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The Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce would like to welcome guest blogger Rev. Dr. Clark Cowden. Rev Clark recapping the second Community Brainstorming Session:

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Community Brainstorming 

On March 23, a group of about 40 people gathered at the Emmanuel Methodist Church in West Vigo for their second Brainstorming Session in the last six months.  This gathering included two West Terre Haute town officials, a West Terre Haute town board member, a Vigo County Commissioner, a Vigo County Council member, a Terre Haute City Council member, two pastors, two elementary school principals, an aide to our U.S. congressional representative, leaders of the Riverscape group, a representative from St. Mary of the Woods college, a representative from the Vigo County library, a West Terre Haute police officer, someone from the Providence Food Pantry, the owner of the Sycamore Winery, some local business people, some church members, some community residents, two newspaper reporters, and one TV reporter.

The Rev. Dr. Clark Cowden, pastor of the Emmanuel Methodist Church, opened the gathering and emceed the evening.  The goal is to discover ways that businesses, schools, government, churches, health care providers, social services agencies, and community residents can work together to find the common ground that already exists and to discover a common vision for the future.  It is a gathering to help people network and build relationships, to know what other groups are already doing in the community, and find ways to build a stronger sense of teamwork to tackle the big challenges of today and tomorrow.  It is a time to cultivate dreaming and imagination and a hopeful sense of what the future could look like.  It is a time to develop action steps that will make a difference in the local area and make West Vigo an even stronger community.

A need had been expressed for more youth and family activities.  So, a number of people shared about upcoming Easter Egg Hunts, a community clean-up day, a Pennington Road clean-up day, Emily’s Walk/Arts Festival/Earth Day activities, exercise classes, a Vacation Bible School, and opportunities at the library.

Questions had been asked about transportation services, so a report was given regarding the possible start of bus service between West Terre Haute and Terre Haute.  There were also updates given about parks in the area, the healthy river initiative, rural development grants, and the new Sycamore Winery which hopes to open in early summer.  The group also heard from the Providence Food Pantry which is feeding 300 families a month, and which is in the process of purchasing their building.

Then, the group broke up into some round table discussions to talk about the biggest items that need attention in the community, and what areas of interest people have for making a difference.

When the small groups re-convened, they shared ideas they had discussed which included finding new ways to connect with the community, providing recycling services, and dealing with toxic waste.  They talked about providing a handout with information on free community services and how people could connect with them.  There was interest in putting a flyer together and walking around door to door to hand them out.

People talked about the need for safety for walking and riding bikes across the grade.  There is a need for a connector between Dresser and Dewey Point.

There was discussion about the need for funding for the West Vigo Community Center.  The United Way has had to reduce funding and this may jeopardize seniors’ programs and after school youth programs.

There was conversation about the need for jobs and new ways to improve the quality of life.  There is a need for positive marketing and good communication.  How can we focus on the positive aspects of the community, and build on them, to attract more visitors, residents, restaurants, and businesses?

The next gathering had been planned for September 21, but a number of people wanted to meet sooner.  So, there will probably be an early summer gathering.

After 90 minutes, the meeting officially ended, but a number of people stayed to continue their conversations and explore the ideas that had been expressed.  There was a very positive and hopeful spirit in the room as “wheels started turning” in people’s heads as people began to think of new ways to work together.

The hope is to be able to continue to provide a forum that will function like an incubator for new ideas.  This is a gathering to build community relationships so people will know who to talk to and how to get issues addressed.  A sense of teamwork is growing as people are beginning to see new possibilities and the openness others have to considering new strategies and working together to implement real action steps.  It is encouraging to see people across West Vigo who have a desire to come together and make a difference in their community.  Something is bubbling up from beneath the surface of the ground.  It will be interesting to see what it turns out to be!