Building a sense of community | Part I: Identify your 3 P’s: Passion, purpose, people
This year my husband and I decided it was time to make Grand County our primary residence. We have been part-time renters and residents since 2007, but with our daughter about to enter kindergarten it seemed like the ideal opportunity to take the leap.
We love the county and the lifestyle it offers with the endless outdoor adventures, however, the risk we took was leaving behind the comforts of well-established community.
It turns out kids are not the only ones feeling nervous about being new on the block.
I am still overcoming some anxiety when meeting with new groups of people for the first time. Fortunately for us, Grand County has proven to be full of gracious and kind people, who have been quick to welcome us.
Maybe you are not new to the area, but you know that you need to connect with people to overcome loneliness or isolation that commonly occurs in rural areas.
Please know that you are not alone.
A July 24 Ski-Hi News survey found that one of the needs identified in Grand County living is building a “sense of community.” Similarly, my own casual survey around town found locals frequently identifying the potential for isolation in the long winter season as one of the more difficult aspects of full-time residency. With this knowledge, I am committed to take action. Community is not passive, it is an active process- a literal building of connection. Here are a few steps I am following that perhaps you will also find helpful.
First, identify your passion. What are you passionate about? What are your values? Use these answers to guide your search toward people or organizations who share your interests. Research shows we are more satisfied when we make decisions informed by our values. For example, if you enjoy tending the outdoors, look to the trail maintenance organizations or join a group monitoring wildlife in the county. Perhaps you are passionate about the housing issue or other areas of politics. Consider attending city council or town hall meetings. Since we have a school age child, we automatically will get to meet other parents and families with the opportunity to nurture those connections. There are free online assessments to help you get started or simply clarify your values. (I like http://www.lifevaluesinventory.org.)
Also, what is the purpose of community for you? Do you want a place to discuss shared values? Do you just need some face to face time with humans beyond the internet? This will also guide your decisions as you consider where to plug in. If you are hoping to find deeper connections, consider a group that meets more frequently and/or year-round. Usually, the more often we “do life” together, the more meaningful our connection becomes. This is not to deter you from more casual groups. It is beneficial to have diversity in our community connections, so if you have the capacity, consider more than just one group of people in meeting your goals for connection.
Once you have a clearer idea of your passion and purpose, take action to find your people. Use several outlets for looking up groups such as online via Facebook, through the chambers of commerce, local business owners and non-profits organizations. This can take time and perseverance. You may find a great fit in the first group meeting you attend or you may try out a few and need to look for more options. Stay open and keep persevering until you find a place that interests you and where you feel welcomed.
In the next part of this series, we will explore overcoming obstacles to building a sense of community.
Kristyn Roe is a wife, mother, dog and horse lover whose passion is serving as a counselor to help people in her community find healing, hope, and purpose. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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Winter Park is hosting a dedication ceremony for its new public works building, named after longtime resident and former town official Jim Myers, on Tuesday with tours of the new structure planned.