Conservation Corps North Bay to open Cotati office

A Marin County-based nonprofit group that works with at-risk youth will expand its Sonoma County presence by opening an office in Cotati.

Conservation Corps North Bay has been working with 30 local youth on recycling and wildland habitat restoration projects for about a year, said the group's development director, Laura Giacomini.

The new Cotati office will allow the group, which has worked with the Sonoma County Water Agency and the county Open Space District, among other county government institutions, to reach more youth.

"Now that we have our larger facility, we can expand the size of our programs," said Gary Miltimore, director of the group's Sonoma County programs.

The Conservation Corps was urged to start working in Sonoma County by officials who thought that the group could offer a constructive alternative to gang activity.

People who work with at-risk and gang-involved youth say the Corps is effective and welcomed the development.

"It's a great program," said Steve Velasquez, Santa Rosa program manager for California Youth Outreach, which provides gang-related education, outreach and intervention services.

He said the Corps helped "one kid who was told all his life that he was special ed and that that he would never graduate" get his high school diploma.

"And we had another kid who wanted to be a bartender; now he wants to work for the water agency," Velasquez said.

The new office opens Sept. 1 at 365 Blodgett St. in Cotati.

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