Shout Out to Pastor Pondo
Fourteen suicides and substance-related deaths took place in the span of one year in San Clemente. All fourteen of these victims were under the age of 25. Words like “epidemic” and “panic” were fervently exchanged among the community. Why was this happening to our children? To our students? What can be done? What needs to be done?
Hundreds of parents, teachers and community leaders filled the Talega Life Church and begged for an answer and demanded help. This was four years ago. The call to action came from local Pastor Pondo Vleisides.
As a result of the previously-described tipping-point, Pondo invited community leaders to come together to form action, answesr and a solution: Community Outreach Alliance. Community Outreach Alliance, more commonly referred to as “COA,” not only recognized several significant factors contributing to the disease ailing and stealing our town’s youth but decided to provide tangible and realistic remedies to those factors.
Because of Pondo’s willingness to open TLC Ministries to host activities and classes, along with his trust in the visionaries who came alongside, COA grew strong enough to become its own non-profit in 2017. Pondo’s school of thought has been that when people maintain a sense of purpose and self-worth, then they are less likely to “self-medicate” with harmful substances or self-harm.
We take this time to publicly thank Pondo for calling that town hall meeting where many people came together to share their talents to help the next generation Thrive Alive. Even though Pondo has chosen to resign from COA to pursue better health and family, COA stands on solid ground thanks to the team he helped create. He served our community for over 35 years and we are forever thankful for giving COA a place to develop and become ‘COA strong.’