Community Engagement – The Final Chapter

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As I go around our city meeting people, I often have the experience of encountering a Facebook friend whom I have never met face to face. It always happens the same way: she says her name; I take a moment to think through the list of profile names who have commented on my posts recently and then there is the smile of recognition, followed by a spontaneous hug. My existing, virtual connection is made more intense because I have now made real contact. Regardless of the lure of social media, with all of its safe anonymity, people desire personal interactions. As human beings, we get our context from each other. Without face-time (the real kind, not the application), our social media interactions are like talking to paper dolls.

For communities to be strong, they must be built on a foundation of positive relationships, which lead to trust and cooperation. Neighbors who talk over the fence don’t have arguments about whether the fence is in the right place.

So, how can cities better provide opportunities and facilities for citizens to play and connect?

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”  Winnie-the-Pooh; A.A. Milne

CONNECT:

  • Renovate the Civic Center to provide classroom, recreational and exercise facilities at a reasonable cost to citizens.
  • Provide banquet space for special city events such as the Dogwood luncheon.
  • Update the sidewalk plan to prioritize installation of sidewalks in areas near schools, city facilities, parks and retail areas.
  • Develop more entertainment districts within our city and provide incentives to retail developers to provide more green and community gathering spaces.
  • Encourage and promote neighborhood social gatherings.
  • Maintain a list of volunteer service organizations and clubs, including city groups, for newcomers.
  • Promote generational recreation and learning programs to meet needs of underserved groups such as seniors, empty-nesters and young professionals.
  • Promote youth manners and dancing classes.
  • Provide better publicity for city recreational programs and events by 1) issuing press releases before and after city events; 2) ensuring city events are on various community calendars; 3) promoting events on social media; 4) publishing a digital subscription newsletter.
  • Develop a comprehensive, interactive, subscription calendar to include all city events in all city departments;
  • Administer annual surveys to find out what services are most important to citizens.
  • Publish results of annual Parks and Recreation surveys through press releases.
  • Establish a focus group as a subsidiary of the Parks and Recreation Board to assess and improve programming.
  • Provide adequate transportation for seniors, so they can participate in city programs.
  • Attend senior events/gatherings to find out if needs of senior citizens are being met.
  • Promote through community organizations and various avenues of communication our annual, city-wide Day of Service.
  • Assess recreational sports programs to ensure they are affordable and accessible to all, regardless of athletic talent, physical ability or income level.
  • Cooperate with Parks and Recreation Foundation to develop an athletic scholarship program for indigent youth.
  • Survey to determine what services are most desired in different parts of our city and develop a Parks and Recreation master plan to address needs of various neighborhoods; budget to ensure equitable distribution of services across the city.
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