Community: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals."the sense of community that organized religion can provide"
This is what it means... Most of the time I'm on the vine debating Politics, Science, Religion... For many, these subjects can be a "hot-button" and many times mutually exclusive. This I'm finding more and more not to be the case. They all reside in any given community. Even if there are like minds or political leanings, they can have many varieties as there are people within any community.
The inspiration to write this brief article is predicated on what I witnessed in a small town in middle America, Lawton/Ft. Sill. Everybody has a "undesirable" portion of a neighborhood in any city. From the "Ghettos" to the projects (often one and the same) to a "bad side" of the tracks but the fact is people of the community live there. They make a living in and around such neighborhoods mostly for one reason. Affordable, low cost housing. They maybe there for a number of reasons but that is not the gist of this article... it is not WHY they are living there but the fact that they ARE living there and they should not have to sacrifice safety, security and livability because of where they live. Differing organizations usually step in but the sheer numbers of those in need outstrips the very best of any one entity. Government assistance is part but it seldom answers all of the safety concerns. Police play a part but they are not "all seeing" and many crimes go unreported or worse the conditions are so bad that when police do get a call (especially in under-manned situations) they must be careful in whatever response they give. A simple "disturbance" can become an national incident. So what is the answer? It lies in the community itself. Caring about where you live, pushing out bad elements... ETC can turn such neighborhoods around but many within live either in fear of surrounding conflicts or feel powerless by their stature. "I have little or no education, a prison record or a sordid past... this is the best I can do." So who empowers? Government, Non-profits, Police, the citizens?... The answer is all of them TOGETHER.
Despite differing views, politics and social standing they can be joined together by a common goal but this often takes a leader with vision, hope and a determination that ignores the "Your wasting your time." comments. Is interest and energy trying to make things better for others really a waste of time? Mr. Griffith of Verde Outreach in Lawton met that challenge while ignoring the gainsayers. Joining the the National Guard shortly after High School, Mr. Griffith got a life changing injury, a permanent, Cranial shunt which ended his Football interests. Having a daughter and now face with being young and not able to do those activities he turned his interests to Real-estate to make ends meet. The housing market in Oklahoma coupled with the Lawton's close proximity to a major military base gave the market a leg up even during the downturn in the economy. He was able to cobble together a respectable living buying his 1st house in his late 20's. Yet as he continued he saw that once a person has a place they can live, they were thankful. He saw it a s vehicle to help people and not just a way of making a buck. He noted the cities long list of Section 8 waiting for housing and had success in providing above standard housing to accommodate but one can only renovate or even build so fast. So his attention went to a part of the community that was undesirable and assayed to make a difference.
His non profit did not go solo but got city and other local non-profits together at a town hall with the residents of the complex to air their concerns. LPD involved, encouraging residents to attend as well as the other organizations that was meeting there personal needs like nutrition, daycare and youth involvement. Together they answered the "BIG THREE" concerns of every one on assistance every where:
Together they plan to increase security in the chosen neighborhood. Improve appearance of housing as well as fixing the internals (Plumbing, wiring etc. as well as provide dignity by providing daycare and other assistance as needed along with working with the youth.
These are the things I like to see more of: Positive, measurable and reaching across the aisle action. Let this be standard that though we can't always make a "World of difference" we can make a difference in our own "communities".
Disclaimer: The above article is an opinion piece. Though they are "cooperating" in these endeavors, these entities are individual organizations separated by their own bylaws and restrictions. This article is in no way binding nor to be construed as endorsing or promoting each other or any private or public organization.