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Project leaders and other volunteers in our five Heart & Soul towns have been busy this spring and summer launching their projects. Here are some examples of what residents are doing to lay the groundwork for success.
To establish a project brand, project leaders in Cortez, Colorado went directly to residents for help: they held a community-wide project logo contest, which attracted submissions from all corners of the city. This early effort promoted the project while inviting residents—many of them previously uninvolved—to have a say from the very beginning.
Raising awareness and inviting participation are critical elements of Heart & Soul Planning. Volunteers in Essex, Vermont marched in the Memorial Day parade showing their support for the initiative and calling on others to join. To appeal to all sorts of different people, they’ve launched a local trivia contest, staffed a mobile photo booth, and created a Little Free Library devoted to the project.
Without youth involvement, Heart & Soul can’t honestly speak to the future. In the North Fork Valley, Colorado the local pubic radio station has partnered with the Heart & Soul team to develop a two-year youth storytelling and news corps program called Pass the Mic. Fourteen young reporters have been assigned a “beat” on a North Fork industry, like mining or agriculture—an inventive way to both engage youth and create a media-arts partnership.
Back in Cortez, team leaders polled 400 high school students to learn about their interests. More than 300 responded to the survey and 54 have said they want to get more involved with the project and their City as a whole. That interest prompted local boards and committees to consider creating seats for youth representation.
Building local capacity to sustain progress over time is another key element to the Heart & Soul approach. In Polson, Montana the team offered a workshop to strengthen community leadership and collaboration. They will soon be training volunteers to facilitate community conversations.
To spread the word, North Fork Valley team leaders hosted story collection booths at town events, including Paonia’s Cherry Days Festival. In Gardiner, Maine, Heart & Soul leaders handed out story sharing invitations at a Drive Out Cancer fundraising event. City Councilors are personally donating up to $1000 for each person that agrees to do an interview.
Early action on the ground builds momentum for a project. For the first time in the North Fork Valley’s history, Paonia, Hotchkiss and Crawford are teaming up on collaborative projects, like a tri-town mural and flower planting in Crawford, the Valley’s gateway community.
Dedicated volunteers and staff in our Heart & Soul towns have set the stage for more gatherings this fall where residents will have the opportunity to share what they love most about their towns—the basis for creating a shared vision for the future. Stay tuned!