Shepherding two decades of social service evolution
When it comes to social services, Truckee’s Ruth Hall has seen the town grow up fast.In 23 years with Sierra Nevada Children’s Services, Hall has watched the landscape of Truckee’s human services change from nearly nonexistent to a thriving network for those who need assistance in Truckee and on the North Shore. Twenty years ago, programs like Tahoe Women’s Services, Project MANA and Child Protective Services did not exist in the area.”There has been a sort of maturation in this community in that the community can now support its own programs,” Hall said. “As much as Truckee has become a big-time vacation place, the full-time residents here really care about where they live and the others who live in the community.”Hall left her post at Sierra Nevada Children’s Services last month to bring some of the programs she started at the Nevada County agency’s Truckee satellite office under the umbrella of local control.
She is now the school readiness coordinator, administrating programs that provide resources to families with children age 0 to 5. The programs – including parent enrichment programs, the Truckee Parenting Project, Great Beginnings and the Truckee and Kings Beach Family Resource centers – are chiefly funded by the Nevada County First 5 Commission, which receives state tobacco tax dollars.”I worked on all these programs yesterday, and I’m still working on them today,” she said.Hall has been a long-standing connection between parents and child care providers with Sierra Nevada Children’s Services, but with the programs she helped bring to the area, her advocacy with the agency has meant much more to the Truckee-North Tahoe area.A very different TruckeeWhen Hall started with Sierra Nevada Children’s Services – called Nevada County Community Services Council at the time – part of her job was to find ways to fill in gaps in social services in Truckee.
There were a lot of voids in town at the time. People had to go down the hill for assistance with domestic violence, Child Protective Services and MediCal, to name a few. Hall helped bring these services from the county seat – in Nevada City, more than an hour’s drive away in good weather – to Truckee.Hall’s office received grants from funders like the United Way and started new nonprofits in Truckee.”Our agency was growing, there was a boom of social services,” said Bill Locker, executive director of Sierra Nevada Children’s Services. “It was a really good time to take on new initiatives.”As human services agencies formed in Truckee and North Tahoe, over time funders began providing grants on a regional basis, rather than sticking to county lines. Funders saw the needs were different on the east end of Placer and Nevada counties, compared to the west end.”We have these boundaries at county lines … but there’s a lot to be gained by collaborating in our community,” Hall said.
The shift from county to regional focus is the reason Hall made the move from Sierra Nevada Children’s Services to a local position, said Lisa Dobey, president and CEO of the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation.”Programs through [Sierra Nevada Children’s Services] took off – programs that should be owned by the local community,” said Dobey, whose group is managing Hall’s new position until a new local organization is formed to oversee programs for children 05 and their families. “The community has grown to a point where we are able to house those programs locally.”The direct results of local collaboration on grants can be seen in the KidZone Museum and the Truckee and Kings Beach Family Resource centers, Hall said.Hall, meanwhile, said she is not ready to call it quits.”Reports of my retirement are a little premature,” she said. “I still have a lot of work to do.”