by Felicia Mycyk, Ambridge Heart & Soul
We did it -- four events in one weekend! It was a challenge but we organized four Community Heart & Soul picnics in local parks throughout Ambridge. We followed CDC recommended guidelines which allowed residents to have a low-pressure experience meeting our leadership team and learning about how Ambridge Heart & Soul will become the basis for building our community's shared values and unique action plan.
I can honestly say, I love where we are at in this journey.
Community Heart & Soul is about storytelling and how it can help communities build brighter futures together. The goal is to involve as many residents as possible, including those who are underrepresented and have not typically had a voice in their community's planning processes.
During our picnics, residents were welcomed and encouraged to visit five stations to help set the stage for meaningful and transformative action plans.
Each station had a different experience:
- Station one: Learn more about Ambridge Heart & Soul's upcoming events and put a pin on where you live on the large map.
- Station two: Traveling Chalkboard of Public Wishing. Also, take-home bags of chalk with a note to go home and share you wishes on the sidewalks to post.
- Station three: We all need to eat—free hotdogs, chips, and drinks.
- Station four: Create your custom banner by finishing the sentence, "I want Ambridge to be ..."
- Station five: Let's help Ambridge Heat & Soul go viral with a resident-led video project.
It will be an uphill battle to earn people's trust in a town where it wasn't always easy to be heard. Fortunately, there is training and support from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and the folks at Community Heart & Soul that will help everyone join together and collectively make a lasting impact.
This is not new terrain for me as a longtime advocate for civic engagement in Ambridge. The Community Heart & Soul program builds on my own work of making meaningful change through conversations and storytelling.
We are on our way to greater inclusivity and shared decision-making with these recent picnics, which engaged those missing voices and helped us learn more about what is important to our community. The next step is identifying shared values, called Heart & Soul Statements.
We are setting the stage for meaningful and transformative plans for action!
I can already envision us doing the strategic group events -- that we have yet to plan but will be coming in the future -- because we laid the foundation and started the conversation. I see our Community Heart & Soul events allowing safe discussions where residents want to connect, converse, and answer real questions about their community in places like the library, parks, and more.
Resident-driven starts with residents seeing themselves in positions to be heard!
Kudos to our team for being exactly what this community needs to make Ambridge what we all know it can be! Relish the process because we will see results in each event moving forward.