As the year ends, it's natural to review the year behind. It was not, for me or anyone else, the year expected. While the pandemic and the division in the world are heavy, it's actually been a pretty good year for me. I've learned a lot about myself and I've rekindled some of my old passions. 2021 presents a whole new adventure for me--one I couldn't have ever imagined.
I've always believed in and been passionate about community service. I was taught since we get a free country to live in with free education, it's our job and responsibility to give back. So... I've always done that. Some days more than others. But, the pandemic gave me a chance to dive into service more than I have in a while. And I like it. A lot. I've met so many amazing people in the last 10 months. I have felt more confident and more myself than I have in quite some time.
My friends and I began the year with looking for ways to bring our community together. At first it was coffee and treats in the morning. Then, it was focus groups to determine what we wanted our world to look like. The pandemic changed our timeline but not our goals. Here's why:
Think of a chain. It looks pretty good at first glance, but put it under pressure. If there's a weak link, that's when you'll find it. To me our community is only as good as its weakest links. If we can strengthen those weaknesses, it offers everyone a chance live and thrive in our county.
Desmond Tutu has a great quote:
"There comes a point where we need to stop pulling out of the river, we need to go upstream and see why they’re falling in."
From the original focus group, four of us formed a non-profit organization called the Lincoln County Legacy project. We are focused on developing projects and events that enhance the sustainability and vitality of our community.
We have developed a three-phase plan to make Lincoln County the place we want to live and work.
Lincoln County is populated with working class poor. These are families who have enough to pay their rent or mortgage but there’s not much left after that. To make matters worse, Lincoln County doesn’t have enough jobs to support its population so more than 75 percent of the residents work outside of the county. That means they have a 30 to 90-minute commute to and from work.
They leave early, come home late. They get dinner on the table help the kids with homework and they start the process over again. Their kids are home alone with little to no supervision, guidance or structure.
Phase one of our plan is a youth center. My business partner, Rebecca, found an old church building the county that would be perfect. At the youth center, we will be able to not only offer kids healthy and constructive activities, but give kids a place to be when parents are at work.
Last August, the county commissioners gave our non profit authority to act on behalf of the county and pursue buying the building and establishing the programs needed to run the youth center.
As of December 1st, we’ve raised over 20,000 dollars to lease the building and begin implementing programs. We expect to have a day care running in the first quarter of the year, with a pre-school soon after. In the first half of 2021 we expect at least half a million dollars to come in as grants and corporate donations. That will allow us to buy the building and start operations. If all goes well, we will offer limited summer programming starting June 1. We will be able to offer after-school programing at the beginning of the next school year.
Phase two is connected to the youth center. We will need to transport kids from all three county cities to the youth center. So, we need to find transportation in the form of a bus or van. But while our kids aren’t using the bus, we wanted to be able to serve other people in the community. We know from our local food bank manager that many of the food bank clients are people who worked as laborers but for some reason can’t work in that field anymore – but the job retraining programs are 30 miles south in Twin Falls. If we can get people to Twin, they can get the services needed to return to the workforce. We also know the kids in the county recreation district programs need help getting to events, but many are left out because their working parents can’t help with transportation. We’ve partnered with the food bank and the recreation district in hopes of acquiring a bus or van to help with transportation needs in our community.
In phase three, we will develop a business incubator. We know that Lincoln county has fertile soil and we can grow food. Our incubator will focus on developing small-home and farm-based businesses that can grow food or develop value added products that can be sold in farmers markets, local restaurants and stores. We hope this means at least one parent in the household can work inside Lincoln County rather than commuting.
Our communities are only as strong as their weakest link. Until we can strengthen every link in our chain, we won’t have the community that is vital and sustainable.
What we’re talking about it isn’t complicated, it’s simply about finding ways to lift others up in our community to a place where they can thrive with their families. In turn, all of us get a better and stronger chain that makes the community vibrant, sustainable and thriving.
That's what I've been contemplating anyway. Hope this finds you all well in a weird world!
What am I reading: https://www.sonyareneetaylor.com/the-body-is-not-an-apology.
Holy hell this one is powerful. I've been following the author online for a while now, but heard her on Brene Brown's podcast. This is a great book.
What am I listening to: My most played songs of the year on Spotify, which has been kinda fun. This is what's playing as I write this: True Believer