Editor’s Note: Commitment

Leslie Johnson and Bob Trausch of Chico Housing Action Team pose in front of the new community center that will be part of the Everhart Village shelter project. (Photo courtesy of CHAT)

For 38 years, the Pancakes for Peace fundraiser put on by the Chico Peace & Justice Center (CPJC) was one of our community’s signature spring events. The popular all-you-can-eat organic breakfast and Easter egg hunt at the CARD Center developed into a tradition for many over the years.

In 2020, the CPJC folded, and it seemed as though the annual event would disappear as well, that is until the Chico Housing Action Team (CHAT) resurrected it last year. Some of the folks at CHAT, including President Leslie Johnson and Vice President Bob Trausch, were part of the group at CPJC who started the original event, and are among those leading its slight rebranding—and hopeful resurgence—as Pancakes for CHAT.

“This is a fun fundraiser,” said Trausch, as he hyped the event over a cup of tea one recent chilly morning.

The upcoming fundraiser (April 9) comes during a year in which CHAT will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. In the years since Trausch, Johnson and just a handful of volunteers launched the organization with the Safe Space program—which provided shelter for unhoused individuals during a cold spell at the end of 2013—CHAT’s operations have grown to include nearly 100 houses for those in need and 32 paid employees, plus many more volunteers. The original Safe Space emergency shelter program has branched off on its own, as CHAT has focused its efforts on a variety of year-round programs providing immediate housing for those in need.

For groups like CHAT and Safe Space, a large part of their success comes from trying to stay out of the political fray, instead focusing energy on addressing immediate needs.

“If you see a problem, you don’t talk about it, you look for a solution,” said Trausch during our coffee shop visit, adding, “Arguing about which side is wrong, that doesn’t get you anywhere.”

Most important for those in need is the commitment that the folks at CHAT have made to building trust as they help them through their crises.

“People who have been broken, people living in the street, have lost faith in themselves and lost faith in the community. Our job, literally, is to get them to start trusting us,” said Trausch. “When they start trusting us and know that we’re not going away, that’s when I start seeing healing in them. Because they’ve had so many failures. When they see that you’re not going away, you can start seeing life changes.”

Pancakes for CHAT happens Sunday, April 9, 8 a.m.-noon (egg hunt at 10:30 a.m.), at the CARD Center (545 Vallomborsa Ave.). Tickets ($20/adults; $10/ages 6-12; under-6 free) are available at the door and on the CHAT site.

Jason Cassidy is editor of the Chico News & Review

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