With all of the doom and gloom about the state’s budget woes and the profound impact that massive cuts will have on our communities, there is a tendency for folks to feel disheartened, powerless and defeated.
But now is not the time to give up. It is the time for action.
It’s high time we all stop waiting for someone else to ride to the rescue, usually in the form of our government, and instead charge forward with the resolve that it will be up to us to figure out how to make lemonade out of lemons. We are perfectly capable of rolling up our shirtsleeves and working together with our neighbors to meet basic needs. That is the challenge and the opportunity that confronts us.
This will require that we become more invested in our communities and less self-absorbed and isolated. Back in the day, people pulled together to get things done. That was how the pioneers survived. There’s no reason why we can’t rekindle that spirit.
There are a wealth of examples of community efforts that are making a difference and that serve as models for what it’s going to take to thrive in a very different environment.
A tiny non-profit called the Initiative for Rural Innovation and Stewardship put together a North Central Washington Success Summit this week to celebrate those kinds of efforts where people faced huge challenges and found a way to make a difference. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m on the board of that particular non-profit.
Here are a few examples of successful efforts:
Near Leavenworth, community members have come together to form the Chumstick Wildfire Coalition to work collaboratively and voluntary to reduce fire danger and improve the health of the forest that surrounds their homes.
The director, Annie Schmidt, told the audience that it has been successful because it is a grassroots effort that relies on neighbors working with neighbors.
In Chelan, a wonderful program has been developed to help low-income individuals buy Christmas presents for their kids. The Manger Mall, started by Alyson Powers, accepts donated gifts which are then purchased for $1 by individuals who are having trouble making ends meet. The program served 500 families last year and when the presents were picked up and wrapped, it was a party.
What a great way to fill a need and create a sense of community.
This kind of creativity can happen in government, as well. Ron Draggoo, Douglas County’s solid waste coordinator, pointed out that the community of Mansfield has worked together to reduce what they send to the landfill by recycling. He prefers the term “waste diversion.”
The community sends less garbage to the landfill per capita than King County, which is typically held up as a model of recycling. The program works in Mansfield not because it is mandated but because the community has discovered it’s a way to save money and also because recycling allows them to connect with fellow community members on a regular basis.
And the list goes on.
These efforts work because people feel a shared sense of responsibility for their communities, they are driven by hope rather than fear and people have decided to do something rather than just talk about it.
These are the models we can build on. If we leverage our local resources, we can become more self-sufficient and meet community needs in challenging times.
Now let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work and figure out how to make our communities work.
Rufus Woods is editor and publisher of The Wenatchee World. Reach him at email@example.com or 665-1162.