Among the 40 or so people who gathered today for the 30th in a series of Community Needs Forum “working lunches” were a few like Camey Thurner who had attended the very first gathering in January 2009. There were also six people for whom this was their very first time attending.
Sister Marcia Allen welcomed them all to lunch in the auditorium of the Nazareth Motherhouse, and then gave a litany of large and small projects the group as a whole has accomplished over the past nearly seven years since the Sisters of St. Joseph began hosting these gatherings.
The list ranged from one-time events like the volunteer fair in September 2011 to the ongoing Year of Peace activities that are now in their sixth year. In between were major projects — creating the Concordia Community Garden of Hope and the anti-poverty Hands Across our Community program — and smaller efforts such as book studies in collaboration with the Frank Carlson Library and an updated Community Resource Guide.
“That’s the path we’ve been on,” Sister Marcia told the group. “Now, where do we go from here?”
To find an answer, those attending the lunch were asked two questions:
Thinking in terms of a grassroots effort where the solution can come from the people (or members or residents) themselves…
What do you see as the greatest need for Concordia?
What do you see as the greatest need of your organization (or agency or neighborhood)?
• • • • • • • •
People at each table then had time to discuss their concerns and come up with answers to share with the larger group.
There were wide-ranging answers: Helping people get insurance, providing more social activities for young people, establishing shelters for both men and women, ensuring affordable daycare is available, eliminating hunger and encouraging volunteerism.
A few groups expressed the need to “improve the hospital situation” — in recruiting and retaining staff as well as the facility itself.
Several tables cited “jobs” or “economic development” as among the greatest needs in the community.
“Much of this boils down to economic development,” said Cloud County Health Center CEO Cherri Waites. “Jobs that pay a good wage solve other issues. But we need the Chamber (of Commerce) and CloudCorp here at this meeting to be part of this discussion.”
Another theme was “negativity,” ranging from naysayers who complain about Concordia to people unwilling to explore new ideas.
Concordians need to talk about what’s good about the community, said Madison Ritterling, who recently moved back to Concordia and is now the director of the Cloud County Resource Center.
“I came back,” the 2006 Concordia High School graduate said. “This is an awesome place to raise a family.”
Sister Marcia and Sister Jean Rosemarynoski will compile the answers from today’s working lunch and present a report on them at the next session, sometime early in 2016.
Today’s gathering also featured reports on a number of upcoming events:
- The Motherhouse Pumpkin Patch will be open this weekend (Oct. 17 and 18) and on Halloween. Hours will be 1 to 5 p.m. all three days, and admission is $3 per person. There will be hay rides, children’s games and other activities – as well as pumpkins — in the “patch” on the east side of the Nazareth Motherhouse.
- The Concordia Lutheran Church will host a fundraiser for the North Central Kansas Down Syndrome Society in its Fellowship Hall, 325 E. Eighth St., this Sunday (Oct. 18). Members of the group will be serving Sloppy Joes and Sloppy Dogs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. All proceeds from the freewill donation will benefit the local group.
- The Wednesday evening community suppers will soon mark their first anniversary at Christian Church, 614 Cedar St. Volunteer Camey Thurner said between 175 and 200 people come for the meal most Wednesday evenings, adding, “This is a huge thing for our community that has come out of my being here at this meeting.” She said the church does not accept freewill offerings to pay for the meal, “because this is our offering to the community.”
Anyone who wants more information on the Community Needs Forum or who would like to be notified of the next gathering may contact Sister Jean at 243-2149 or firstname.lastname@example.org.