Created by the Orton Foundation out of the Vermont Country Store, we think it would be a wonderful process for the town of Charlotte to engage in.
We see Charlotte as our home, all of us here in this beautiful landscape, all of us loving it for different reasons.
We see Charlotte as a small town with over 3900 big opinions and ideas, and we want to know all of them – as much for the act of coming together to talk about it as for the content.
We see Charlotte in the context of the entire nation, navigating a global pandemic, and still in a politically charged time, needing to rediscover and re-enliven the public square – in person, not online.
We recognize that not all Charlotte residents feel empowered to come to town meetings or speak out at them – nor do we necessarily see town meetings and town government as the best venues in which to facilitate this kind of conversation.
Our collective narratives don’t always mesh perfectly, and sometimes they may conflict. But they are all valid, they all deserve an ear. Coaxing them out of people and into the public consciousness of our little corner of the world is a big part of the process of Community Heart and Soul.
The other part is to share these narratives in a way that helps us find the common ground to serve as a basis for future action that can help enhance those things we love most about our community.
In December, the Selectboard reorganized the Planning Commission with a newly defined mission: to focus on actual planning and to serve as a catalyst for charting the future direction of the Town.
While CH&S is not directly affiliated with making the town plan, this is a great time for a town to discover, and express its priorities.
Community Heart & Soul was designed to help small communities stay vital and relevant. We think it would be a great way to ensure that any future plans or actions are grounded in broad community input.
Importantly, CH&S focuses on the positive. The process seeks out people who have not already come to the proverbial “table,” bringing that table to people and groups who might feel their voices haven’t been heard.
This will not be not a government program. Although the research on CH&S has been spearheaded by the Planning Commission, and the effort has been endorsed by the Selectboard, we understand that the key to a successful Heart & Soul process will be broad community support and involvement in its planning and execution.
That is why we are reaching out to community organizations and individuals for their help.
There are three principal ways to help: volunteer to host and event or to be on the steering committee; donate time or skills (including grant writing! We are eligible for quite a few); or donate money.
If you are interested in learning more, or to find out how you can help, please contact Kyra Wegman (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Robert Bloch (email@example.com).