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What is the cost of building community?

What is the cost if we don’t?

Community happened today.

In our Racine community TODAY, conversations happened, stories were shared, relationships grew stronger, food was eaten and connections made.

When you visit the Hospitality Center (Racine), there are no questions asked. You arrive to nourish both your body and your being whether you’re a guest or volunteer. Everyone and anyone are welcome.

Last month, on a sunny day in our city, neighboring happened. People gathered around an urban garden to plant, weed, converse, plan and dream. Neighbors tending the RUGN: The Racine Urban Garden Network garden engaged each other and passers by, shared the benefits of their efforts and educate on why fresh, healthy EASILY ACCESSIBLE food is so important. A nearby homeowner joined in the conversation offering use of her empty lot asking only one thing: “Let me know a day or two before so I can make sure the grass is cut”.

The significant neighboring that’s occurring here is building the foundation of a neighborhood that, in time, studies have proven will:

• Reduce poverty
• Reduce Crime
• Strengthen and combat loneliness
• Encourage citizenship and caring
• Build systems for belonging and community safety
• Develop and implement neighborhood or city-wide strategies for change

We are often asked, “What has VGR DONE? What have you completed? What have you initiated that has moved the needle”?

First off, our sights are set on a long-term presence. By 2030, we envision a thriving community we are all proud to call home.

THAT being said, teams have been meeting and forming only 16 months. It is important to note that successful, cohesive teams need time to build trust and relationships. The raw data from every visioning session was reviewed by teams to stay true to what the community has asked for. Leadership had to emerge, short and long term goals discussed and decided. Relationship and trust building takes time. Racine did not achieve the infamous ranking of being the 3rd worst city in the United States for African Americans to live overnight. Believing systemic change can happen overnight is unrealistic.

What HAS VGR done? What are a few quick successes?

• Art for Uptown (Revitalization W.A.V.E. Team)
• Pop-Up Wellness events on Monument Square (Healthy Productive Lives W.A.V.E. Team)
• TechPrize 2020 (Thriving Economy W.A.V.E. Team)
• Social Justice Community Roundtables (Social Justice W.A.V.E. Team)
• Interfaith Dialogue Dinners (Diverse & Collaborative Leadership W.A.V.E. Team)
• Racine BINGO Challenge (Pride & Positive Self Image W.A.V.E. Team)
• Sturtevant Compost Pilot (Model of Environmental Sustainability W.A.V.E. Team)
• Partnered with Higher Expectations for Racine County to publish a Racine-specific Kindergarten readiness book for all incoming K students (Education & Youth W.A.V.E. Team)
• Numerous events aiming towards interests of our young community members (Vibrant Atmosphere for Young Adults W.A.V.E. Team)

It’s easy to put a price tag on gardens, curbside compost initiatives, diverse dining events, public art installations and tangible W.A.V.E. Team initiatives.

The questions that we ask are:

• How do you put a price tag on the the side effects and end results of these community-based projects?
• How do you measure happiness, security, disaster preparedness, relationships, connectedness, quality of life, pride or COMMUNITY?

Canada has a NATIONAL system of neighborhood/block programming and states their 20% reduction in poverty is a result of projects such as these that simply CONNECTS NEIGHBORS. It should also be added that ALL of the funding comes from national, regional or local municipalities. Neighboring is a Canadian nation-wide focus.

VGR has:

• Listened, and continues to listen.
• Set a community table with space for anyone and everyone.
• Invited those, waiting to be asked, for input.
• Connected hundreds of passionate volunteers to impact change and create a new normal for what will be a thriving community we are all proud to call home.
• Supported team initiatives.
• Facilitated leadership training.
• Hosted social justice roundtables.
• Aligned with 30+ NFP and corporate community partners.
• Offered Cultural Competency training.

VGR has connected and continues to do so.

“Citizens are the true leaders of the community, they set the agenda”
“To connect assets, THERE MUST BE A CONNECTOR”
~John McKnight, Co-Author, “The Abundant Community”.

Visioning a Greater Racine is recognized and called out as an organization that has engaged our community at a level unlike any other.

Now is our time to engage the entire greater Racine area. Teams have projects, vision, passionate leaders and a commitment to our community.

VGR is poised to support all efforts moving forward, but we cannot do it without YOUR support.

We invite you to come to the community table. Volunteer, take a leadership role, join a committee, and yes, consider financial support.

You are cordially invited to impact change and help create a community we are all proud to call home.

For any information regarding VGR, contact: joan@visioningagreaterracine.org

www.visioningagreaterracine.org

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In addition to our education features, we’ll be kicking off a series of stories highlighting how parents, students, and educators are adapting to the impact of COVID-19 on education. If this is important to you, please consider donating to our education reporting fund. https://business.facebook.com/donate/1846323118855149/3262802717172659/