BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
There’s a saying that goes something like… never underestimate the ability of a small group of people to change the world, because that’s how it usually happens.
On Thursday morning, nine people met at the Fort Madison United Methodist Church for some potato pancakes, eggs, fruit and pastries and a roundtable discussion on what “isn’t” going on in Fort Madison that should be.
The question brought a healthy discussion from representatives of the health industries, local churches, local police, Chamber of Commerce and media.
The meeting was moderated and arranged by Lanette Van of the Fort Madison United Methodist Church and after about 10 minutes of talking amongst the tables, a conversation began that raised eyebrows as to what we really are missing in our community.
The conversation quickly turned to the health care field, both physical and mental health issues. Do we have the infrastructure to deal with supplying transportation and access to residents struggling with getting to proper health care.
After the ice was broken, a full-on list of areas the community is falling or, has fallen, behind on came forth.
What to do to get children out of social media trances and focus them on social activities. An issue that has been ever-present with this generation.
More faith-based organizations engaged with the community. Several discussions were spurred by this as church leaders and law enforcement harkened back to a day when church councils were powerful and influential groups that propped up a majority of the other efforts in a community. Van asked for church leaders at the meeting to stick around after for another discussion on related topics.
Volunteerism and what hurdles are in the way. The group talked about a different dynamic in place today where both parents are typically working and volunteerism has taken a back seat to fatigued parents and single-parent households.
Information sharing is at a poor level. Newer residents and younger families aren’t finding information on what programs are available in the community as far as social and faith-based programming.
Centrally located and organized emergency support for indigent people or people with addictions who have turned to crime or dependency over production. This would include homes or shelters for those in need of a place for a night or two away from disruptive relationships or the elements.
Social interaction is at an all-time low. We don’t speak to our neighbors as much as we used to. Why is that? Has society scared us away from our neighbors when we move into a neighborhood. That used to be the support system outside of family and now we stay inside and look out our windows.
We’re missing to a degree that sense of community that was prevalent in the past generation. People will talk a lot about what needs to be done but very few step up and do it. We’re fortunate to have the groups of people in this town that are willing to step up, but one panelist said it was more common now to give a donation because people don’t have the time or energy to want to actually put some hours in on a project. So the same people keep doing it and then, maybe rightly so, try to back off so others can take a lead. But it’s a rare occasion when someone else steps in to lead.
It was a very eye-opening conversation with a small group of people and what comes of it who knows. The plan is to now start working the neighborhoods and ask people how they feel along the same lines.
Hopefully, the conversation leads to a bigger conversation and then to some changes. Again, just a small group of people trying to pull back the curtains and take a fresh look at our community. To help foster and continue the dialogue is a win in itself.
But that’s Beside the Point.