A first ‘Cocalico Community Conversation’

By on February 3, 2016

Denver Borough Mayor Rodney Redcay (standing) listens while Tammy Charles speaks.

Residents, officials agree on need for localized social services

Al though the attendance was light, the discussions were serious as the first of three “Cocalico Community Conversations” occurred Jan. 28 at the Denver Borough Hall.

A total of 16 Cocalico area residents attended. Denver leaders Rodney Redcay, Mike Hession, and Blake Daub were the only officials from the Cocalico municipalities to show.

The conversation was mixed, with residents talking about wanting to improve their social life in Cocalico and not having to continue to go outside area to fulfill this desire. The leaders of the meeting would agree and then steer them to their ultimate goal.

“Our community has seen a growing number of families in need these last number of years,” said Redcay, the Denver mayor.

A few churches and nonprofit organizations have partnered in hopes to develop a social service network in Cocalico.

“The problem, there is no one to coordinate the different ministries and programs and connect people to different programs,” Redcay said.

Facilitator Kelly Thrasher, Denver resident and former military officer, opened the meeting with the question: “What is the No. 1 social need in this community?”

Tammy Charles talked about having a block party.

“I feel, like, maybe in Denver Borough, we need to do things as a town,” said Charles.

“My children have graduated so I don’t have a school community to be involved in, I don’t have a church to be involved in. I don’t have a sports activity to be involved in. I find that we have a lot of people who have been here for a long time and we have a lot of new people and we don’t know each other. Unless it’s a specific church or school function, we don’t do much and I think we need to have more town functions.”

Sandy Flory, a member of the Denver planning commission, wants to support local businesses and wants more businesses to locate downtown.

“Getting businesses in here,” Flory said. “Getting things in the town for people to do to keep them in town so that they don’t have to leave Denver. Having things to do in Denver, they’re going to stay in Denver.”

The meeting was again steered toward the purpose behind the question &tstr; looking for someone or an organization to organize, maintain, and manage a social service network in Cocalico.

“I have a heart to help those who are in need in our community,” Redcay said. “When I’m working with families through our organization, Real Life Community Services, I get calls and emails through the school and community if I have a place where a family can move in, they are in need of low income housing.”

Thrasher gave light to two separate conversations. One centered on helping Cocalico people who are in need, and the other, helping people form a Cocalico social network and keeping local their social life.

“It is a complex problem. I hate to say it, but we have first-world problems,” Thrasher said, who spent time serving in Iraq. “We’re only 6 percent below the poverty line in our area. How do we have an upper-middle class life and everything is falling apart. That’s an issue out here.”

Fred Wagaman, business analyst and member of the Denver Borough planning commission, offered a local perspective.

“There is a tremendous need in Lancaster City, but how do we help the people right here?” Wagaman asked.

“We’re kind of the area of Lancaster County that people don’t recognize unless you’re here and see what’s going on. We don’t have the same level of problems that they have elsewhere. You can do a lot of good work in Lancaster City, but if you want to help in this area, I think it’s almost up to us. If we try to coordinate with other people, they’ll say there’s a greater need over here, and they’re right, but we can’t ignore what we have.”

“Obviously, our needs here are different than Columbia,” Redcay said.

Ephrata Area Social Services entered into the conversation and the agency’s service to the Cocalico area.

“They are based in Ephrata which in some cases in this area has made it difficult for families in need to connect with them,” Redcay said. “The Ephrata Area Social Services also supports our community, the Cocalico area as well, and yet what we have observed happening over the last 10 years is there have been a number of other great programs started to meet needs in the community.”

Pastor Jon Miklas, Cocalico Community Chapel, asked what his church could do to help those in need in Cocalico. This question turned in to discovering the need of a “hub that connects the people to the need, for all the services provided,” Miklas said.

A handful of people at the meeting talked of wanting a community center to provide a “social place to hang out.”

“We need a facility for these things to come together to have these social events,” Wagaman said. “I think one of the things Denver is lacking is places to do things.”

“All we see all day long is kids with nothing to do, time on their hands, and trouble waiting,” said Kim Weaver, owner of CK Grill & BBQ. “We see it constantly, so I definitely think something for the youth would be very beneficial for this area.”

The words “we just need a facility,” might make leaders shudder.

A few years ago, East Cocalico, West Cocalico, Adamstown, and Denver all got together and purchased a building to be used for a “rec center.” It never happened and taxpayers paid for that mistake after it was sold at a loss.

“I was sort of upset when the community talked about getting their own rec center,” said Wesley Burd. “We had the Adamstown “Y” that we were having trouble filling. That ‘Y’ wasn’t talked about at all in that entire discussion. Why can’t we use an existing building locally instead of looking for something new to purchase? We need to utilize what we have now.”

Burd also said he would like to “stay local.”

“I’m stuck in my ways as of where I go for things,” Burd said. “When those things break down, I look for something new to go to and sometimes it takes me out of the area because I’m not familiar with what’s around. It would be nice to support the mom and pop small businesses around instead of always going to Ephrata or Lancaster.”

Redcay brought the conversation back to how residents can help others and help him build his and other ministries.

It’s unclear if a single person or organization will start the social service network in Cocalico. It’s too early to say if this will be a funded position or volunteer, but some churches and businesses have already offered finances.

“Things need to be provided consistently over time because you might not have the crisis at that moment, but when you do, you know where to go,” Miklas said.

“You can start small, too,” said Steve Bonner. “There are so many hurting people out there, in need. You can open up your own homes, too. My wife listed all the kids who came through our house over time — kids that were on heroin, kids that were on cocaine, girls that were in to lesbianism — my house is open to all of them. My wife accepts everyone. We can all get involved once we know where to go.”

The next Community Conversation meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Feb. 25 at the Adamstown Library. All residents and leaders of the Cocalico area are welcome to attend.

Michele Walter Fry welcomes your comments at michelewalterfry@gmail.com.

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