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Be A True Patriot In Your Community

People generally have a basic understanding of the long-term civic story of the community where they live if they’ve lived there for any length of time. Their version may not be totally accurate, but most people are able to connect their community’s past to what is happening there now. This usually gives them hope for a better future for themselves and their neighbors, especially if most members of their community can quickly identify their local patriots.

However, that can be tricky. True patriots don’t generally label themselves as such. They also don’t waste other people’s time by complaining about their community and they certainly don’t damage or destroy public property; harm other people; or try to overthrow a duly elected government. Instead, you will usually find true patriots quietly working within the system to get things done. They are the people who drive a community forward.

Interestingly, true patriots aren’t always people holding powerful positions, but they do strongly influence what’s happening to their fellow residents. That’s because they look around, see what needs to be done, and then find ways to make it happen. Sometimes its big things, like saving a business; organizing a rally or an event to raise awareness about a cause important to all residents; or raising money to support projects. Yet many other times it’s the small stuff they do that make the biggest differences in a community.

Patriots volunteer their time, and sometimes their expertise, to improve their corner of the world. They also check in with their local authorities to make sure their plans don’t violate any regulations. If they want to see something happen that is outside their wheelhouse, they’ll go to community or governmental meetings to advocate for their idea. Sometimes they even start grass roots groups to move ideas forward.

What kind of community improvement projects do they work on? Some advocate for big economic development projects. Others simply organize block parties. Some organize for safety and security, like neighborhood watch groups. Others work on community beautification projects like beach sweeps and highway clean-ups.

You’ve probably noticed beautiful hanging flower baskets on light poles in many downtowns. In Dunkirk, those weren’t funded by your tax dollars and they didn’t just magically appear. The all-volunteer Revitalize Dunkirk group made it happen. This group of true patriots took their community beautification idea to city officials. After the city approved their plan and agreed to help with hanging the baskets, watering the flowers, and storing them during the winter, the group began soliciting donations from local residents and businesses. Those funds, along with a grant from the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation, resulted in the beautiful flower baskets adorning Dunkirk.

Volunteer efforts, some organized by community groups and others conducted randomly by concerned individuals or families, can make a huge difference in a community. People focused on the possibilities, rather than wasting energy on complaining, can make a much bigger difference in the state of their communities.

Keep current on what’s happening in your area. Read the paper. Go to community meetings. Talk to other people about what you think would help and how it could happen. If you don’t already know the movers and shakers, ask around until you find them. Then pitch your ideas.

You can make a better world for everyone. Start in your own community. Be a true patriot.

Patty Hammond is economic development coordinator at the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation. The Local Economic Development (LED) Initiative is a standing committee of the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation. Send comments or suggestions to Patty Hammond at phammond@nccfoundation.org.

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