From litter to loneliness, individuals and groups are spreading out across Palm Springs to tackle some of the most pressing issues faced by the community.
At least four new efforts have kicked off in recent weeks, joining existing organizations to not only address pain points in the city but help spread positivity. Among them:
- The Palm Springs Sunshine Sisters was formed on Nextdoor and carried over to Meetup, offering women the opportunity not only to attend events but forge sisterhood with other women;
- The Palm Springs Community Partnership on Homelessness, which also has roots on Nextdoor, is recruiting members in hopes of working with the city to provide both near-term and long-term solutions for one of the larger issues facing many communities in America;
- The Gene Autry Neighborhood Organization is in the process of forming a Neighborhood Crime Watch; and
- One neighbor took it upon herself to start a community clean-up, drawing volunteers one recent weekend to help in what she hopes will be a monthly effort.
Palm Springs City Manager Justin Clifton has seen his share of similar efforts. While new to the position here, he has served in similar roles for the past 15 years in both Arizona and Colorado. Any time people step up in a community, he said, it’s a clear sign that paths to progress are being formed.
“Part of what makes democracy so special is that it is open for all to participate,” Clifton said. “Sometimes groups are created to partner with local government and work hand in hand to advance an important mission, and sometimes groups are created to act as a check and a balance or to exert demands on the local government. All of those roles are invaluable and part of what makes our system of local government so special.”
The city is not only open to listening to diverse groups with varying goals, Clifton said, but is often able to devote resources to them. Such was the case on August 21, when the city donated trash bags, trash pickers, and sharps disposal containers to Ariana Cuttone and a small team of volunteers who decided to meet downtown and clean the streets.
“City support for these groups can range from things as simple as listening to something much more complex, including financial and operations collaboration,” he said. “Sometimes small, informal groups grow into large and long-standing ones with dynamic ties to the city. Sometimes these groups fizzle out because the work gets done or because key organizers move on to other initiatives. But there are always engaged residents behind them creating new groups.”
Mary Miller, a retired resident of South Palm Springs, is one of those engaged residents. Miller was one of several people on social media platforms who sensed there was a lack of connection for women in the community. As COVID-19 raged and people became more isolated, the situation got worse, she said. But when restrictions began to ease and more people felt comfortable venturing out, she knew it was time to act.
“I started this on Nextdoor as the Palm Springs 50-Plus Women’s Group,” she said over coffee last week. “On June 22nd we held our first event. Three weeks later, we had 200 members.”
A name change and change of platform soon followed, allowing Miller to broaden the reach of the group and better organize outings and other events. Today, the Palm Springs Sunshine Sisters has approximately 150 active members on Meetup, ranging in age from their 40s to 70s. A glance at the group’s calendar shows dozens of upcoming events to choose from, including coffee meet-ups, happy hours, art walks, hikes, and even charity events such as the upcoming Breast Cancer Awareness Walk in Palm Desert.
All of the events have a straightforward goal.
“This is all about creating a sisterhood,” Miller explained. “We’re trying to be a fun, flexible group. We are just a group of women supporting other women.”
Miller has already seen multiple examples of that support. When one member said she had been forced to cancel an upcoming doctor visit due to transportation issues, Miller said every single participant at the event raised their hand and volunteered to help.
“I’m so proud and impressed with the women in this group,” she said. “They are so warm and caring.”
Clifton said that a compassionate approach and the ability to organize efficiently is often the key to success when groups form to tackle an issue.
“I have found the keys to longevity include being highly organized and willing to engage,” he said. “Engagement means that the groups are integrated with other residents who share an interest in what subject the group was organized for, and integrated with all key stakeholders that have something to do with that subject.
“As wise people have said, “politics is the art of compromise.” So groups that listen to all who participate, including contrasting points of view, and pivot when needed tend to make the most progress.”