I Got Connected Through “CAN” and You Can, Too!

tracy can sign

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was received from Tracy Smith, a Valley Center resident, who shared her personal thoughts and experiences regarding the CAN (Community Action Network) meetings. We hope you’ll read her story and see what a great resource these monthly meetings are to our community!

I received a cheerful email from Brandon at Pauma/Valley Insurance inviting me to the Community Action Network, or CAN meeting. Having recently retired, I really wanted to get to know this community, so I decided to go. I attended the November meeting and arrived at 7:45 am. Walking down the stairs, I meet Brandon who was setting up tables and chairs. He was outgoing and cheerful and promised a good time with lots of information. In the back of the room were a couple of deputies and this giant of a man named Lt. Dave Something-or-other. (Schaller) The deputies, I’m happy to report, were normal size. All of them were outgoing, smiling and introducing themselves. This should be an interesting morning.

Brandon was right! What an informative, wonderful meeting! I sat next to a CAL FIRE Chief, Nick Brown and a lovely goat farmer, Jane Kehr. And the meeting began. It was the day after the red flag fire warning had been called off and there was plenty of fire news. Joe Napier and Mike Shore, the Fire Chief and Fire Marshal, gave updates; Nick from CAL FIRE gave updates, the water district gave an update, the school district administrator gave an update, all personnel giving out information were direct, concise and helpful. But there was more. There was a real sense of caring, a sense of belonging to one another, a pride in the community. I relished it.

Brandon talked about the Community Action Network (CAN) being formed after the 2003 and the 2007 wildfires, when the community had to band together in order to survive. The community realized they needed a plan for future confrontations with nature and so began CAN, meeting monthly and pooling information and resources.

Something greater happened after the 2003 and 2007 wildfires. Something profound. Inspired by the love of community and heartfelt concern for each other, realtors and others formed the Valley Center Community Aid Group. They collect money and resources and distribute every dollar to those people in this community who need a hand. This band of angels continue their unsung watch to this day, looking for, vetting and meeting the needs of others.

The group laughed with Lt. Dave GIANT during his crime update, gleaning safety tidbits, we teared up with Mark from CHP telling us about the Community Aid Group and the assistance they offered during a horrendous personal tragedy. I was welcomed, given websites, emails and phone numbers. I chatted, listened and learned a great deal. I felt a part of something greater than myself, something profound. I felt as if I belonged.

Starting my truck up to head home, Nick Brown from CAL FIRE, jogged over to the driver’s side to thank me for coming and to wish me a good Thanksgiving. After noting the Navy Veteran sticker on my window, he also thanked me for my service. I drove away already looking forward to the next meeting and truly thankful for the people of this community.

(Note: The monthly CAN meetings (sponsored by PVI) are free and open to the community. They are held the third Thursday of the month at the VC Community Hall. Meetings start at 8 am with a continental breakfast, followed by a guest speaker(s), community updates and attendees sharing about themselves. The meeting concludes by 9:30 am. The next meeting is scheduled for January 17th, and Tracy Smith is one of our guest speakers! We would love to have you join us!)

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