For more than 30 years, Rural Human Services has been a fixture in Del Norte County.

In fact, since 1981, RHS has offered professional service programs that provide training, instruction and assistance to businesses and individuals alike. It is estimated that its community outreach programs touch more than 2,000 lives a month.

Yet, despite a prominent presence in the community for decades, little seems to be known about the agency. There are even a few misconceptions.

RHS offers five core programs and services: workforce development; domestic violence assistance; natural resources programs; supported living services; and food and family programs.

The Workforce Center strives to connect job-seekers and potential employers through its business services program. Employers who are looking to hire additional staff can contact the Workforce Center for a pool of potentially qualified applicants.

Additionally, job-seekers can visit the Workforce Center to search through weekly job listings; to get help with writing resumes and sending them to employers in the computer lab/resource center; and to get help with interviewing skills.

Through federal work force funding, RHS is able to offer financial assistance to qualified individuals for job training. Interested parties should contact the Workforce Center for more information to determine their eligibility.

A relatively new Workforce Center program -- youth media - trains high school students in journalism and media. RHS partners have provided funding, space and expertise in guiding these students toward successful careers in this area.

Harrington House is RHS' domestic violence shelter. Each month the doors are open to men, women and children who are in need of emergency help. Harrington House is a 28-bed shelter, which includes a 24-hour crisis hotline, counseling, legal services, household establishment, outreach and prevention education.

In recent years, Harrington House has routinely provided over 2,500 shelter nights and over 10,000 meals to individuals and families in crisis. An important feature of Harrington House is that it is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

RHS' natural resources division partners with schools to give local children an opportunity to participate in raising and releasing salmon into streams; growing and planting redwoods at the nursery; and assisting in stream restoration projects.

RHS' Supported Living Services serves men and women 18 and older who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Each week, clients get assistance with activities such as grocery shopping, banking and doctor visits. In addition, help is provided in finding housing and managing medications. Ultimately, the goal of the program is to foster independent living.

Recently, there has been an explosion of activity in the food and family programs. These programs include the Farmer's Market; the food bank; the emergency food program; and holiday food baskets. During the holiday season, Santa's Workshop supplies eligible families with presents donated by the Del Norte community.

In addition to traditional food programs, RHS is moving rapidly into healthy eating and living programs. RHS purchased a mobile kitchen, which can be seen around the community featuring chefs who prepare healthy alternatives to traditional dishes. RHS is also partnering with Building Healthy Communities to identify additional ways to create and sustain healthy food systems in Del Norte.

A common misconception in the community is that RHS is a government agency. It is not. Rather, RHS is a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. RHS receives funding through a variety of private, federal and state grants, as well as through the generosity of private citizens.

A Board of Directors governs RHS. Its members are private citizens from the Del Norte community whose mission - like RHS itself - is to look for ways to improve the quality of life in Del Norte County. In support of that mission, RHS is always searching for opportunities to partner with city and county officials on projects that help to make a difference to a great many in the community. Fortunately, RHS is staffed with talented, caring and dedicated employees who make it happen.

For more information on RHS, please visit the web site atwww.rur

alhumanservices.orgor call 707-464-7441. The office is located at 286 M St. and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feel free to stop in and see if RHS can be of service to you.

Mike Costigan is executive director of Rural Human Services.