Guy W. Farmer: A promising social services alliance

I’m going to give you a break from politics this morning by writing about a promising new alliance between two of my favorite social services organizations: The Capital City Circles Initiative and Friends in Service Helping (FISH). I’m excited about this new alliance because neither of these organizations depend upon taxpayer dollars for their survival, an approach I heartily endorse.

The Circles Initiative is headed by former Carson City Supervisor Shelly Aldean, who told me the purpose of her organization “is to elevate people out of poverty by providing them with the tools they need to chart their own course toward self-sufficiency.” And FISH Executive Director Jim Peckham explained while his organization provides emergency services — food, clothing, shelter and medical aid — “it also embraces the belief that these services ... should not continue in perpetuity.” Amen!

Full disclosure: As a longtime contributor to FISH’s Ross Medical Clinic, where my late wife Consuelo volunteered for several years, I’ve seen the clinic’s good works up close and personal. Consuelo was one of “Charlie’s Angels,” a tribute to clinic founder Dr. Charlie Ross. She was proud of her service under the late Dr. William King, a kind, compassionate physician and surgeon who was revered by his fellow volunteers at the clinic.

Back to the Circles/FISH alliance, the organizations recently announced their joint agreement will result in “a more formal relationship and expanded cooperation” aimed at providing more cost-effective social services. And here’s the part of their agreement that caught my attention: “Some donors and social services organizations are coming to the realization that promoting client dependency ... is a losing proposition, both for the service provider and the recipients of the services.”

This approach is a contrast to government-funded welfare programs, which all too often produce lifetime welfare recipients who sit back and wait for their government checks without working a day in their lives. How sad for them and the taxpayers who support them and their families in perpetuity.

I remember the outcry when President Clinton, a liberal Democrat, enacted welfare reform that required many welfare recipients to work in order to receive benefits. We see the same angry reaction whenever anyone suggests drug testing for welfare recipients, as if they’re entitled to taxpayer dollars no matter how they behave.

As Ms. Aldean told me, “We do people in need a disservice if we prolong their dependency on us and rob them of the dignity and pride of being self-reliant.” Peckham chimed in by telling me about FISH’s philosophy: “With goal-setting and training, we help our clients learn how to change behaviors that will eventually help them change their lives.” I agree with their self-help approach and think our community is fortunate to have people who are dedicated to helping the less fortunate improve their lives.

Peckham added the new alliance will provide more accountability and “substantially more resources than either organization has provided in the past when we worked more independently.” I’ve always wondered why other social services organizations don’t talk to each other more often. For example, five or six local organizations conduct their own holiday food drives without combining resources in order to operate more efficiently. By doing so, they could collect more food at less cost.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed by Ms. Aldean and Peckham, FISH will identify people who might be suitable candidates for Circles’ self-help programs and Circles will provide periodic reports to FISH about how its people are doing in those programs. I’d like to see more such cooperation among local social services organizations in order to reduce welfare costs.

Guy W. Farmer is a longtime Carson City resident.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment