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Editor's Note

Bridge Builders

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Photo by T Christian Gapen

Jackie Pearce, on her ever-present bike, peddles through Kellog Park.

 

rowing up, Jackie Pearce belonged to two different worlds. Describing herself as “somewhat biracial,” she lived on Ventura’s Westside, in a neighborhood with a large Latinx population, but spent a lot of time on the much less diverse Eastside. And she contended with others’ misconceptions of her and her community. “I had to learn to bridge those two worlds, and as a result I
became friends with a lot of different people,” Pearce recalls in our cover story.

Making friends across different swaths of society is an exceptional skill for someone interested in civic engagement. Pearce has spent a lifetime trying to make the Westside a better place, from volunteer work to
teaching to grassroots organizing. Now the executive director of the Westside Community Development Corporation, she’s been instrumental in a number of community improvement projects, including the establishment of Kellogg Park, an endeavor that was
eight years in the making. This greenspace gem, which just opened on April 14, is a testament to Pearce’s
ability to act as a bridge between disparate pieces of a society — residents, business owners, public officials, sponsors and donors — and bring them together for
the sake of the community.

There’s a lot of bridge building going around this month’s Giving Back issue.

MICOP is an organization that serves the Mixteco immigrants of Ventura County, an indigenous group that hales from Mexico’s state of Oaxaca. Many of these individuals work on our local farms, and while they face hardships typical of other immigrant groups, there are additional issues that arise as a result of language and cultural differences with both English and Spanish speakers. This can lead to profound isolation and an inability to access health care, education and other services. Arcenio Lopez, MICOP’s executive director, explains how the organization is building “a bridge from isolation to inclusion” in an inspiring and informative interview.

People with autism and the differently abled face another kind of isolation, navigating a world that is largely driven by verbal communication and neurotypical approaches to just about everything. Reid’s Gift aims to give these individuals the skills needed to pursue education, careers, relationships, independent living and more – in short, allow them to take their place in the world and their communities, while still celebrating who they are, with their unique gifts and perspectives intact.

Those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and questioning in Ventura County aren’t necessarily isolated, but they were left somewhat adrift when the Rainbow Alliance closed in 2011. Taking up the torch was Diversity Collective Ventura County, which has bridged the gap in services and been a link between the various LGBTQ+ groups, providing a safe space for education, advocacy, mutual support and community building.

Community is vital for human existence, and communities thrive when people can approach each other with open minds, open hearts and open arms to provide acceptance and support, exchange ideas and share the burden of making the world a better place. We’re all in this together. We’re stronger when we work together, too.

11-01-2018

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