Pierce County, Lakewood receive honors for youth services

America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth yesterday announced that Pierce County/Lakewood is a winner of a first-ever national competition to identify 100 Best Communities for Young People. The winning communities – ranging from small towns to urban neighborhoods across America – are being celebrated for their commitment to provide healthy, safe and caring environments for young people.

“One of the most important things that people in any society can do is to make sure that they are taking care of the future of their children. This award shows that Lakewood/Pierce County is among the best in the nation at doing this,” said Pierce County Executive John W. Ladenburg. “It’s another reason that Pierce County is one of the most livable places in the nation.”

Pierce County’s Family Support Partnership provides families with health services both in their homes and offices including pre- and post-natal information regarding nutrition, immunizations, birth control, smoking cessation, disease prevention, and health insurance. Additionally, the Lakewood Community Collaboration mobilizes the city’s government, human services agencies, schools, volunteers, service groups, private businesses, faith communities and nonprofits to address the needs of young people.

America’s Promise founding chairman General Colin Powell launched the competition in May and Pierce County/Lakewood applied for a place on the prestigious list. Winners were chosen by a panel of civic, business and nonprofit leaders, including United Way of America President Brian Gallagher, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, baseball great Cal Ripken Jr. and former Denver mayor Wellington Webb.

“Lakewood is honored to be recognized as one of the 100 Best Communities for Children. Our city will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year, and this award symbolizes how far we’ve come in providing for our youth. Lakewood is dedicated to helping the next generation be the best that it can be,” said Deputy Mayor Helen McGovern. She pointed to the children of St. Frances Cabrini School as an example of what can happen when children are empowered. The school’s students raised $2,000 in a workathon to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina. “We see this and other positive actions in the community as results of being involved in America’s Promise,” she said.

Helen Myrick, chair of the Pierce County Promise Committee, said the recognition affirms local efforts to bring together resources intentionally designed to help youth achieve success. “This is a great opportunity to let the kids know that their success is important to the adult community and to draw even more young people to those resources,” she said.

Louisa Erickson, executive director of the Alliance for Youth of Pierce County, said 10 years of work by many individuals and organizations preceded the Best 100 recognition. “We are now seeing the result of prevention efforts and how layers of services and cross-sector collaboration are making a difference. Hopefully this recognition will serve to sustain momentum while igniting an even greater level of commitment within the community to ensure that our youth grow to adulthood with character and competence,” she said.

The selection panel evaluated 100 Best entries that included information about each community’s efforts to fulfill five essential promises critical to the well-being of young people: Caring adults who are actively involved in their lives; safe places in which to learn and grow; a healthy start toward adulthood; an effective education that builds marketable skills; and opportunities to help others.

“It is wonderful to learn first-hand how outstanding communities are making a difference in people’s lives — especially their young people,” said Brian Gallagher, President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of America.

Marguerite W. Sallee, president and CEO of America’s Promise — The Alliance for Youth, said the competition is aimed at appealing to America’s competitive spirit to encourage communities to become great places for children to grow up. “The response from across the country has been amazing,” she said.

“We are proud to be a part of this important effort to highlight the innovative efforts taking place in communities throughout the United States to create healthy and supportive environments for our children,” said Capital One Executive Vice President and General Counsel John Finneran. “Like America’s Promise, Capital One recognizes that helping to build strong and healthy communities — good places to do business and good places to raise families — benefits us all.”

The Best 100 list includes two other Washington communities, Bellevue and Spokane. The list was published in today’s edition of Newsweek and can be viewed at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9466949/site/newsweek/
To honor the 100 Best communities selected, the America’s Promise Alliance will hold a special event Nov. 2 in Washington, D.C. This celebration will be dedicated to the children affected by Hurricane Katrina, highlighting outstanding community initiatives across the country that are providing displaced children with the services and support that they need to thrive no matter where they are. All proceeds from this event will go toward helping the children impacted by Katrina.

The Alliance will also sponsor a yearlong celebration including a special day in each of the winning communities and a series of regional forums across the country that will enable communities to share their success stories and learn effective strategies from one another that will further enrich the lives of their young people.

America’s Promise is a broad-based alliance whose members work together to ensure the well-being of children and youth Founded by retired General Colin L. Powell in 1997, the America’s Promise Alliance includes nonprofit, corporate and community groups as well as individuals across the nation.