As the son of immigrant farm workers, I grew up in the Central Valley of California. Now, I am blessed, honored and proud to work in the Canal district of San Rafael.
It wasn’t long after I recently arrived here as the new Executive Director of the non-profit Alcohol Justice to learn that many of the 15,000 canal residents know well and appreciate the important work we do.
They know us from our work with them and their children in our community. As one of the Main Community Foundation’s three main projects, Alcohol Justice – originally called the Marine Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems – has made its home in the Canal District since 1987. .
A recent study by the University of California, the Othering and Belonging Institute at Berkeley, found the canal to be the most segregated neighborhood in the Bay Area. Several Bay Area media have reported on the practices that led to it and the problems it causes. The racial and economic issues facing our organization’s mostly brown neighbors are surprising, but not surprising, as Alcohol Justice has worked hard for many years to resolve them.
Our Youth for Justice program enables young people to build a fair and equitable future for our Latino community in San Rafael. It trains young leaders who can then organize and implement environmental prevention policies to make neighborhoods healthier and safer.
Our “Minga” events are part of a Youth for Justice project called “A Clean Community for a Clean Spirit”. Minga is an indigenous Kichwa word for a day of collective volunteer work. This project is creating a healthier community for all through the power of collective action to solve the problems of alcohol and drug-related waste and waste in the canal. Meanwhile, Proyecto Latino Tam is our project to connect the Spanish speaking community of Marin to effective treatment of opioid use disorders.
Alcohol Justice also sponsors and provides a home in the canal to the San Rafael Alcohol and Drug Coalition, which brings together groups of young people and adults to deter the abuse of alcohol, marijuana, opioids and prescription drugs. for young people. The coalition uses environmental prevention strategies to strengthen youth leadership, support alcopops-free areas and promote safe and responsible stores. It aims to reduce the consumption of alcohol and marijuana among young minors, as well as the abuse of opiates and prescription drugs in the Canal neighborhood and throughout San Rafael.
I am truly grateful to join and lead these team efforts to create an environment that motivates, is proactive, and has focused and committed professionals working hand in hand with the community. With few exceptions, the majority of our diverse workforce is not white and / or Spanish speaking. They have first-hand knowledge and experience of the issues facing the people we serve and the mission we strive to accomplish.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the supply chain of a number of our local programs, it has sparked the creativity to shift towards the digital delivery of services to our constituents. We use WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Zoom as we continue to provide a roadmap to a better life for children, youth, adults, seniors, families and all who need it.
As a good neighbor, Alcohol Justice continues to engage in public policy development and drug addiction education while helping to meet the health and social needs of the Canal community and beyond.
As the new Executive Director of Alcohol Justice, my goal is to lead by example. Improving the health, happiness and prosperity of the culture and the community in which we live, work and prosper is what will make the Canal community a better place to live.
While the challenges are great and the obstacles numerous, I can’t think of a better time or place to call Alcohol Justice in the Canal my new home.
Cruz Avila is the new CEO of Alcohol Justice, a San Rafael-based alcohol industry watchdog.