Pictured Above: Bishop Daniel Garcia (left of the Roman catholic Diocese of Monterey Congratulates COPA on 20 years of successful organizing as COPA leaders Reverend John Song (Pastor at Watsonville First United Methodist Church of Watsonville) and Maria Elena Manzo (Executive Director of Mujeres en Accion) stand by at the COPA 20th anniversary convention in May of 2023.
Who Are We?
COPA (Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action) is a Broad Based Organizing Group made up of (and owned by) 26 Member institutions across Monterey Bay, from as far south as Greenfield to as far North as Santa Cruz. These Member institutions are congregations, schools, and unions who have come together so that we can effectively act on behalf of families. COPA works within each of these institutions to identify a diverse, broad-based leadership that can connect to each other in new ways in order to act effectively on behalf of children, families, and neighborhoods. By learning to work together for the public good, COPA leaders are able to work with the business community and elected officials to make Monterey Bay a better place for families. We are the local affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation organizing network.
Wins From Our History
COPA Has been successfully organizing for 20 years! With such a long tenured history, we have dozens of victories large and small. These victories are in some ways very different: some were large, some small; some were long, hard fights, and some were easier. We have victories around housing, mental health, healthcare access, public education, immigration and a dozen other issues. The one thing that unites them is the people: across the board our victories come from the stories of the families we work with, and are won not by lobbyists or professional staff but by local leaders who have learned how to advocate for themselves and assert the needs of their community. That said, here are some victories we are especially proud of:
- Salinas Measure K- In 2009 when the city of salinas was facing a budget crisis they were going to close the salinas public library system. The library functions as a vital institution providing classes, digital access and access books. Plus, Salinas is the home of John Steinbeck, one of the great American authors.COPA leaders were able to successfully organize around measure K, a bond that raised money to fund the salinas public library system by garnering thousands of signatures and knocking on thousands of doors. Today the Salinas Public Library is still open and a pillar of the community.
- Live Oak Family Resource Center- Copa leaders were instrumental in advocating for and getting built the Live Oak Family Resource Center. The Center came out of hundreds of conversations in the local community where a picture emerged of a community in need of. place where they could go to get help and support for issues ranging from their children's education, to immigration, to healthcare access. Today the Center Proudly supports hundreds of families in the community.
- Esperanza Care- For decades in our state immigrants had spotty, inconsistent, or nonexistent aces to healthcare. COPA was critical to passing esperanza care to address and alleviate many of these issues.
- Affordable Housing on member properties: Over the last decade as the housing crisis in our region has gotten worse and worse some of our member institutions in Santa Cruz County have taken matters into their own hands. St. Stephens Lutheran Church, Calvary Episcopal Church and Peace United Church of Christ have all built affordable housing projects on their property-- and more are looking at it now!
- VIDA Program- At the height of the Covid-19 Pandemic our region had a serious problem: Many of those in rural parts of our counties were getting sick, were not getting vaccinated and did not have easy access to services. Many of these people did not speak English, and/or came from backgrounds and countries where it is prudent to distrust the local government. This, coupled with huge amounts of disinformation circling through social media was leading to a humanitarian crisis. COPA leaders raised these issues with the county and started to envision the VIDA Program: a program which would train and develop community leaders as health workers so they could talk to friends, neighbors, and others in their community about Vaccine and Covid Care. The program has been wildly successful!