Getting By With a Little Help From Our Friends

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A friend in need is a friend indeed. It takes a village. Many hands make light work. No human is an island. If you want to go far, go together.

These age-old bits of wisdom endure because despite the cliche…they remain true. People need people, and even the most introverted among us isn’t going to get through this thing called Life alone.

Our November issue, focused on nonprofits, is a powerful reminder of that. And the stories this month demonstrate the strength and potential of friendship, community and coming together.

On our cover we have Jim Danza and Diana Rodriguez, both Friends of the Santa Clara River. This river, and its watershed the size of Delaware, is one of our most precious local resources, providing most of the water in Ventura County, sustaining its agriculture and feeding its water table. Danza, Rodriguez and their cohorts seek to protect and restore this riparian environment, and make it sustainably accessible so that everyone can explore and enjoy its beauty. They’re not just friends of the river, but to the entire ecosystem . . . and the organisms (human and otherwise) who live near it, depend on it and appreciate it.

Kat Merrick (pictured above, in the hat) learned the importance of community and friendship at a young age, growing up in Key West where helping each other in the face of disaster (hurricanes in particular) was a way of life. After moving to Ventura County, she found herself desperately in need of friends when her home burned down in the Thomas Fire. So inspired was she by the helping hands reaching out to her at that critical time, she paid it forward, establishing the Local Love Project which has and continues to help people affected by fires, the pandemic and other life-altering situations.

This month we also profile Timothy Hagel and Safe Passage Youth Foundation, which he founded in 2012. The one-time Chief of Police saw first hand how gang involvement and violence impacted communities and families . . . and how young people at risk of joining gangs needed real, comprehensive, respectful alternatives. His solution hinges on partnerships with other local organizations, schools and the residents themselves to offer a full spectrum of services that reach kids where they are at, offering support, security, and a sense of belonging . . . which extends to the entire family. The result: Safer communities with less crime and, just as importantly, individuals who see futures full of promise and opportunity, not violence and incarceration.

The people showcased this month have been friends indeed to those in need. And all have found their endeavors as rewarding as they are necessary. Because, as Kat Merrick explains, “You say you’re helping, but what you’re really doing is you’re giving back to yourself every time you volunteer.” 

Getting by with a little help from our friends isn’t just a song lyric (thanks, John and Paul!): It’s a necessity, especially if we seek a better, safer, more just world. Let’s come together, right now, to work towards that.

– Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

nshaffer@timespublications.com