who can bring the local resources to the ordinary citizens and energize the neighbors and residents to participate more in such volunteer-based community programs.