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Find Help, Find Fun with Santa Monica Connect:

You live in Santa Monica but you don’t know where to get free legal advice or low-cost medical treatment. Or you may not know about theatres that regularly present plays for children. Where can you find out about all these events and services in one fell swoop?

Santa Monica now has a new marketing and communication project devoted to helping residents and businesses connect with both cultural and human services nonprofits. Called Santa Monica Connect, the project brings together three interactive marketing components: a new web site, an existing online arts newsletter, and a new online newsletter providing information about social service programs in Santa Monica.

At a “launch” event at 18th Street Arts Center, 18th Street’s executive director Jan Williamson gave a media presentation on the program. 18th Street is one of the partners in the program, along with the City, Jewish Vocational Services, and Counterintuity, a marketing firm.

“18th Street was excited to [get involved in the project],” said Williamson, “because we have been involved in other collaborations.” She cited a collaboration between 18th Street and social service and arts programs in New Orleans after the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. In the same way, she believes there will be benefits in the “cross-pollination” between Santa Monica’s arts and social service programs, who can help each other and will also be able to find out about each other’s offerings.

So how does Santa Monica Connect work? As explained by Lee Wochner of Counterintuity, the three components of communication are the new web site, SantaMonicaConnect.org, the Palette, an existing City-produced weekly email newsletter that lists art and cultural events around the City, and Lifeline, a forthcoming monthly email newsletter that will feature information about social service programs. The information in all three components will be written by a team of 10 young bloggers from Santa Monica High School.

“We found that organizations [in the City] don’t all know each other,” said Wochner. “So we trained 10 bloggers to go out and find out about 34 City-funded non-profit organizations, benefiting 90,000 people.”

The bloggers’ stories will be edited by a professor from Loyola Marymount University, and their work at Santa Monica Connect will be “a huge opportunity for them in their career growth,” added Wochner.

Three more components of the project are links between the organizations’ web sites and the newsletters and Connect web site, so that “everyone will be connected,” a door-hanger campaign starting next week, and a post card campaign with the slogan “It’s here for you.”

Santa Monica Connect was created in response to a request for proposals for a coordinated marketing and community outreach program. This was the proposal that the City chose. While the funding is provided by the City, services of the project will be free to all participating organizations.

The list of organizations includes 18th Street Arts Center, the Broad Stage, California Heritage Museum, Chrysalis, The Growing Place, Highways Performance Space, Jewish Vocational Services, Legal Aid Foundation, Miles Playhouse, Virginia Avenue Project, Westside Center for Independent Living, WISE & Healthy Aging, and many others.

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