3 minute read

IGNITE July 2020

Community engagement will never look the same after 2020

Growing up in the 80s, I can remember fun things to do throughout the year, like attending On the Waterfront or Gus Macker tournament, theatre/play productions, serving food to the less fortunate, participating in neighborhood clean-ups, family picnics at the park, attending meetings with my mother and going to my neighbor’s house to play. People didn’t mind working together. People weren’t scared to let their children play outside or walk to the corner store with their friends.

Over the years, things have definitely changed. You don’t see too many people who will give a simple “hello” when crossing paths or even offer a head nod just to acknowledge another human being. Crime, stress, racism, poverty, education, hate and fear have taken over our society. Our leading voices have been silenced. Most statements are being taken out of context. People are so scared to have conversations with the fear of not being politically correct.

There’s an obvious uncomfortable feeling when you’re in a room with people who don’t look like you. People would rather hold a grudge than to hold a conversation. Something has been lost. That ‘something’ is different for everyone. So where do we go from here? As we adjust to our new reality in the face of COVID-19 and times of social distancing, isolation and quarantine, there are many factors to consider when thinking about getting involved in service and community engagement.

Meaningful community engagement is not about logging a certain number of hours or helping in a particular way -- it is about being responsive to community needs and realities, and considering if and where you might be able to help support those needs.

There are many who get caught up with organizations and the people who support those set groups. You don’t have to be a part of a particular organization or group in order to do something positive for your community. Young professionals are being challenged to think outside the box and adapt to new ways of working with others.

Get Out, Get Involved

At HomeStart, a non-profit home counseling agency here in Rockford, we can assist with things like foreclosure prevention, buying or improving your home, credit, online homebuyer education: eHome & framework, financing options and down payment assistance, but we can’t solve all issues. The city and elected officials will only do so much.

It’s up to us as young professionals to work together as much as possible in order to get things done.

HomeStart meets with other organizations, such as Habitat For Humanity, United Way of Rock River Valley, Rockford Housing Authority, RAMP, City of Rockford employees, Jeremiah Development, YSN, Winnebago County Health Department and Region 1 Planning Council, every month to discuss what events are going on, how we can bring resources together in order to accomplish goals and give information on any new programs available that could help residents in the area.

Face-to-face interaction may come in the form of a computer screen, phone or tablet. Zoom, StreamYard and WebEx are becoming the new “norm” for business meetings. Young professionals can easily get more involved, since we now have the luxury of handling business while being on the go or even from the comfort of our home. Not only must we embrace the advancement of technology, but this is a prime time to get with those from younger generations and see what ideas they have and what different talents they are willing to bring to the table. Going beyond that, let us teach them what we know. There are so many professions out there, and many are not exposed to them.

Understand that you may not get paid for the time you spend teaching someone a trade, but also remember there will be a point in time where you may no longer be able to take care of yourself. Your children and/or grandchildren will have to rely on someone else teaching them things, such as how to change a tire, unclog a sink, put on make-up, cook, build a house, etc. Now ask yourself, “Are they prepared?” If not, then it’s time to make time.

Let’s make change together. Let’s get out of our comfort zone, get out and ask questions, get involved and teach those willing to learn. It starts with YOU!