Your Town is home

Your town is not just a place. It's home. Your town's unique character along with the deep emotional connection felt by the people who live there is your town’s “Heart & Soul.”

Our mission

The Orton Family Foundation seeks to empower people to shape the future of their communities by improving local decision-making, creating a shared sense of belonging, and ultimately strengthening the social, cultural, and economic vibrancy of each place.

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Resident-driven positive change

Community Heart & Soul is a catalyst for positive change in small cities and towns. By actively seeking the collective wisdom of all residents, including those whose voices are often missing, Community Heart & Soul brings people together to build stronger, healthier, and more economically vibrant communities.

This resident-driven model takes into account both the unique character of a town and the deep emotional connection of the people who live there – a town’s “Heart & Soul.” These collective insights into what truly matters most serve to guide the town in making the best decisions about its future.

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Discover Heart & Soul

From Trash Town to Leading the Way

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1.6 million square feet of former textile mill space downtown. Before Community Heart & Soul, 400K square feet were occupied. Six years after Heart & Soul, only 400K square feet were available.

Leaders in Biddeford, Maine, discovered support for razing an incinerator downtown, sparking an economic turnaround.

Long struggling textile mill town, Biddeford (pop. 21,000), had come to be defined by the trash incinerator in the center of town. Community Heart & Soul showed leaders that there was strong support for tearing it down. They did, and that sparked revitalization.

"Heart and Soul helped us instill confidence in investors and secure grants. How did this happen? It starts with the first guiding principle of the Heart & Soul process: Involve Everyone. One of the things I see the private sector looks for is a level of certainty when they invest in a community, and that level of certainty means something."

Daniel Stevenson, Economic Development Director, Biddeford, Maine

Make a difference

Local Residents

By design, Community Heart & Soul is resident-driven, actively seeking the collective wisdom of all residents, including missing voices.

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Elected/Appointed Officials

Community Heart & Soul boosts participation in local government, providing a roadmap for decision-making based on what matters most to everyone.

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Municipal Staff

Community Heart & Soul is a new way to do business based on what matters most to everyone.

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Community/Economic Development

Identifying a town's "heart and soul" leads to plans endorsed by residents, which instills confidence in investors.

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Public/Private Funders

When funders support Heart & Soul communities, both the community and the organization benefit as change moves from transactional to transformational.

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Nonprofit Organizations

For nonprofits seeking to make a lasting difference, Community Heart & Soul offers a resident-driven approach to community development.

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Helpful resources

“If you really want to take an in-depth look at what matters to the members of your community and create a stronger, more cohesive community, Heart & Soul’s the way to go.”
Maine House of Representatives and former Mayor Thom Harnett, Gardiner, Maine

A road map for positive change

The Field Guide is an overview of the four-phase Community Heart & Soul model and breaks the process into manageable steps and tasks. Download the free Field Guide today and start along the path to a stronger, healthier and more economically vibrant community based on what matters most to everyone.

Download Field Guide

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