Since July, 1988, members of our local school/community team had worked futilely to address growing social problems affecting young people and vulnerable youth in Sylacauga. In October, 1995, members of this team began to organize a community-based initiative to strengthen families in an effort to combat poverty, school failure, drugs, crime and violence. Selected members of the team went to the Mayor of Sylacauga to solicit his leadership to organize a community coalition of citizens and representatives of all sectors of the community to address the problems.
After some initial meetings, the task force came to the consensus that the needs of Sylacauga would be best met through a comprehensive network of social services designed to address the needs of the total family. Each of the forty-plus volunteer members were committed to comprehensive community planning to develop a strategic plan of action to better serve the families of Sylacauga and signed a written intent to serve. Members of the planning group represented clergy, government, business, industry, health and social services, schools, the courts, law enforcement, and private citizens.
The planning group, designated as SAFE (Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement) formed an executive steering committee, appointed a chairman, developed a mission statement, and began the process of incorporation.
The Alliance (SAFE) established three planning goals to implement the second stage of a strategic agenda: 1) to identify critical needs; 2) to investigate feasible solutions and funding sources; and 3) to develop a plan of action to address a need that would improve the quality of life for youth and families in Sylacauga. SAFE was committed to fostering the positive development of Sylacauga’s children, and was convinced by research that communities that exert a positive, profound influence on the lives of families in their domain, powerfully affect the outcome for children (Bernard, 1991).