After nearly a year of small group meetings, and several months of Community Dialogue meetings, Idyllwild community members are forming three groups to promote community cohesiveness, community safety, tolerance and better understanding of existing divisions within the greater population.

The Community Dialogue meetings came about in response to a number of hate crimes that began in March 2010. The incidents involved racial and religious targeting sufficient to require police investigation and onerous enough to shock even investigating deputies. Accompanying these incidents was a rise in graffiti attacks throughout the town. The question was and remains how deeply imbedded in the community are the anger, hate and intolerance that caused these actions?

Following three general Community Dialogue meetings, participants decided to pursue three “action steps” identified at the meetings as having strong support within the group; a Family Mentoring Program, with a template from sponsoring nonprofit Family Promise; a Neighborhood or Community Watch with templates, including a necessary link with law enforcement, from and; and a free movie series promoting tolerance, including the documentary “Paper Clips” that launched the Community Dialogues.

By coming at the issues arising from the hate crimes from three different directions, participants can choose how they wish to respond to the past incidents and how they can foster community conversation and more participation. Everyone’s goal is to ensure these types of incidents do not recur.

The Family Mentoring Program will meet next week to explain its purpose and answer any questions. Alan Morphett proposed the program and Idyllwild Rotary paid for the training materials. Morphett said he feels that the program is a good fit for addressing the root causes that might have sowed the ground for the 2010 hate crime attacks. The first meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 29 at. at the Idyllwild Water District meeting room. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The program is designed to train mentors to work with troubled families, often families with children who are “acting out” in anti-social ways, to “recognize and appreciate the family’s unique strengths; define and set goals and action steps; encourage family members to take action toward their goals; review progress regularly; provide a link to the larger community by identifying and locating community resources; and to celebrate each achievement along the way” (Family Promise website

It is “an adult to adult relationship of mutual respect that starts when an Interfaith Hospitality Network or other human services organization refers a family to a local mentoring program.” Each person who commits to completing the mentoring training then acts as “a friend, advocate and bridge to the community … someone who is available for encouragement and creative problem-solving. A mentor may also help a family with more hands-on needs such as negotiating the red tape of social services or connecting with community resources” (Family Promise website).

Already involved as key organizers, in addition to Morphett, are a local pastor and a local psychologist.

Dates for subsequent meetings for the film series and Neighborhood/Community Watch have not yet been set. Anyone interested in helping to plan the film series and should contact Mary Morse at (951) 634-4048. There are already three people who have signed on as initial participants in the film series.

Only the Neighborhood Watch currently lacks a core group willing to act as organizers. Those interested in organizing a Neighborhood/Community Watch can contact [email protected].