Sebastopol City Council approves $20,000 for CoMission ahead of summit

By Camille Escovedo, Staff Writer, Sonoma West Times & News, April 16, 2021

craig litwin

Craig Litwin is the founder of CoMission, which is organizing a summit of non-profits and service groups this spring.

The Sebastopol City Council approved an amendment to the city budget to give CoMission, the city’s community vitality contractor,  an additional $20,000 to fund its work through June 30. Four council members–Mayor Una Glass, Vice Mayor Sarah Gurney, Councilmember Patrick Slayter and Councilmember Diana Rich — voted in favor. Councilmember Neysa Hinton absent.

CoMission Principal and CEO Craig Litwin, also a former Sebastopol mayor, said the funds would allow CoMission to continue maintaining three community councils for business, community benefit organization and service organization representatives, respectively, address community member inquiries and help put on the upcoming West County Community Needs Summit.

The virtual summit will take place May 12 from 4 to 7:30 p.m., according to an April 8 CoMission press release. Litwin said the summit will feature panels of representatives from nonprofit and community benefit organizations (CBOs) to communicate their resource needs directly with potential volunteers and service clubs with access to funding.

“And what’s really exciting is that we have members of the business community saying, ‘Hey, I want to be a fly on the wall. I want to hear where I can give. I want to give, I don’t know where to give, how do I give?’” Litwin said during his April 6 presentation for the city council.

In an April 8 interview, he said, “People can feel that there’s a great need and what’s amazing about this time is that folks are organizing to work together to fulfill these needs. We see it just in the fact that the nonprofits are talking to each other and the business groups are continuing to talk to each other.” Litwin added, “There’s a real renaissance of cooperation that’s taking place in these major pillars of our community.”

Service clubs that traditionally help fund the work of organizations witnessed local need “hyper-accelerated” by COVID-19 and the recession, Litwin said. When the pandemic descended over communities already contending with fires and floods, “we could see the need everywhere.”

“Overwhelmed by requests for financial and volunteer help,” the service organizations that support the organizations that address housing, food security, health and other community needs sought out the city “about jointly organizing a summit to identify issues and responses,” according to the April 8 press release.

Those service organizations formed a coalition with the city and with CoMission acting as a unit with the city, Litwin said. Per the press release, the coalition directed surveys to more than 100 organizations to get a better sense of the Sebastopol area’s major issues facing the community, their response efforts and what they need to make that happen.

Litwin said a report of the survey findings will be made available for the public to download and review ahead of the summit, compiled by the service organizations, CoMission and Councilmember Diana Rich as the city’s representative on the service organizations council.

“So, for anyone who wishes to lend a hand with some time, some money, some stuff and really pitch in and help our nonprofits succeed, there’s a tool in place for them to identify that resource,” he said of the report to be introduced at the summit.

The service organization representatives will facilitate the summit itself, “but the panel is designed to dig in a little deeper on what those needs are and to have folks in similar groups talking to each other in a public way so there’s greater understanding about the complexities and the minutia that goes into serving these specific populations,” he said.

At the April 6 meeting, Mayor Una Glass asked how Litwin would ensure that the amount spent would lead to public support for local nonprofits and partly through service organizations.

“We need some real results here, so I’m asking what about the summit is going to result in concrete outcomes?” she asked.

Litwin said the funding requests facing organizations are so great that the first step to making an impact and a return on investment would be “starting by taking an inventory and presenting this is the full amount of what has to be raised and then from there the nexus that we could draw is by looking at that number and the success over the next three, four, five, six months of each of those nonprofits filling those coffers up, either with money, time or the stuff that they need.”

This article was produced by Sonoma West Times & News, the hometown newspaper of Sebastopol and west county since 1889. See more news at sonomawest.com