Paradise progressives

Paradise Center for Tolerance and Nonviolence restructuring to cut costs, expand focus

Donna Dolinar, president of the Paradise Center for Tolerance and Nonviolence, said reorganizing the group will allow them to address a wider array of issues.

Donna Dolinar, president of the Paradise Center for Tolerance and Nonviolence, said reorganizing the group will allow them to address a wider array of issues.

photo by KEN SMITH

Butte County’s rural Ridge region—with its largely monochrome, retirement-aged population, vociferous tea party contingent and apparent obsession with Gold Rush-era history—is not exactly known as a hotbed of progressive political thought. When confronted with these common perceptions of her community, Donna Dolinar, president of the Paradise Center for Tolerance and Nonviolence, let go a long laugh and said, “Well, we’d like to offer some balance.”

“I think [conservatives on the Ridge] have a loud voice, but I don’t think that they necessarily represent a majority of people in our community.”

For the past 14 years, the PCTN has striven to create a kinder, gentler Ridge, its myriad efforts including introducing anti-bullying campaigns and other youth programs to area children and holding two annual events focused on diversity—summer’s Unity in Diversity festival and a Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration. Now, the organization is restructuring to become the Ridge Coalition for Peace and Justice, with the change expected to be completed by Oct. 1.

Dolinar explained the restructure is spurred by fiscal need and the desire to expand the group’s focus to include more wide-ranging social justice issues. She explained that, after several months of strategic planning and exploration, the eight-member board of PCTN decided to partner with the North Valley Community Foundation. The NVCF will oversee the new organization’s finances.

As part of the transition, the Boys & Girls Club of Paradise Ridge will take over running youth programs previously administered by the PCTN. Dolinar said the group is also happy to share the programs’ curricula with any interested parties.

“Our budget has been about $30,000 a year and the youth programs cost about $20,000,” Dolinar said. “It was a difficult burden, especially with the state of the economy, to get the funding we needed through grants, holding fundraisers and all that. We decided to join NVCF because it would allow us to accomplish what we want to do, but not have to spend so much time on fundraising.”

To further cut costs, the new organization will vacate the Skyway storefront office the PCTN has occupied for several years. In the future, meetings and other functions will be held at the Paradise branch of the Butte County Library. All of PCTN’s existing assets will transfer to the new group’s NVCF fund. The Ridge Coalition for Peace and Justice will continue the former organization’s yearly diversity festival and Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations, as well as monthly film nights.

The Ridge Coalition for Peace and Justice also will keep the old group’s contact list, which Dolinar said includes about 750 supporters and 120 active volunteers.

“We want to emphasize this is a transition, not a closure, and we’re not going anywhere but actually plan to expand,” Dolinar said. “We feel this will allow us to be a stronger organization moving forward, and we are free to broaden the scope of our activities.”

When asked to assess diversity and tolerance on the Ridge, Dolinar acknowledged there are problems.

“Our community has come a long way but there’s still a long way to go,” she said. “Just last summer there was a fairly serious incident of hate graffiti, and we should not be seeing that.”

Dolinar was referring to an occurrence last May, when a 16-foot-wide message reading “Keep Magalia white” accompanied by a Nazi Swastika was painted on a wooden fence in the area. The PCTN responded by holding a “harmony” rally, attended by about 40 people, on the corner of the Skyway and Coutolenc Road.

Dolinar listed several social justice issues she said are of particular importance to the Ridge community, including immigration, gun control, civil rights and access to health care. She noted homelessness is not as prevalent or divisive an issue as it is in Chico and Oroville, but still exists.

The Ridge Coalition for Peace and Justice’s first public meeting is scheduled for Oct. 1 at the Paradise library.