Working with the Community to Improve the Community
It’s been almost exactly one year since the Grand Opening of the Valley Improvement Projects Community Center for Social and Environmental Justice. Valley Improvement Projects, as a concept, began about two years ago with several friends, not co-workers or business associates or colleagues, but first and foremost friends. These friends envisioned an organization that provided solidarity with, and a location for, local Modesto and Central Valley residents fighting for justice and struggling against the capitalist system, its labor commodification, environmental degradation, and its other various effects.
It was a long-shot to begin with. Applying for grants that would cover our rent and supplies while relying on a 100% volunteer staff for all work being carried out, remaining independent from any other larger group’s agenda whether they provided us funding or not, and making sure our work remained focused on our original goals and beliefs, as well as remain friends and try to have fun once and a while.
Although we are satisfied that we have accomplished this for the last year, unfortunately the lack of stable and continuous funding as well as the limited extra time of our volunteers has led us to the tough decision of closing down the VIP Community Center for Social and Environmental Justice.
It was nothing that hasn’t been attempted before and it will be again. The odds are usually stacked against those people who attempt to challenge current power structures, but it is usually those people who have a certain hard-headed stubbornness in the face of “it can’t be done, not in this town” sentiment.
In a sense, it’s a loss. We won’t have the location for organizing and solidarity…for now. It is also a win, as many experiments and struggles are, for those involved who made new friendships and got involved in new networks, learned new things, gained new passions, for those that became closer friends, got more involved, broadened their knowledge and shared it with others.
Over the last year VIP has served our local community with donations of clothes, jackets, shoes, blankets, and much more at our monthly Really Free Market. Provided access to drinking water, a bathroom, a place to sit with heating and air conditioning, a phone, computers and internet. Helped the homeless and youth fix and build bicycles. Strived to improve public health by assisting the Modesto Syringe Exchange and hosting the Mindful Distress peer-led mental health meetings. We held monthly Know Your Rights workshops and CopWatch trainings on observing, recording, and reporting interactions with police. We acted in solidarity with tenants and assisted them in their struggles with unfair landlords. We reached-out to youth and other community members with dinners and film-screenings as well as art, Hip-Hop, concert, and musical events.
Regionally and throughout the state we worked with numerous coalitions to improve social and environmental conditions. We’ve hosted, visited, and worked alongside dozens of organizations to raise awareness on issues from air quality to police brutality, anti-Monsanto to anti-fracking, clean water to fair housing, creating renewable energy to ending the drug war.
Even without the community center, VIP is dedicated to the work it does and will continue our involvement, outreach, and advocacy in Modesto, Stanislaus County, and throughout California. We will continue our drives for clothes, jackets, shoes, blankets, and canned food to give away. We will continue advocating for alternative transportation, smart city growth, renewable energy, and unpolluted natural resources. We will continue CopWatching and assisting citizens who have been victimized by police or corrections officers. We will continue fighting for and supporting the rights of tenants and workers against landlords and bosses through the Modesto Solidarity Network. We will continue trying to have fun and host events with musicians, DJs, and graffiti artists (they’ll just have to be at a park or other venue).
We will also continue raising awareness for these and other issues on our website (valleyimprovementprojects.org) and Facebook page (facebook.com/valleyimprovementprojects). Obviously our address will be different (maybe a new P.O. Box coming soon, stay-tuned) but for now our phone number will be the same (209-589-9277) and we can be reached for questions, concerns, or assistance of any kind.
With that, we send a BIG THANK YOU out to all of our supporters!
A SPECIAL EXTRA BIG THANK YOU to the Mataka Family, GreenAction, the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition (CVAQ), the California Cleaner Freight Coalition (CCFC), Resist Inc., the Rose Foundation, and everyone else who donated or helped the VIP Community Center stay open for the last year!
…and to those of you who stole from us, actively tried to keep us down or hinder our progress…well, go hydro-frack yourself!
– Valley Improvement Projects