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Ordinary folk get results with CCC

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Nobuko Oyabu

Preserving the Mel McKay Pool at Long View Park in Rock Island was the special focus of the Community Caring Conference in 1997. Enjoying a swim in the pool last June, Charles Burrage, 11, left, and Evander Jordan, 12, stayed in the water to escape the heat.

ROCK ISLAND -- Dig deep for the grass roots solutions to many problems and you will find Rock Island's Community Caring Conference.

Organized in 1976, the CCC is a neighborhood organization that brings ordinary people together to improve their community.

``The citizens work at the issues that come up,'' CCC director Pat Ward said recently. ``They're the ones who solve the problems, not some public official or administrators.''

By helping residents analyze issues and create solutions, she said, the CCC has developed many leaders, including a couple who have won seats on the city council.

By taking up neighborhood issues, the CCC can help residents accomplish things they would not be able to do as individuals, CCC Council president John Tingle said.

The thousands of Rock Island residents who have participated in CCC activities owe their opportunities to the Rev. Ken Kuenning of the Church of Peace. Frustrated with the problems in the neighborhood surrounding his church, he invited members of four other churches and the neighborhood to meet one day in 1976.

More than 100 people attended that first meeting, including Ms. Ward.

``People were eager to do something,'' she said. ``They were tired of being kind of scared and not knowing what to do.''

Some of those early problems were dogs running loose, trash in yards, abandoned vehicles and home invasions. Some of the solutions to those problems came in the form of ordinances. Others depend on the more than 140 neighborhood block clubs and neighborhood watch programs the CCC has helped organize.

Today, the CCC continues its work with numerous programs designed to bring people together and improve life in Rock Island. Among them are:

-- I-Witness Cards: An anonymous way to report suspected criminal activity.

-- Graffiti Busters: Volunteers paint over graffiti at no cost to the property owner.

-- Operation Identification: Metal-engraving equipment is available to mark personal property.

-- Whistle Stop: Whistles are distributed for emergencies in elderly high-rises.

-- Operation Video: Video cameras may be used for criminal surveillance.

-- Friends for victims or witnesses of violent crimes: Volunteers and staff provide friendship and support.

-- House numbers: Free numbers for homes or garages facing alleys make addresses easier for police or emergency vehicles to find.

-- Kid Care ID: Children's photos and fingerprints are recorded for parents to give to police if their children disappear.

Throughout the CCC's history, it has involved hundreds of residents in zoning issues, neighborhood cleanups, community-development plans, housing rehabilitation programs and environmental proposals. It also has increased public awareness by sponsoring hearings, candidates' forums, community meetings, workshops, drug-free zone rallies and National Night Out events.

``In 1997, the CCC focused on saving the pool at Long View Park,'' Ms. Ward said. ``We felt it was important for the city as a whole to keep that type of facility and felt Long View Park was the most logical place to put it.''

Coordinating the work of more than 3,000 CCC members, Ms. Ward never suffers from a dull day at the office.

``Every day is a new challenge,'' she said. ``It makes you feel good because you feel you've helped people, even though they've really just helped themselves.''

-- By Carol Loretz (February 9, 1998)

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