Community leaders ponder the ‘Soul of the Community’ at our Annual Dinner

Last night, the Community Foundation held our annual dinner. It was a fun night where more than 150 supporters of the Foundation got together, shared ideas, honored members of the community who have made a difference, all while eating some delicious Nittany Lion Inn food.

They also had the opportunity to learn more about the Soul of the Community, a project that we at the Foundation have been bringing to the attention of people with the hope that it will help us to improve our community.

The Soul of the Community project, a 3-year $2.371 million partnership between Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, shows that when people feel attached to the communities they live in, those communities experience positive GDP growth. It also shows that aesthetics, openness and social offerings are the qualities that create the strongest sense of attachment to a place.

At our Annual Dinner on Monday night, Dr. Katherine Loflin spoke about what makes people love their communities.

After everyone finished their dinner, our speaker, Dr. Katherine Loflin, a lead consultant and national expert on the Soul of the Community project, talked about the value of placemaking. She told the audience that more and more these days, young people are choosing a place they want to be, and finding a job later.

She said that, although the Centre County area reported the highest level of attachment among the 26 communities surveyed by Knight, there was still work to do in order to reach the 22 percent of respondents who said they did not feel attached to our community.

She also gave examples of projects other communities have done to increase their residents’ attachment. Some of the more interesting ideas included sending people on a scavenger hunt throughout the community to help them learn new things about where they live, creating a website where people post photos and articles about the things and places they love most about their community, and creating stickers that say “I wish this was…” and encouraging people to post them around town in places they would like to see improved.

Dr. Loflin also joined us this afternoon for a workshop, where she presented these ideas to community leaders, including local government officials and nonprofit directors, and encouraged them to discuss the Soul of the Community findings and come up with ideas for how to improve the community through placemaking initiatives.

Greg Hayes won the Future of the Foundation award at our annual dinner Monday night.

Our dinner also featured an awards ceremony, in which two local men and an organization were honored for their contributions to the community. Greg Hayes, Vice President at Kish Bank, received the Future of the Foundation award, which recognizes a young person who has shown extraordinary commitment to the community. Among his many philanthropic activities, Hayes is President of the Board of Directors for Habitat For Humanity of Greater Centre County, Treasurer and member of the Board of Directors for The Friends of the Palmer Museum, and Treasurer and past President of the Board of Managers for the State College Branch of the YMCA of Centre County.

Don Hamer, a former Centre County Community Foundation board member who actively supports environmental causes through organizations like Clearwater Conservancy, received the Oak Tree award, which honors commitment to the Centre County Community Foundation.

The Centre County Federation of Public Libraries received the Kathryn S. Weaver award. The award recognizes the Federation’s great impact on the community, through programs such as the CCCF and Knight Foundation co-sponsored initiative to make high-speed Internet more available throughout the county.

Thanks to everyone who came out to the dinner last night or the luncheon this afternoon with Dr. Loflin. Her presentations provoked a lot of interest and discussion, and we look forward to continuing to discuss the information in the Soul of the Community project, and to brainstorming with community members about how to make Centre County’s residents feel more attached to where they live, and in turn, to make Centre County a better, more prosperous place.

Do you have any creative ideas about how to make people care about our community more? Don’t keep them to yourself! Let us know!

-Erin

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