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Wanda wants you Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Nov 13 2010 12:00 PM

Chula Vista recently became part of a movement to promote community engagement and increase community service nationwide.

In June, the city of Chula Vista received a $200,000 highly competitive leadership grant from a new program called Cities of Service.

The grant funds a new position for two years, a chief service officer who reports directly to the mayor and specifically works to increase strategic volunteerism in the city.

On Oct. 25, Mayor Cheryl Cox appointed Wanda Bailey, 52, to the new position.

Bailey, who was among six appllicants, will receive an annual salary of $68,000.

Bailey has more than 25 years of experience in the service and philanthropic sector, working with local and national organizations, and is the former executive director of the non-profit organization,Volunteer San Diego.

Bailey's position will focus on leveraging funds through partnerships, volunteers, additional resources, grants, sponsorships and donations in order to strengthen local volunteerism.

"We were looking for someone who understood volunteerism from top to bottom and left to right," Cox said. "She (Wanda) was ready-made for a position that serves community volunteerism."

Bailey is currently working to conduct surveys and research with city leaders to put together focus groups and come up with a comprehensive service plan for the City Council in the spring.

"Our goal is to create a model that will be sustainable," Bailey said. "We want to grow, enhance and engage that community in focused, strategic ways that impact identified community needs."

Cox said volunteers are crucial in aiding a community. "The inspiration of Cities of Service helps define what the needs are," she said. "We're matching need with peoples' desire to help."

There are 20 cities nationwide that have received this grant.

Requirements for the grant include choosing two areas of focus. Chula Vista chose career pathways for high school students and community wellness. The career pathways program focuses on sophomores and promotes graduating with entry-level job readiness.

Cox said community wellness can be achieved through facilitating or outreach efforts.

"Our health centers are commonly organized to promote community services and the well being of communities," she said.

Bailey said the city will partner with service clubs, faith-based groups, non-profit organizations, as well as county health and human services. "We don't want to reinvent the wheel, but rather enhance an existing effort," she said.

Currently, the city of Chula Vista has more than 1,000 community volunteers who serve with the senior patrol, animal care facilities, libraries and parks and recreation, to name a few.

"The exciting part of this is that it's new - we've never done this before anywhere in the country," Bailey said. "We're learning what the value of what this position can do for the community."

Cox said that any time a city faces a decline in revenues but the residents still want the services the city provides, it's important to look at several options to see what can be provided to the city.

"We're looking at how to fill the financial gap and the ability to provide services," Cox said.

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