Neighbor Helping Neighbor Volunteers in Neighborhood Services

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG)  |  By Margaret Snider
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Members of Volunteers in Neighborhood Services pose at City Hall during a recent meeting of the group. Meetings are held 3-5 p.m. the first Thursday of each month and all are welcome.

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) - Volunteers in Neighborhood Services, or VINS, is bringing back the times when a neighbor in need was a neighbor in deed.  The group is basically a volunteer pool providing information, resources, and service in conjunction with the city to help make Rancho Cordova a better place to live. 

VINS began in 2009.  Maureen Nelson, a charter member who is still active in the group, was noticing large items such as mattresses littering the streets for extended periods.  She called Ken Cooley who was a Rancho Cordova city councilman at the time.  Cooley suggested she let the mayor know, and Nelson attended a city council meeting.  In response, the city asked if she would like to join a group of volunteers. 

For a while the city led discussion and invited appropriate speakers to address VINS in an attempt to resolve matters.  The members assisted wherever they could. 

“I helped at SPCA when they adopted dogs here,” Nelson said. “I set up tables, any of the things the city needed help with.” A member or someone in the neighborhood might have an unresolved issue.  For example, if a neighbor’s child was struggling in school, with the shared resources of the city and VINS, often someone could be found to help.

Since 2012, VINS has planned and led their own meetings and annually decides the projects and programs on which they want to focus for the year. VINS still meets at City Hall and helps the city as much as possible. “There are about 20 to 25 of us that show up regularly to the monthly meetings, which I think says a lot,” said Angel Ball, currently chairperson of the group. 

One program, Cordova Pride, helps residents who, because of illness, disability, or hardships, are having trouble keeping up with yard work.  “People come home from having surgery, or they had a stroke or something like that,” said VINS member Meada Cashatt.  “They just needed help, just to get over the hump.”  Those whose applications to the city are chosen may receive one-time home beautification such as front yard improvements, fence repair, and removal of overgrown landscape.  VINS provides tools, supplies, and volunteers for each project.  “We had a house by my house that we went and cleaned up,” Cashatt said.  “The joy is we had neighbors come and help us; I met neighbors I had never seen before.”

The Kudos program recognizes well-maintained front yards in Rancho Cordova with congratulations, a gift certificate and a sign that stays in the yard for a week.  The sign recognizes the home for the way it is maintained and embellished and how it follows the City of Rancho Cordova's Good Neighbor Guide.

Total VINS monthly volunteer hours varies, the usual being around 100, but may rise to 300 hours if it’s a very busy volunteer month.  Participation in each program is not mandatory but by choice, according to each volunteer’s interests. For example, as well as being instrumental in the Kudos program, Nelson participates in the Folsom Cordova Unified School District community reader program.  Those hours are counted as VINS volunteer hours as well.  Those serving get the joy of helping, and those served the benefits of the assistance.  Both sides make new friends.

“One of the city people told us that we’re the eyes and ears of the city,” Nelson said.  “When we’re upset about something, they listen.”

If you are interested in VINS or want more information, anyone can come to a meeting at Rancho Cordova City Hall, 3-5 p.m. the first Thursday of each month.  Or go to http://www.cityofranchocordova.org and search “VINS.”