Does it need a transfusion?

By Doug Friedli – Fremont County Hometown Pride Community Coach and Gerald F. Schnepf – Executive Director of Keep Iowa Beautiful

When arriving on an accident or disaster scene where there are people with multiple injuries, medics make a quick triage assessment of all the victims to determine which ones to treat first. There are those who are going to survive without any immediate treatment. There are those, sadly, who are probably not going to survive regardless of the best emergency efforts. The victims that the medics focus on first are the ones who have a good chance of surviving if they get some quick medical attention.

Similarly, outsiders when visiting a community conduct an informal assessment of our hometowns. The “heartbeat” and health of a community is measured by them utilizing:

  • A positive first impression on entry to the community and on driving around,
  • A ‘can do’ attitude evident by a sense of excitement they in the business or social community.,
  • Community willingness to improve by seeing efforts underway for enhancement,
  • A shared vision / road map for the future that is shared by citizens and local leaders.
  • Leadership that is proactive with these individuals proud to proclaim what is happening in their community
  • Experiencing committed citizens willing to work together with an obvious sense of pride, and
  • Financial and in-kind support to help achieve the shared vision by completed or projects underway.

The addition of one or more of these elements can provide a “transfusion” to the community. Bricks and mortar projects alone, without community support, vision and leadership, have value, but may not provide for the long-term sustainability of the total community.

With these elements in place the community can develop, execute and implement plans to address the full range of key quality of life issues:

  • Cultural vitality (arts, events, celebrations, etc.),
  • Recreational amenities,
  • Economic stability and sustainability.
  • Housing needs,
  • Infrastructure, public services and communication ability

In today’s economy, a key to a community’s health and survival is high quality communication. Citizens must have access to the world through high speed broadband internet and reliable wireless cell phone service in order to be competitive in the global economy.

The biggest struggle for most communities is access to financial capital – the life blood of any community. It indicates whether the heartbeat is healthy or not.

The creation of an endowment fund is one life-saving treatment or transfusion for a community that can have a significant positive impact on both the short and long term health of the community. We are fortunate in Iowa that there are county wide foundations that receive and distribute funds for projects and programs around the county. Their funds are often limited and may not serve everyone or every community that needs the help.

However, developing an unrestricted endowment for your specific community allows residents and former residents an additional opportunity to invest back directly into their hometown…the place that provided them the basic elements of their success: education, friendships, ethics, values, etc. Grants from a community endowment are an annual transfusion of life blood to improve the future of the community.

Yet, similar to the medics performing the triage, former and current residents will only invest in their hometown if the community shows vital signs indicating it has the will and the ability to survive and recover. Are there recent indicators that there is there a sense of pride by the local leadership and residents? Are community leaders making changes and looking ahead. Are community improvements being made by local volunteers? Are residents investing their own time, talent and treasure for the betterment of the community?

This is a critical time for many of Iowa’s communities. Give some thought of how you can help “payback” and “pay forward” by establishing and supporting a community foundation for your hometown. Investments of cash, crops, appreciated assets and / or real estate can make a huge difference.

Making a gift to a local community endowment indicates your confidence in the survival of the community and its people. Help the heartbeat of you community. What will be the size of your transfusion (donation)…a pint, a quart or a gallon?