A Marin Intergroup? Wha…?
There has been a fair amount of discussion recently stemming from a group of individual members who have been researching the formation of an independent Marin Intergroup. In response to the discussion, there have been a lot of questions about what this would mean for the existing Intergroup, the Intercounty Fellowship of A.A., which serves both San Francisco and Marin, as well as multiple requests to address the ramifications of such a separation on the existing office/service center.
As a volunteer at Central Office, 4-year Intergroup Rep (IGR) and board member of the current Intergroup, I hope to shed some light on the situation and provide some information about what it would mean if Marin members were to take on the responsibility of a separate organization.
First, however, it’s imperative that you understand what Intergroup is.
Our Intergroup, the most visible aspect of which is our Central Office, is an A.A. service entity tasked with coordinating services which the individual 800+ groups in San Francisco and Marin cannot provide. In a nutshell, we are on the front lines of A.A.; we are the local service provider for the still suffering alcoholic. (See below for a list of the services provided through the office and our service committees.) Intergroup is also the way our membership participates in an informed group conscience with regard to local services. Further, Intergroup provides a space for the groups in San Francisco and Marin to communicate with each other.
For over 70 years Marin and San Francisco have been a part of one Intergroup, the Intercounty Fellowship of A.A. We formed in 1947, as a non-profit, to serve all of Northern California and have continued to serve the two counties connected by the Golden Gate.
While it is not possible to say exactly how a separation would impact both counties, based on our years of experience and understanding, along with communication with other Intergroups of various sizes, without our combined resources – including contributions, communication networks, and the volunteer pool, it could be difficult to continue to provide the vital services we strive for. As it is, we face challenges–communication and participation being foremost.
Further, together we’re fairly small. Marin County has a total area of ~ 800 square miles and a population of ~250,000. San Francisco is tiny at just under 50 square miles, yet with a population of over 850,000. Combined, we total 850 square miles and 1.1 million residents. In comparison, Santa Clara County, served by a single Intergroup, is ~1300 square miles and has a population of approximately 1.8 million.
In an effort to make access to literature easier for those coming from Marin, our current location was chosen with great care and thought when we moved in 2001. We also began shipping literature orders and in 2012 we opened the bookstore on Saturdays.
In today’s day and age, brick and mortar entities like our Central Office are harder to maintain than they were just 20 years ago–particularly in the Bay Area, one of the country’s most expensive. Further, while technology has opened up communication channels, we are faced with the new challenge of keeping up with them. Add to that mix an organization powered almost entirely by volunteers who are all recovering alcoholics with the least amount of organization possible and it brings us back to our biggest challenge–communication and participation.
So what would Marin gain by splitting off?
Well again, that’s hard to say, but the folks who are pursuing a change believe that they would have better communication among themselves and would work towards having their own bookstore. While I can see how a bookstore in Marin might seem attractive to some members, it has the potential to negatively impact the existing organization and may well be challenging to maintain.
Regardless, this is a matter for the members in Marin to decide–one we hope is made with an informed group conscience. Meanwhile, until such a time comes, we are and will continue to be the Intergroup serving both counties.
We hope to present additional information in the weeks to come, possibly even holding a town-hall type of meeting for members to ask direct questions and share concerns.
We will be participating in both San Francisco (10/13) and Marin (10/20) Unity Days. Look for Central Office; we welcome you to join us there!
Here is a partial list of the services your Intergroup office provides:
Maintaining current A.A. meeting schedules, a 24-hour hotline, an up-to-date website (including a new chat feature), setting up 12th Step calls and Sunshine Club meetings, maintaining and operating a well-stocked bookstore and online store, shipping orders, attracting, training and scheduling volunteers for Intergroup Committees and Central Office, creating and distributing A.A. newsletters, hosting fellowship events and supporting the other service entities in hosting theirs, providing meeting facilities with certificates of liability insurance, providing space for service committee meetings, coordinating Public Information and Cooperation with the Professional Community speakers, acting as a central hub for information, participating in local and regional events and maintaining contact with other service entities.
Your in Love and Service,