The Vail, Arizona, community is geographically unique. The town is located just 30 miles outside of Tucson, but its population is spread over a sprawling 432 square miles of rural land. In addition, the community is “unincorporated”—meaning that the people of Vail do not have a local government or elected officials to advocate for their needs. The community has no social services, medical facilities, parks, libraries, public transportation, or recreational facilities.
When a population boom caused the number of students in Vail schools to increase by 48%, the needs of children and families in the community grew and evolved accordingly.
Enter Rosemary McCain, Vail Community Services Director. McCain was already on a committee consisting of the assistant superintendent, an early childhood specialist, and a mental health provider, so she met with this group to discuss how they could recruit new members and form a stronger and bigger partnership—one that could truly be “the voice of the community.” They decided to create a Community Action Board, now known as Vail C.A.R.E.S.
The group started building the team by identifying strong voices from the community—potential members who represented a broad spectrum of Vail’s population. Their list included business owners, members of sports organizations, parents, teachers, law enforcement officers, college faculty and staff, retirees, youth activity leaders, faith-based leaders, long-time residents, new arrivals, and other representatives from each area of the community. More than half the 250 potential partners who were contacted agreed to attend a luncheon to discuss Vail’s assets and needs.
At this meeting, the participants first broke into smaller groups to discuss the issues facing their community and the resources available to address them. They then came together as a large group to develop bylaws and form subcommittees to address Vail’s three priority areas: behavioral health, youth and out-of-school time, and early childhood wellness.
After the meeting, 60 people sent resumes to be considered for 20 community positions on what became Vail C.A.R.E.S. Those who were chosen for the positions represent a range of expertise and reflect Vail’s diversity. Today, Vail C.A.R.E.S. is completely led and governed by community members who continue to share the willingness and desire to work together to better the lives of children, youth, and families in Vail.