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Community benefits from members’ team outreach program

CSEA members are known for taking an active role in their communities, but for members of ALACO Chapter 615, it’s a group effort.

Alameda County Office of Education workers refer to themselves as Team ACOE, and they work together on a wide range of community outreach programs. From collecting coats for the local homeless shelter to organizing a health fair open to the public, the team works throughout the year to make a difference in their community.

“I feel very fortunate to be a part of something that helps those in need.”

“It takes a team to be successful at these projects,” said Chapter President Teresa Jimenez.

Jimenez and Team ACOE use face-to-face communication to get members of the chapter and members of the community involved. Jimenez also counts on her co-workers to volunteer as “captains” who will get the word out on specific outreach programs.

“We are a small chapter and to have people volunteer is always exciting,” she said. “Leaders always emerge from these projects.”

 Eugene Ford, a facilities assistant, is one of those captains. He worked on the Warm Things collection project, where members donated winter clothing to a nearby homeless shelter.

“Allowing members to go through their closets and give a warm jacket, scarves or any item of clothing that will help someone in need—that to me is making a difference,” Ford said. “I feel very fortunate to be a part of something that helps those in need.”

Jimenez said the reaction to the Warm Things holiday clothing drive was extremely positive.

“The people were just so grateful,” Jimenez said. “As soon as he (Ford) was dropping off the stuff, they were going through it, trying to get jackets and things.”

Team ACOE’s outreach program began in 2002, when Michelle Brooks, a special education program assistant, got Team ACOE to join her in the Making Strides fundraiser for breast cancer research. The team now has several participants walking in the event, which recently drew more than 20,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area alone.

“Over the years, we have found more and more staff members who are either survivors, or have family members or friends who have been touched by breast cancer,” said Brooks. “We lost one of our CSEA members a few years ago, and we dedicated our walk that year to her.”

Walking with their Team ACOE T-shirts, these CSEA members are building unity in their chapter, making a difference in their communities and getting back a strong sense of personal accomplishment.

“Keeping the memory alive of loved ones who are gone keeps them alive in our hearts and gives hope that someday no one else need suffer from a disease that touches so many lives,” Brooks said. “That is important to me, because they are important to me.”

Jennifer Leung, an administrative assistant, volunteered to help put on ACOE’s first health fair last year. The event was a huge success with more than 100 people from work and the community attending. Leung said that Team ACOE hopes to make the health fair an annual event.

“I am happy that I can make some contributions to the community and to my work,” Leung said. “I actually feel that I could make a difference.”

Team ACOE is also active in other outreach programs and fundraisers, including contributing to the CSEA Assistance Fund, which benefits members recovering from disasters and financial hardship. Whatever the cause, making a difference in other people’s lives is what Team ACOE is all about.

“It’s not just about us,” Jimenez said. “It’s about others around us.”

“I am happy that I can make some contributions to the community and to my work. I actually feel that I could make a difference.”