Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Community Service

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Right's Day. It is a day in honor of a man who did a great deal of community service in his life, and there has been a movement in recent years to have a day of caring and serving be the focus of the day.

A few years ago, my son and I signed up for, and assisted with, service in Rochester. We went to a shelter and assisted the humanitarians who run the shelter with a day of cleaning and purging through the accumulated articles that had found their way to the shelter. Some of the articles had been left behind when people moved on, some had been donations that the shelter could not use, and others were things that had broken or tore, or what have you, that had just become unusable.

I really enjoyed this day. Theo and I had a strong experience together and with those we chose to serve.

On Friday, I received a copy of the magazine that the college I attended sends to alumni. Not surprisingly the magazine is primarily a ad for the school's alumni giving program. They want to show you the value of the school's name and how others who have felt that value have given back (especially financially). One way they accomplish this, is by focusing on current events at the school. This being January, and being delivered close to MLK day, a focus was on service programs and academics.

When I was a freshman, all those incoming students into the Liberal Arts college had to partake in a day of service the first day of school. I suppose, more accurately, it was the day before the first day of school. We all arrived a day or so early and after unpacking and getting to know our roommates, we were loaded into the school's gymnasium, er athletic center, and it was impressed upon us how we needed to give back to the community around us. Well, that and we all learned the school's fight song, so we could sing along during basketball games (I proudly only went to one - a girls homecoming game).

So after the group discussion and sing along, we were escorted to buses and driven to Southeast Washington, DC. My group patrolled the Anacostia River looking for garbage, and drug paraphernalia. This being 1993 there was a lot of both. Actually, there wasn't too much garbage, just syringes and the like. Anyway, we performed this clean up for about 6 hours. It was very rewarding. In retrospect, I look at this adventure as one of the highlights of my college years. It really was a great experience to be in the nation's capital (in itself very different than Dover), and reaching out to a community.

Last night, we had the kickoff meeting for the Master Plan Steering committee. We had met once before to go over logistics, when we'll meet, elect a chair etc, but this was the first meeting with the consultant. The seven folks who have volunteered to assist us are performing a similar community service. I don't mean they are picking up drug paraphernalia, but they are reaching out and venturing into an unknown place, offering to help us.

These are people who could join a committee or board with a clear function, say the rec advisory board, instead they have placed their lot with a committee which is charting the future. Charting the unknown, as it were. It is a great group of community minded folks who are interested in giving back and shaping the community. One major difference between my formative service day in 1993 and last night is that the group last night wants to work with the community, and not for it. We didn't have any residents (as far as I know) from Southeast DC with us that day, but the group last night will have residents of Dover working with us for the next 6 months.

I am proud of the group selected by the Planning Board to assist me in developing the community vision for Dover. I know many of the members, and so will you. We have long term volunteers, a councilor, a planning board member, some new faces and some you will hear a lot more about in the coming months and years. The group is energetic, interested, and boosters of the community around them. They care, and they are invested in Dover.

The best part is that you are also going to do some community service along with the group. You wont' have to attend monthly meetings, but we will ask you to contribute in other ways. We'll have three community wide meetings, as well as three regional meetings in smaller settings. We will have surveys and dialog in written and online methods, as well as in person dialog. We will start the outreach portion of the Community Visioning in the coming weeks, if not days, and there will be a role for us all.

So, congratulations, and welcome aboard, because whether you know it or not, you've been drafted to help develop a community vision.

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