My Turn: Plaza Truckee Tahoe fills void in our community | SierraSun.com
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My Turn: Plaza Truckee Tahoe fills void in our community

Laura Ferree
Special to the Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Many of us who were not born in Truckee moved here for the natural beauty of the area, the mountain lifestyle and the quiet comforts of small-town living. One aspect of that lifestyle is the sense of shared responsibility we each have for our neighborsand#8217; safety and well-being. Our embrace of this responsibility manifests itself in small ways and#8212; helping to extricate a neighborand#8217;s car mired in a snow bank and#8212; or on a larger scale through local support of more nonprofits per capita than most big cities.

We sometimes perhaps forget, however, why the survival of many of our local nonprofit organizations is critical to the lifestyle we love. At bottom, the Truckee-Tahoe area remains an economically diverse community. Although the area enjoys a large contingent of wealthy homeowners and vacationers, it also is home to a great number of families who earn working class wages or who are seasonal workers, barely hanging on. Indeed, many residents have been compelled to move out of the area in recent months because they can no longer afford to remain.

The economic strain that many of our neighbors are suffering is why local nonprofit organizations such as Plaza Truckee Tahoe are so important. Plaza is a small nonprofit whose mission it is to provide educational resources and opportunities to residents of the Truckee-Tahoe region who might otherwise not be able to afford them. Plaza provides college preparatory classes, keyboarding, GED exam preparation, bilingual GED classes, citizenship exam preparation and computer literacy classes. Miraculously, all classes and counseling services except for one are conducted by a few highly dedicated unpaid volunteers, working with a minuscule budget.

Recently, Plaza received a grant from the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation to provide basic services that many of us take for granted and#8212; open, daily, free computer and Internet access for any Truckee or North Tahoe resident. Although our local library provides computer access, its four computers are insufficient to meet the need of lower income families who lack home Internet access. With the TTCF grant and the support of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District (which provides space for the lab at the Sierra Mountain Community Education Center), starting in January, Plaza will be able to open its computer lab 4 days a week, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Without basic computer and Internet access, middle and high school students cannot do the research and word processing required for success in school, and their parents cannot access the on-line system that allows them to monitor their childrenand#8217;s grades. Moreover, when these children are ready to apply to college, they often must apply online and interact with the admissions offices through e-mail. If Plaza didnand#8217;t provide free computer access and free and low-cost college counseling, a number of Truckeeand#8217;s very intelligent, but economically challenged, students would not realize that they had the means to continue their education.

We live in difficult times. For many, the ability to provide financial support to worthwhile organizations has declined. But, it nonetheless remains important that we support those in our community who are in even greater need than we. Every gift, no matter how small, is important and#8212; to the charity it supports, to the families who might otherwise not be able to continue living in Truckee, and to the sense of community we cherish.

In this holiday season, while we count our blessings, spend time with our families and friends, and give thanks for being fortunate enough to live here, please consider a donation to the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundationand#8217;s and#8220;Gifts for Good.and#8221; To contribute to and#8220;Gifts for Goodand#8221; and support critical organizations like Plaza, please go to http://www.ttcf.net. To learn more about Plaza Truckee Tahoe, please see http://www.plazatruckeetahoe.org.

and#8212; Laura Ferree is a four-year resident of Truckee. She provides family law and bankruptcy services in her private law practice, runs a free legal program at local nonprofits, and is a member of the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundationand#8217;s Grants Committee.


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