Press Release about the February 15, 1999 grassroots gathering in Camp Verde. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
GRASSROOTS LEADERS ORGANIZE FIRST Y2K STATEWIDE COALITION
SEDONA, AZ (IPN) - Hundreds of grassroots groups are springing up like daisies all around the United States with a common purpose of preparing their communities for the date rollover into the Year 2000, or Y2K.
The Sedona [Arizona] Y2K Task Force, led by director David Sunfellow, organized the nation's first statewide conference of such groups this week. Approximately 70 representatives from Y2K preparedness groups in Arizona gathered in Camp Verde, Ariz. on Monday, Feb. 15, for an all-day forum on Y2K readiness of Arizona communities. They hailed from numerous towns and cities in that state, including Flagstaff, Sedona, Prescott, Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Tucson, Sierra Vista, Cottonwood, Cornville, and Camp Verde.
Conference participants expressed hope that, by working together across the state and continuing to inform people about Y2K, the rising tide of public panic will be stemmed.
"Y2K will not be the end of humanity as some people are proclaiming," Sunfellow said. "The sun will still rise, the stars will still shine, and humanity will still be here after the Year 2000 comes and goes. We want to work with everyone in our community who believes being prepared is a wise and prudent course of action." He added that many people are looking at Y2K as an opportunity to "do the kind of community-building activity we should be doing anyway."
Participants at the Camp Verde gathering expressed concerns that the general population appears to be reluctant to organize cohesive community-level preparation. "The challenge is in many different people coming together, working together," Sunfellow said.
National surveys have revealed rapidly-rising public alarm and confusion over the Year 2000 Millennium Bug, or computer problem. A USA Today/National Science Foundation poll on Dec. 31, 1998 showed that 26 percent of all Americans intended to stockpile food and water and 31 percent intended to set aside a large amount of cash in anticipation of a coming Y2K crisis. Almost half said they wouldn't fly on or around Jan. 1, 2000. The numbers appear to be growing. In a January 10, 1999, Cable News Network (CNN)/Time Y2K poll, 33 percent of Americans say they are now stockpiling food, and 47 percent are planning to withdraw cash from banks.
Community efforts in Arizona appear to be calm, but an underlying sense of urgency grows as the weeks speed by. The group leaders agreed that their overall goal is to increase awareness and community preparation efforts.
A group of volunteers officially formed The Sedona Y2K Task Force in September 1998 "to inform the community of Sedona and surrounding vicinities about Y2K and to help residents effectively respond to whatever disruptions Y2K may cause." The organization, which now has several hundred local supporters, has done extensive research into Y2K issues and is one of northern Arizona's main sources of current Y2K information. Along with presenting public meetings and creating a resource center where locals can come to find out more about Y2K, The Sedona Task Force has also organized teams to research infrastructure concerns and launched neighborhood preparedness projects. "We really care about this community and what happens to it," said Patty Birch, coordinator of the community neighborhood project. The group has developed a guide, now available to other cities and communities, on organizing neighborhoods for possible Y2K impact. Darlene Jan, another member of The Sedona Y2K Task Force, has written an emergency preparedness manual ("Y2K Emergency Preparedness Handbook") which has been picked up by a major publisher.
Y2K community meetings in Prescott, Ariz. are drawing up to 700 people, with public officials and utility providers playing an active role in weekly Town Hall Meetings there. Prescott College has spawned a Student Alliance for Y2K Awareness. "We're now networking with universities across the country, and we're growing into a national organization to get students involved," said Grace Wicks, a student member and Y2K activist.
The Y2K community group in Flagstaff, Ariz. began as a small discussion group six months ago and has become the ARRC (Awareness, Response, Recovery Citizens) group with approximately 35 working volunteers. "At first, we kept looking to the local government, but nothing happened. Now were working with the county emergency preparedness groups and building a relationship with the local media," said Dan White, ARRC's director.
In Cottonwood, Ariz., the Verde Baptist Church has been meeting for five months and is now expanding into the community there. "We feel the key is empowering each church as a center to administer to the neighborhoods," said a spokesperson from Cottonwood.
The Camp Verde area, comprising approximately 8,000 residents, is establishing crisis centers in nine "block" sections. "For every person who's prepared, that's one less person who will be a burden -- the only way we can make it through a crisis is to work together with our neighbors," said Jack Young, Director of the Camp Verde Y2K Task Force.
In Tucson, Ariz. last year, a core group emerged out of a few friends with mutual cultural and spiritual interests. "When Y2K came on the scene, many of us saw the opportunity for positive change -- Y2K is a cosmic change process," said group co-founder Bob Cook. Led by Cook and Tom Greco, the Tucson Year 2000 Center now attracts approximately 150 locals to their monthly general meetings and weekly task force gatherings. A strong contingency is active in the Home Preparedness Task Force and that group is preparing a Y2K home preparedness manual.
The statewide conference included break-out discussions on topics related to Y2K, such as dealing with the media, creating community, and alternative forms of energy. The day ended in positive feedback and an open circle for spontaneous comments.
For Rod Cameron, resident of Camp Verde, Ariz. and author of the book "Preparing For Y2K And Beyond," the coming year will bring unprecedented change. "We are here to help others avoid pain and suffering," he said.
Another participant expressed concern for the seeming reluctance of political figures to step forward on Y2K issues. "We need the credibility of our public officials in order to move ahead on this. They're the ones with the power," he said.
In response, Mikaela Rierson, publisher of Y2K Solutions magazine and a member of the Tucson Y2K group, said, "We seem to have forgotten that we are the ones with the power and the credibility in this country. It is the citizens who made this nation strong and it is grassroots efforts like this that can turn things around."
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Contact Organization: The Sedona Y2K Task Force
Contact Person: Johanna Carroll
Contact Organization: Y2K Solutions
Contact Person: Jim Ricker
Approximately 70 people attended the first statewide Arizona Y2K grassroots preparedness conference. Some of the conference attendees are pictured above.
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