When a Community Cares Amazing Things Happen

From L to R: Volunteers install a support beam at the Haigh Street build in Seneca Falls as part of Habitat’s 2016 projects. Children from Elizabeth Cady Stanton School enjoy a book with Menzo Case on Read to Children Day. The start line of the 19K leg of the Inaugural Right to Run. Menzo Case and Katie MacIntyre prepare to reveal the women’s suffrage sculpture ‘Passage’ at Generations HQ.

I grew up in a rural setting in Upstate New York about two miles from Fonda’s “downtown.”  My closest friends lived on a dairy farm also about two miles from home, which was nothing to travel on my trusty bicycle.  Our school was a “central” school, a product of two rivals coming together many years ago, with about 2,000 students K through 12.  I suppose it would not surprise the reader to hear that I married a girl that I have known since kindergarten.  Needless to say, we were a tight community, which is the subject of this post.

Menzo Case
Menzo Case

Community is so important and by that I mean the relationships that we forge over time while working toward a common goal are important.  Putting people together in one place does not a community make (hmmm, a Yoda statement that is).  Did you ever visit a big city and notice the emptiness in their collective lives?  Everything is a rush, and it seems that the individual is the most important thing (i.e., what’s in it for me?).  Sure, there are exceptions, generally for those that are less well off and that are often left behind.

The ties that bind are people working together.  My favorite hobby is building homes with Habitat for Humanity.  The objective is simple; build homes for families that are safe, efficient and affordable.  The means by which we achieve that is through a mix of the family’s efforts, volunteers pitching in and paid professionals doing the heavy lifting.  Nothing is given away – the family must repay the cost of their home, which is the source for the next build.  I think this is the essence of community.  We take care of our own.  We move as a group toward the prize.  Allowances are made to help those that need it.  No one gets a free ride.  The result so far – 16 homes built, three in the wings and a two-apartment building renovation project underway.  Pretty sweet!

Our upstate towns are great places for families to learn about community.  We are, in general, very small, which provides us all the opportunity to participate in developing and implementing plans.  Even our youngest can work to achieve the dream. There are success stories throughout our State that are as beacons of light for us all – Saratoga Springs, Lake Placid, Skaneateles to name a few.  They thrive despite one of the worst business environments in all the States.  What makes them special?  They all had to create a plan – emphasizing their particular “thing” – and then implement it.  With an increased emphasis on competitive grants provided by New York State, our towns need to take to heart the planning process.

Now, there’s nothing inherently fun about traditional planning, at least not in my experience.  However, it is what sets apart those that succeed from those that do not.  But, we must remember, “A dream comes through the multitude of business; and a fool is known by a multitude of words.”  So, when we do come together, plan and, then, most importantly, work, we can accomplish great things.  Here’s to much more success as we move forward together.