Supervisor Cook Launches Community Engagement Initiative
It has been said that you don’t need to move in order to live in a better neighborhood. This statement reflects the power that individuals possess to effect positive change in their communities. As our lives have become busier and more complex and our society more diverse, we have lost some of our connections to one another, leaving us more isolated as individuals and our communities less connected than they once were. However, the Kings Park Neighborhood Initiative, which I launched as civic association president to increase civic engagement and pursue innovative approaches to property maintenance issues, proved that a desire for strong communities is very much alive. It just requires a bit of encouragement and direction.
To build upon that work and to expand its successes across the Braddock District, I am launching a Community Engagement Initiative. This Initiative is the result of a collaborative effort among my office, the Braddock District Council, Fairfax County’s Departments of Systems Management for Human Services and Community and Recreational Services, and Volunteer Fairfax. Our aim is nothing less than to generate a renewed sense of community and a new wave of service. We want to give community organizations the training and resources they need to marshal the great ethic of volunteerism that we know resides within the people of this county. We will train a new generation of community leaders, and build dozens of ‘engaged communities’ - places where people have made a specific commitment to strengthen their communities.
Building stronger communities begins with building stronger connections between people. It is incumbent upon us to get to know one another. Each month, I encourage each and every one of us to meet one new person on our street or in our neighborhood. We should hold block parties and say hello as we pass neighbors when walking down the street. And as our communities become more diverse in age, ethnicity, and socio-economic status, we must make a greater effort to get to know people with backgrounds different from our own. To make all feel welcome and invited to participate, our community organizations must make a special effort to reach out and include all people.
We use the term ‘community organizations’ in the broad sense. It includes home owners associations and civic associations, PTA’s, community pools, recreational clubs, scouts, and business and religious organizations. It also includes non-profit service organizations, which need not be geographically constrained. In all of this, government will act as a facilitator – bringing people together, providing expertise, sharing best practices and lessons learned.
We must realize that people make our neighborhoods, not government. For this endeavor to be real and lasting, we must inspire our residents and communities into action. To foster the development of leaders that strong communities and organizations require, we will hold a day-long Leadership Institute, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, January 23, 2010. This Institute will train current and prospective community leaders in topics such as the legal, financial and fiduciary duties that Board members owe their organizations, how to recruit volunteers, how to reach out to people of different backgrounds, how to run a meeting and how to establish an effective organization. We will also hold two “Neighborhood Colleges” in the February to April, 2010, timeframe. The Neighborhood College is a County program that produces engaged citizens by teaching participants about county government, concepts of community building, cultural competency and effective team building.
Graduates from the Leadership Institute and Neighborhood Colleges will be encouraged to recruit their neighbors and usher in a new era of community activity. Working with the Braddock District Council, the newly-inspired will strive to launch community building efforts, focusing on goals such as increased membership, providing more social opportunities, outreach to our diverse population, collaboration with other organizations, and the development of a long-term vision for the community or organization that focuses on positive growth. Throughout the year I look forward to traveling the district, encouraging our citizens to connect with their communities in new and powerful ways. Please contact my office if you wish to schedule a visit with your organization.
On Wednesday, October 21st, I will host a Town Hall meeting where I will formally launch this Community Engagement Initiative. The event will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Lake Braddock Secondary School cafeteria. Everyone is encouraged to attend, and can RSVP with my office at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (703) 425-9300. During the event, the process and goals of the Initiative will be explained in greater detail, and we will also provide an introduction to the Leadership Institute and Neighborhood Colleges. Attendees will be able to register for these learning opportunities and registration is free. Additionally, several organizations, such as the Braddock District Council, Neighborhood Watch, the Area Agency on Aging, and Emergency Response, will sponsor information booths on opportunities to become involved with your neighborhood.
I hope you will join me for our kick-off event, and commit yourself to helping to build stronger communities. Working together, we will usher in a new era of community engagement that will provide lasting benefits to all our communities.