Rancho Tehama Reserve is an unincorporated community in Tehama County California, United States. The population was 1,485 at the 2010 census. There is no reasonably priced internet service, nor TV service, cell phones do not work there, and landline phones are expensive. There is no bus service, or any form of public transportation anywhere. The closest cities are Red Bluff, which is twenty-five miles away, and Corning, which is twenty-three miles away. Both are down long curvy unlighted country roads.
For an amazing season of my life I was a social worker for Children Services in Tehama County. It took me a few months working in Tehama County before I was sent to Rancho Tehama to investigate a case of suspected child abuse. It was the middle of the day and, yet, I was surprised to observe many working-age-adults sitting on their front porches sharing bottles of alcohol. The smell of marijuana lofted up to my county car. When I arrived at the home, the young couple of parents were not happy with me being there, asking them questions. But, after some small talk I won the parent’s trust and was quickly assured that their children were safe with them. However, I thought I should get their insights into this strangely isolated community I had never know existed. They informed me that producing, selling and using meth was the main activities in Rancho. They also said that many people who were having a difficult time finding work, and paying bills, would move to this township due to the very affordable rent. However, soon after moving there a lot of people would have their cars break down, not being able to afford repairs, and thus have no way to get to work in the only places there were jobs in Corning, Chico or Red Bluff. Instead, they would turn to growing marijuana or producing meth. It was usually not long before meth use and addiction followed. They said the big joke about people who lived there was that most of them had lost their front teeth due to meth use.
I was able to leave those children with their parents. However, over the next few years I often had to go to Rancho Tehama and remove neglected or abused children, usually due to alcoholism and meth addiction.
I was blessed to become the Co-Chairperson of Tehama Counties’ Building Community Partnership Committee. We did many great small projects in Corning, where our branch Children Services office was. Then we took on the big apartment project where Children Services had the most investigations and removals in Corning. We worked with the apartment complex manager, the mayor, the police chief and the superintendent of schools, and even the fire chief. We rallied the people who lived there to put together a summer time free lunch program, all kinds of free classes weekdays in the summer. My son even volunteered to teach soccer classes three afternoons every week. We started in April and went until September. We had gotten official figures of how often police, fire-department, ambulance, Adult Services, and Children Services had been called out to this complex the six months previously. When we rechecked the figures, the numbers had fallen drastically during the first six months the program was in place. (The call-out figures actually usually increased in the summer months.)
We followed this success with using the same model in the apartment complex in the city of Red Bluff where Children Services had been called out most frequently in this area in the recent years. We did a one-year-program and the success was very measurable. It felt great. My friend and Co-Chairperson, Tomas Loarca, and I agreed to take on the counties foster child community Rancho Tehama. We agreed this area was a power keg of potential trouble waiting for the wrong match.
We got the county administrators permission – with some resistance – because it wasn’t an apartment complex, but a 1500 people town. We started organizing meetings. The response was great right away. Everyone was excited that the county was willing to do things for them. A wonderful retired couple, Lew and Marnie, stepped forward and became the community focus people. They were key people, because Tomas and I could only get there so often. Almost every class or event we offered was very successful and well attended. We formed a committee to research and make a proposal to the proper agencies to bring in a bus service. This committee worked very diligently and hard, but, unfortunately, this part of the program was not successful. It was going well in Rancho Tehama, yet, we knew this was a big challenge which would require much more work than any apartment complex. When Tomas was offered a better paying position closer to his home and pregnant wife, he departed as the county went through a budget cut, so it became more difficult for Building Community Partnership to obtain support supplies and moneys. Then my life changed, and I left my employment at Tehama County. Lew and Marnie did their best when I left to maintain the classes and events for Rancho Tehama that we had launched, but there was no longer any county support. I have kept in touch with them for over five years and am amazed at all they have done for Rancho Tehama.
It was a Facebook posting by Lew on Wednesday the 15th Facebook that inspired me to write this blog posting. This is what he wrote: “I normally respond to each and every birthday wish and eventually will get to them all, but today may be an exception. It has been a crazy twenty-four hours. We will be busy with community healing today (Google Rancho Tehama if you don’t know why). The healing must begin. Thank you all for your well wishes, comments, support and for reaching out to insure we were safe and well.”
Then when I sent Lew this piece he wrote.”
I think the community has come a long way. We actually have bus service now. Every Wed TRAX offers free service to town in the AM and from town in the afternoons. It started as a trial but they have kept it free for maybe two plus years now. The county has cleaned up many of the grows. Many growers have left the community and the county due to stricter guidelines. …
I feel terrible for the shootings and killings in Rancho Tehama and wish healing to everyone there. But, I also think it is important for us all to be aware how many people and communities in the USA and the world exist in poverty, substance abuse, and isolation. As individuals and a society, we need to make time and efforts to help more and change things, to get to the root of the problems in places as Tehama. This is the only way to get to a place where acts like the sad shooting in Tehama stop occurring.