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Screenshot-2018-9-26 JMU Dukes Vote ( JMUdukesvote) TwitterJMU Engagement Fellows join United Way’s Community Tour on September 19, 2018 to learn about challenges faced by vulnerable populations in Harrisonburg and the community agencies and organizations that serve them.

Post by Shelby Taraba, James Madison Center for Civic Engagement ’18-’19 JMU Engagement Fellow

On Wednesday September 19th, I had the privilege of attending a Community Tour organized by United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. The tour I chose followed Alicia’s fictitious story line but it was based on real events a member of our community has experienced.

Alicia, her husband, and their two children immigrated to Dayton and while her family life seemed to be going well prior to immigrating here, once she settled in, she started experiencing physical and sexual abuse in her marriage.

A coworker referred Alicia to the Collins Center, attempting to provide resources for her trauma.

First stop: Collins Center

The Collins Center strives to eliminate sexual violence and its impact in our community.  Serving over 2000 members, the Collins Center provides the following services:

  1. Sexual Assault Crisis Services, including hospital accompaniment, short-term crisis support counseling, legal advocacy and court accompaniment, as well as information and referrals for those who need additional assistance.
  2. Prevention and Education Efforts, including community awareness presentations and prevention programming in educational settings, faith communities, civic groups, and more.
  3. Trauma-Informed Counseling
  4. Child Advocacy Center, including forensic interviews, coordinated team approach to provide services to abused children and their families, advocacy through accompaniment, referrals, and crisis intervention, as well as education and awareness about the prevention of child sexual abuse.

Second stop: NewBridges

Alicia was referred to NewBridges so she could obtain advice on how to navigate a single point of income. NewBridges Immigration Resource Center started in 2000 when a group of Mennonite churches in Harrisonburg decided to address the needs of international newcomers.  Since then, they have served thousands of clients, helping them to become a vital part of our local community and economy. They provide key services for the community members they assist:

  1. Immigration Legal Aid, recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice
  2. Passport Assistance
  3. Medical Billing
  4. Connecting Clients to Resources
  5. Community Building Groups to foster interaction between immigrants and the broader Harrisonburg community.
  6. Diversity Workshops consisting of immigrant learning events, tours, and lectures.
  7. Translation Services producing certified English language translations of Spanish language birth certificates and other legal documents.

NewBridges relies on volunteer support to help meet the needs of our community and there are volunteer opportunities for community members to help with, especially in legal aid, case management, and fundraising.

Third Stop: Second Home

As a mother of two, Alicia wanted to make sure her children were active, encouraged, empowered, and able to build relationships in such a different setting than they were used to.

Second Home is a community supported, affordable, and academically focused before and after school care program supporting some of the most marginalized families in Harrisonburg.

Final Stop: Ruby’s

Following the Community Tour, United Way hosted a happy hour gathering at Ruby’s.  There they supplied food, drinks, and other organizations that were not represented on the tour but are nonetheless vital to our community. While I took the appropriate amount of time to enjoy the provided refreshments, I was eager to meet the other organizations who had tables set up at Ruby’s.

    1. Elkton Area United Services is a comprehensive social service agency serving Eastern Rockingham County since 1972.  EAUS provides assistance with housing, electricity, heat, food, GED classes, school supplies, books, transportation, aid to stranded travelers, senior citizen activities, and a joyful holiday season to those in need.
    2. Brain Injury Connections combines public and private resources to provide specialized services for persons affected by brain injury in the Shenandoah Valley, including: case management; community support services; behavior support facilitation; education, outreach, and advocacy; and professional and case consultation.   
    3. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is a non-profit organization serving our area’s most severely abused, abandoned, and neglected children through the recruitment, training, and supervision of community volunteers who advocate for their best interests.



All-in-all this community tour was an incredible opportunity to learn more about the privileges I have and the challenges so many community members face here in Harrisonburg.  This tour truly opened my eyes to how many resources there are for those in need in Harrisonburg, yet how many volunteers and resources we lack to keep these organizations and programs running.  These organizations provide many volunteer opportunities to serve and it is important to engage in community service. However, we also need to think about how we can address root causes of problems faced by the most vulnerable members of our communities, especially through political, policy and decision-making processes.