Greater Fallbrook Area Sourcebook

Sourcebook Volume 11, 2012

Sourcebook Features
Business Profiles

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The Ripple Effect

Fallbrook’s nonprofits impacting the world An interview with community leader Vince Ross

A person’s smallest decision can have a tremendous impact. This is especially true when an individual chooses to make a positive change in their community. Fallbrook is brimming with such individuals, as indicated by the seemingly number of nonprofits that have been birthed in this small community.

The benefits of these nonprofit groups and organizations have extended beyond the community they were created in. They have begun to impact the world.

One of the largest nonprofits in Fallbrook is the Fallbrook Village Association, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. San Diego County, in order to give the Fallbrook community a voice with the Board of Supervisors, created the association.

Vince Ross, one of the founding members, remembers the formation. Ross and his wife moved into Fallbrook with their four children and two dogs with the desire to raise their family in a rural atmosphere.

“You can spend as much time as you can afford to in helping make the community a better place. It is a duty,” said Ross. “At the time, I was raising my family, but in the last 14 to 15 years, all my time has been spent in volunteering. It’s good therapy for me.”

The Association was created as a way for the Fallbrook organizations to share ideas and concerns with county representatives.

“The county invited 25 to 30 nonprofits to come to a meeting in order to form what would be a forum for community leaders to represent their organizations,” said Ross. “Quite a few came, and we had someone from the county as our ombudsman.”

The representatives agreed that having a group formed to help them discuss concerns with the county would allow for more tasks and events to be successfully accomplished.

“The first thing we did is create the Village Square,” said Ross, who stated the organization had a goal of beautifying the lot, which had deteriorated for years. “We did that without any money from the county. It was a memorial that was designed for special events.”

As the association developed, more elements of the association developed and became their own agencies.

“The second thing we did was become involved in the Beech Street Park,” said Ross. “We also got involved in the arts 17 years ago.”

Buildings and properties were purchased, which allowed for more nonprofits to form. Those who were involved in the arts formed their own nonprofit, and the School of the Arts was formed. Art in Public Places began to create art pieces for the community to enjoy, and individuals were hired as staff to allow for more events and art to be created.

Because of the high interest in art, the arts nonprofits have thrived in Fallbrook, said Ross.

“There are huge committees for the Art in Public Places, Arts in Alliance and various music groups and performing arts in the community,” he said. “They meet monthly, and exchange ideas. Because of them, Fallbrook is now known as an arts destination, and has been rated as one of the most outstanding arts communities."

The Village Association continues providing crucial elements for the community.

“We also did a lot of custom zoning for Fallbrook,” said Ross. “We were doing our job: finding things that would make a difference and keeping the village fresh.”

The Land Conservancy had a large impact on the community as well, said Ross, who said the conservancy was best known for preserving the rural quality of life for which Fallbrook is known.

“They had a phenomenal program, which made a big difference in the quality of life,” he said. “Now they preserve over 2,000 acres of land and open space permanently. Five years ago, the work was all done by volunteers. They kept out the urban landscape, letting Fallbrook keep its agricultural feel.”

In order to continue growth, the various nonprofits in Fallbrook will take part in a new system to benefit the special district that is comprised of unincorporated parts of North County.

“This is very exciting news, the program, called Prosperity on Purpose, is a North County effort to get communities to come together, focus, prioritize, and see how they can work together for tourism,” said Ross. “A lot of people in North County know that Fallbrook is an art destination, but it is hard to communicate with those people.”

The goal of Prosperity on Purpose would be to cross-reference the popular destinations. This would use various federal funds, and will take place in July and August.

“This will reinforce the focus,” said Ross. “We will also be able to collect funds that are available every year. That’s huge. This is new in terms of target, and hasn’t happened before. We hadn’t attempted anything like this with unincorporated communities like ours. We can see how two to three cities can work together and assist each other to achieve their goals.”

The Fallbrook Revitalization Counsel has also taken large strides in benefitting the community, said Ross.

“We were offered the same opportunity as Ramona and Lakeside, but we were the only community that still met consistently. The goal was to get together and work so that our missions coincide. For the last four years, I have been the chair of this organization, and we try to select interesting programs so that people will come. It’s great to rub elbows with people in charge of projects, and ask questions.”

Each nonprofit that influences the Fallbrook community has challenges, as do the businesses in town. One common theme that has been found throughout the community has been trying to stay afloat with a floundering economy.

“One of the challenges is empty stores,” said Ross. “We ask ourselves: what can we do to attract more tourists? The Chamber has become a vital organization, and is giving a voice to the businesses in town. It is no longer just putting on the Avocado Festival, or the Christmas Parade. We also have had a county supervisor that really understands our town, and is a major supporter of our community.”

Ross believes that for more individuals to be involved in the nonprofits, they must understand how their help is required.

“When we moved here, we got acquainted with the community,” said Ross. “It did not take much to reach out. Young people must find out what the organizations are offering, and carry the torch. If we don’t replenish the groups’ leadership then they will become stagnant and soon be gone. It is great to work on things and see the results and difference. Helping an organization provide a service tends to feel good.”

When deciding what nonprofit to join, Ross suggests that individuals look at the key interests of the group.

“Each organization has something special and is essential,” said Ross. “The Chamber is progressive and has a list of the committees, so they will know where to send you. Examples include the Friends of the Fallbrook Library, a huge and very interesting group; the Fallbrook Garden Club, which is the biggest in the U.S.; the Angel Society, which is one of the greatest nonprofits in the area; and the Land Conservancy. All you have to do is contact the organization.”

“Schools are also very eager for help,” continued Ross. “Check with the PTA, which has meetings all the time, or contact the schools, which can put you in touch with the organization. The Rotary clubs are always looking for new members, and the Revitalization Committee meetings are open for anyone to attend.”

Fallbrook has many people who care about their community and beyond but in order for these nonprofits to thrive and grow, it is important for people to reach out and find a nonprofit they can become a part of.

“Many people remark about how many nonprofits we have in town, and how many really great services they provide. My hope is that people will be interested enough to come into town and ask around about our organizations,” said Ross. “There really are a lot of really wonderful organizations and caring people. Reach out, and they are eager to let you know what they do.”

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