Jessica Koscher, ADEC Chief Development Officer, shared why she’s excited about the new Vibrant Communities initiative and the conversations emerging from it in this letter to the People’s Forum of The Elkhart Turth.
I have been a resident of Elkhart County for most of my life. I have had the pleasure of working for some amazing organizations all within the social service realm. One thing that us “social service” folks seem to like are big, grand, audacious community projects. So when I was invited to the kick off of Vibrant Communities, I have to admit I was skeptical. Of course, I signed up to go… and was one of the first 100 to do so (free things are another thing we nonprofit people like). I recall leaving my office at the last minute and driving to downtown Elkhart still thinking about hundreds of things I’d rather be doing. However, when I climbed the long staircase to the ballroom, I started to see something I didn’t expect.
For one of the first times ever (especially for an event like this), I saw something new. I saw friends from all over the county. I saw my friend who sells me greens at the Goshen Farmer’s Market and people from my church as well as many friends from the manufacturing industry, banks and schools. This felt different. I got to sit at a table with a guy who works in Middlebury and one for Elkhart County and a former CEO for a nonprofit. This was something different…I was experiencing something different.
At the Vibrant Communities kick-off we were challenged to come together as a community to “love where you live” to create spaces that increase our pride and love for our county. The most poignant part of what I heard that day was the things that make us “love where we live” are small, quirky and sometimes weird. They aren’t wide sweeping strategies with the top minds around the table. They are in many cases things that are created authentically by people who have an idea and act on it.
I am now cautiously optimistic about the Vibrant Communities initiative. I sincerely hope “we” don’t screw this up. I want to encourage you to engage in the community conversations taking place this week. I want to invite people who may not think they belong or their voices won’t matter… because you are the very people who will help shape a community that I love to live in. I encourage us to all be bold and not “programize” the ideas generated from these gatherings. I challenge you to invite the interesting-looking fellow at the coffee house (who you’ve never spoken to) and the neighbor on your block who has great ideas to join you at a community conversation.
I have renewed hope that together we can create interesting and wonderful pockets of awesomeness in our community. I know when you open the doors to choice and possibility for people to dream and create, amazing things happen. I get to see it in my work every day. I look forward to sitting with you at the Community Conversation.