SOUTH FORK— Members of the South Fork community interested in the Community Heart & Soul team, met on Wednesday, April 24 for their first training which was titled “Lay the Groundwork.” Community Heart & Soul reconnects people with what they love most about their community and translates those personal and emotional connections into a blueprint that serves as the foundation for future community decisions.
The goal of implementing Community Heart & Soul in South Fork is to understand what is important to the community’s diverse demographic of individuals regarding everything from South Fork’s history, future, recreation, entertainment, culture, art, education, business and investment climate and more. Each member of the Heart & Soul volunteer team serves as the “voice” for the various demographic segments that make up the community.
These advocates engage their respective demographics to voice their thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, ideas, hopes and dreams for their beloved town through storytelling and other forms of engagement. This information is then collected, sorted and analyzed by the team and the community development coordinator and brought back to the community in the form of several community statements, each comprised of an idea or vision for change.
These ideas are presented to and vetted by the community. Those that are most valued by the community require the community to come up with realistic action plans on those they believe can be successfully implemented. Thus, positive change occurs as a result of engagement, buy-in and commitment from the majority. Community Heart & Soul is not a “one size fits all” attempt to effect change; it is designed to engage all citizens of a community, if they want a voice at the table.
“This is the phase one training, and basically, it is about getting organized to start the Heart & Soul program. Next, we will start to assemble the team and create a work plan. Last, we will spend a huge amount of time spreading the word. We actually look at the demographics of the town and go from there,” explained Becki Helmstetler, one of the program organizers.
“We want to take advantage of the demographic details and form a group that matches our demographics—that way the community is represented in the best way possible. The work plan, once it’s created will help educate people in our process as we go along,” stated Helmstetler.
The town set aside funding during their budget hearing in the fall to help fund a position for a community development coordinator that will head the entire program in partnership with the Heart & Soul team. The team will change over the course of time, as the entire program will last up to two years. “The team will change as we go; some will stay through to the end and others will move on according to what task we are doing at the time,” said Helmstetler. “We tailor this to our particular demographics. The best part is, it involves the community throughout the entire process,” she continued.
The next training will take place within the month. “I like to use the analogy that it’s like having a dinner party. You don’t ask everyone to bring the same thing; you want someone to bring a dessert, a side dish and a main course. You want a complete meal or experience that everyone can enjoy. We would really like to see more young people, people with different incomes and people from all over the South Fork community. Anyone who is interested and wants to come listen, they are welcome to,” explained Helmstetler.