Intentional caring. It's a simple concept that packs enough punch to wipe out a complex problem worldwide.
It's a simple concept that packs enough punch to wipe out a complex problem worldwide.
Community Renewal of Pottawatomie County's activity this year has proven with many signs –– both physical and spiritual –– that residents do care.
Now a full year into operation locally, the group, promoting restoration of relationships from within neighborhoods, is on solid footing and pushing forward to reach the next level.
The program held a banquet Thursday, celebrating its first birthday and, more importantly, keeping its eyes on the prize.
Proving the effort can still easily pack a room, the banquet's attendance carried as much interest — about 350 attendees –– that its launch did a year ago.
Community Renewal Director Brandon Dyer –– along with Jan Tipton, Care Team coordinator, and Travis Flood, Friendship House director –– have for the last year consistently challenged members of the community to make the purposeful effort to reach out to each other.
“The beautiful thing about this is that all walks of life within the community are meeting together toward a common goal,” Dyer said. “There's no other platform like it anywhere that I am aware of.”
The idea revolves around rebuilding trust and relationships.
Key-note speaker and author Robert E. Hall said communities are broken and friendship is needed more than ever.
“Every city in the world needs this,” he said.
Society has transitioned into a stigma of clinging to negative assumptions and fears of the unknown.
Dyer said isolation is our enemy.
It's not that privacy is bad, he said, but communities have lost something for that.
How it started here
But how did such a program manage to find support in Shawnee, America?
News of the project made its way to Shawnee through a conversation between two friends –– David Dodd, a consultant who works with FEMA, and Tim Burg, executive director of the Shawnee Economic Development Foundation –– where Dodd informed Burg of the project.
“I went to Shreveport and what I saw I thought would be beneficial to Shawnee,” Burg said.
Eventually, Community Renewal International delegates were brought here to explain their neighborhood project.
Burg invited Michelle Briggs, president of Avedis Foundation, to the informational meeting at University Baptist Church.
Briggs immediately saw its potential, and set off to check out the program more thoroughly.
Avedis has taken delegations to Shreveport, Louisiana, to see how the effort functions by re-establishing neighborhoods by re-establishing relationships there.
Though the project is a prototype in this area, the community renewal idea is gaining momentum much faster than some experts had estimated. Associate Coordinator Mike Leonard, Community Renewal International, said when the Shawnee group launched, his team — through experience — had a goal in mind where Shawnee could be five years down the road.
But, in just a year (and one week), Leonard said the group has already doubled it.
Dyer said the local nonprofit has more than 1,200 members in its We Care. team and almost 80 block leaders, so far.
As Dyer and his team keeps applying the pressure to gather every last resident into its fold, it's now pushing ahead in a deeper move — Friendship Houses.
“We just bought some property in Kickapoo Park, around 7th and Pottenger, where our first Friendship House will be, and where Flood will reside with his family,” Dyer said.
Moving a trained staff member into a neighborhood is a good example of how a Friendship House — and future ones — intend to serve the community. Flood and his family will become a resource for their neighbors.
It will feature a community room where neighborhood meetings and after school programs can be held.
The kicker, of course, is that it immerses Flood and his family into that neighborhood. They will then have a stake in what goes on there –– a personal investment.
“He's in the fight right there with them,” Dyer said.
It makes it real.
Dyer said the program needs money literally to get the project off the ground.
“We're actually just looking at a bunch of dirt and a dream right now,” he said.
Dyer encourages residents to help with the effort in whatever capacity they can.
Community Renewal Pottawatomie County's office is at 1000 N. Kickapoo. The next few information lunches are from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 12, May 10 and June 14.
Block Leader trainings are from 6 to 7:30 p.m. April 18, May 16 and June 20.
Also, Kid's Camp this year is slated for noon to 5 p.m. July 17 through 21 and July 24 through 28.
To learn more, join in or make a donation, visit Community Renewal Shawnee, OK on Facebook, visit http://communityrenewal.org or call (405) 273-1035.
You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.