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Sonoma County Gazette
Russian River Area Resources and Advocates (RRARA)

Russian River Area Resources and Advocates Needs Funding

Jul 20, 2017


Russian River Area Resources and Advocates (RRARA): Our vision is that every resident in the Lower Russian River Area has the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, and affordable community that supports them to live up to their potential.

RRARA brings community members and service providers together to develop common agendas and action plans that align resources to help all community members have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in life.

RRARA Coordinator Funding: With the recent detachment of the Russian River area from the Palm Drive Health Care District, RRARA currently seeks ongoing funding for the RRARA Coordinator to be able to continue our important work.

Background: While Sonoma County is considered by some to be one of the best places to live in the world, many Lower Russian River residents don’t share the same opportunities to reach their full potential. The poverty and child poverty rates in the Guerneville/Rio Nido and Monte Rio census tracts are higher than in 80% of the rest of the tracts in Sonoma County and residents in the Guerneville/Rio Nido, Forestville, and Monte Rio tracts are expected to live shorter lives than those living in 60% of the census tracts in Sonoma County.

No government agency, organization or program can solve these and other interconnected complex social issues on its own. Lower Russian River communities are isolated from each other, and the organizations serving them often work in isolation as well. As an unincorporated region, the Russian River area has no formal representatives, other than the District Supervisor, to make and implement plans for the Lower Russian River area’s education, housing, health, transportation needs, and other important needs. That is what led to the creation of RRARA.

“RRARA has been a very important resource for WCCS and the community. They play a central role in convening the community on critical issues: housing, transportation and others. As we have no central government officealong the lower Russian River, they often play the advocate role that we otherwise do not have. Jacob does an excellent job and has our trust, I hope we can find the funding to support that ongoing role.” ~ West County Community Services Executive Director Tim Miller 

Description of RRARA and how it improves the health of Russian River area residents:

Collective Impact Approach: RRARA members represent non-profits, government, business, and civic groups, as well as private individuals who come together to develop common agendas to address key local issues and support residents to live healthier, more productive lives. RRARA is one of seven Health Action Chapters in Sonoma County leading place-based efforts to make Sonoma County a healthy place for all residents to live, work and play.

Leveraging Resources: RRARA leverages resources by splitting RRARA’s Outreach Coordinator position with the West Sonoma County High School District to meet overlapping goals. The Outreach Coordinator’s activities for El Molino High School are enhancing the connections that students have to the school, adults, and their communities and vice versa. Research has found these connections to be important determinants of academic achievement and well-being for adolescents.

Priority Issues: Through needs assessment and planning processes RRARA members identified educational attainment, opioid addiction, housing, and transportation as priority issues to address.

Educational Attainment: RRARA’s education working group made up of local education stakeholders identified early childhood education as a key point to intervene based on its relation to educational attainment and significant local gaps in early education. The working group developed a Russian River Early Childhood Education Vision and Action Plan in 2016 that resulted in the recent reopening of Fort Ross and Montgomery (Cazadero) Preschools after being closed for recent years, funding and distribution of 90 United Way School Readiness Backpacks for low-income families with children, coordination of a film screening and panel discussion to promote local awareness and support for early childhood education, and increased participation in two evidence-based parenting programs (Triple P - Positive Parenting Program and Nurse Family Partnership), as well as increasing local involvement in local and statewide advocacy opportunities.

“In the case of the small West County school districts, RRARA's coordination of various efforts resulted in the reinstatement of preschools which had closed due to lack of funding.  This is only one example of their impact, but a very important one, which would not have happened without RRARA’s leadership.” ~ Fort Ross School District Superintendent/Principal John Markatos

Housing: Housing is getting increasingly difficult to afford for many community members. Over the course of three meetings, stakeholders identified priority strategies to create a housing action plan. The collaborative is planning to work with property owners and managers to expand the availability of housing. To lead this campaign, the collaborative identified finding funding for a West County Housing Specialist as a key strategy that appears likely to be funded soon. Additional strategies include advocacy for funding for affordable housing, policy advocacy to support vulnerable populations, supporting replication of the Lilypad Homes model in the Russian River area, and continuing to meet as a collaborative.

RRARA’s commitment to organize Russian River stakeholders to focus on identifying solutions to challenging local issues and moving them to action has been incredibly valuable. In the area of affordable housing for all, among other activities, RRARA has spearheaded an effort to create new positions within local service agencies to specifically focus on working with property owners and managers to expand the availability of housing.” ~ West County Health Centers Health Care for the Homeless Program Manager Jed Heibel

Transportation: RRARA hosted a Transportation Planning meeting that convened an array of stakeholders to start developing an action plan. Many area residents, especially the homeless, seniors, and low-income families, struggle to access needed services, such as health care, government services, child care, education and employment because transportation facilities and services are insufficient. The group is building on the Lower Russian River Community-Based Transportation Plan and is committed to implementing the priorities. RRARA would like to bring these stakeholders back together to continue to develop and implement an updated and current transportation action plan.

Opioid addiction: In partnership with West County Health Center’s Innovations program, RRARA is participating in the Center for Care Innovations Catalyst Innovations Program focusing on addressing the especially high rate of opioid abuse in the Russian River area. The partnership is currently engaging community members to identify solutions.

Other Activity: RRARA took a lead role in mobilizing community support of a County Tobacco Retail License Ordinance, which has been shown effective at addressing underage smoking. The local High School District has the highest female teenage smoking rate in Sonoma County along with an overall rate that is higher than the county and state average. In addition to direct health impacts, lost productivity from tobacco use and buying tobacco reduces resources families. The Board of Supervisors approved the ordinance that RRARA organized for and acknowledged the importance community support had in the decision.

Budget: Below, you can find the half-time yearly salary for the Coordinator.

RRARA Coordinator .5 FTE @ $47,000 annual salary  - $23,500

Benefits @ 23% = $  5,405.

15% Administrative Overhead  = $  4,335

Total Budget = $33,240

Contact information:

Jacob Rich, RRARA Outreach Coordinator, 7050 Covey Rd., Forestville, CA 94536, 707-824-6508,


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