Mexico's support sought for Wellness Center

By C.J. Barbre

The coming of the Lindsay Wellness Center is already having far reaching effects. Political consultant Arnoldo Torres was hired by the city to consult on the Wellness Center.

&#8220Arnold Torres has his own consulting firm and has been working with us on the Wellness Center proposal and with AHORA and with clinic plans,” said Lindsay City Manager Scot Townsend. &#8220The refreshing thing with Torres, he got it quickly, what we are trying to achieve.”

Long a part of the considerations for community health needs in Lindsay, which is 80% Hispanic, was consulting with a proactive group of Hispanics called AHORA, (Academic, Health, Occupational, Residential Advancement) regarding their needs.

At the March 28 Lindsay City Council meeting Torres offered a couple of proposals to the city.

&#8220There are a lot of health issues with the Hispanic community and with Mexico. This is a unique project. One would be hard pressed to find any city council taking a proactive stance with an economy that is farmworker generated.” Torres said there were two major new initiatives. The first was to work with the California Farm Bureau to bring together farm farmworkers and growers.

&#8220When you had the freeze 10 years ago, there was no place to bring them together and the reality is they are linked, so the Wellness Center brings up the opportunity to bring them together.” He said the health of the farmworker was important to the economic well being of the ag industry. Dealing wth such problems as exposure to pesticide was one example.

Torres said he would be proposing a donation of $300,000-$500,000 from the governor of Michoacan and the same amount from the California Farm Bureau.

Wellness/Recreation Director Brad Albert said in a later phone interview that Torres would first go to Tulare County for a partnership and their blessing.

&#8220It's just to inform them because he is very concerned with the grower community,” Albert said, &#8220I think Arnoldo's thinking is that because so many Lindsay residents come from that state, a lot of people in California contribute to the economy of Michoacan so it's kind of a two-way street. I think what this is is a cross-cultural experience. Albert said AHORA has been helping him reach out to the community. The City of Lindsay received a $150,000 planning grant through California Endowment's &#8220Communities First.”

&#8220The major object is to get community input,” Albert said. He said they were doing 500 surveys and consulting with eight focus groups of like-minded individuals such as teachers, The Kiwamis Club, a group from the Adventist Church; and AHORA.

Torres told the council he wanted to get the participation of Mexico. &#8220I was elected to represent the people of Sacramento regarding problems of Mexican citizens in the U.S. and when they go across the border during the winter months.” He said he met with many officials including the governor and representatives of the Bush administration.

&#8220There is a huge population of mono-lingual Spanish,” Torres said. He said this creates a constant challenge for education. Torres wants to see a national exchane of expertise, such as sending representatives from Lindsay to Michoacan and representatives from Michoacan to Lindsay.

&#8220We believe it's most constructive to be proactive. Michoacan has responsibilities to its people here. This community offers vision no other city or county has pursued. A part of reality is you have a cross-border population. Instead of finger pointing you will serve as a model for other communities.”

&#8220We would not be here without our workers,” Mayor Ed Murray observed. He recalled a worker shortage when many went to Washington state because a lot of housing was being provided for them there.

Torres said the exchange groups should be made up of a good cross secton from the public and private sector, as well as representatives from the county, probably a total of 10-15 people.

&#8220The Wellness Center is designed to serve 80,000 people.”

Albert said he thought people in Porterville (population 50,000) would be using the facility, as well as Exeter. Lindsay's population is around 12,000. Albert said because Lindsay is rather centrally located he thought Torres saw it more of a regional center, &#8220that will really draw a lot of folks from throughout Tulare County.”

Torres said the trip should take place later this month or in the first two weeks in May. &#8220Tulare County will be much better off with a center like this,” he said.

Townsend called the proposal &#8220bold.” He said it was looking a lot further ahead than most.

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