The Hood River City Police Department has kicked off the new year with a program to bring new hope to struggling families -- and invites the community to join that effort.
The municipality has launched a Sunshine Division fundraising drive to give area residents a one-time boost toward overcoming financial obstacles.
"This is a program that everyone can have ownership in, the only thing that limits our ability to give to those in need is the community's willingness to give," said Lieutenant Jerry Brown.
He said containers depicting the Sunshine Division's "Ray of Hope" logo are being set up in area businesses. All monies collected in those canisters will be placed into a special fund and used by two new resource officers to help fill in the gaps that prevent hard-working individuals from achieving a life goal.
"People might be too proud to ask for help but now we'll be able to identify that need and provide them with assistance," said Community Resource Officer Aaron Jubitz.
He and School Resource Officer Tiffany Hicks were hired with special federal grant funds last July to help strengthen the working relationship between city police and local communities.
During the past five months, Hicks and Jubitz have repeatedly observed that many area children and adults are struggling to better their lives in spite of daunting economic challenges.
"Some of the kids need just a little incentive to succeed in their classes," said Tiffany, who plans to use her share of the cash to reward academic achievement and help some youth pay extracurricular activity fees.
Brown said the money will be given confidentially to individuals of all ages who are already seeking to better their quality of life.
"Sometimes people have a much harder row to hoe because they won't ask for help but now we'll have a way to give them that help and let them know that we recognize and support the efforts they are making," said Brown.
Last March, city and county law enforcement officers began examining the services they provided to rural citizens to seek potential funding sources that would help meet any identified needs. Then the agencies went after grant dollars to hire extra officers that could customize a program for each area community.
Hicks is currently working with educators at Hood River and Wy'east middle schools and Cascade Locks High School to assist educators and administrators in their efforts to make the educational experience safe and more rewarding for students. As part of her work, Hicks said she has negotiated "contracts" with some disadvantaged students that sets up a reward system for good class attendance and work performance.
Jubitz has spent the last five months establishing 71 "neighborhood zones" within the City of Hood River. These areas have been linked by traffic flow, population density, location and criminal activity. He is now reviewing about 4,800 reports filed during the past three years to determine the law-enforcement need in each zone. Once that work is completed this spring Jubitz will meet with area service organizations, business leaders, and citizens to set up a strategy with citizens that will help law enforcement officials battle against specific safety or property threats.