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It is amazing the effect that each of us has on the communities of which we are a part.  The work we do, the relationships we foster, the things we say and stand for, all have a ripple effect that impacts our circles of influence for years into the future.  Through my reflections for this class I have come to appreciate the work I was called to do in Elbow Lake, Minnesota in new ways.

In my first reflection paper, “Created & Called” (2012), I talked about coordinating the Land of Lakes Group Workcamp.  Even though housing rehabilitation was not something with which I had previous experience, I quickly became a part of that world and very passionate about housing issues.  I now realize I was called to more than just working on that particular project for a year; I was called to bring people together to talk about the injustices faced in their neighborhoods in regards to housing.

Two years after the completion of the Workcamp I was invited by some neighbors to attend an informational meeting.  The City of Elbow Lake had decided to start an overdue infrastructure project to rebuild our neighborhood’s water utility, sewer, and streets.  However, the city had not budgeted for the project and the proposed assessments were astronomical.  Our neighborhood was comprised mostly of senior citizens and young families, and many of them were concerned they would be forced to move in order to avoid assessments that approached their property value.  Needless to say, the meeting was heated from the start; people were angry and scared.  A state legislator and lawyer were there, and they both called for a neighborhood association to be formed to work with the city in addressing our concerns.  My friend, Johanna, and I knew we needed to act or this situation was headed for disaster.  I left the meeting as vice president and Joey joined me as treasurer of the Westside Association.

In summary, after three years of effort our association was able to create positive change for the entire community of Elbow Lake.  We kept a potentially hostile situation on constructive terms, working with the city to procure grant money to cover 90% of the costs and educating the rest of town about the brokenness of the city’s tax policy.  We were able to keep the assessments reasonable and got the whole community talking about what needed to change in order for us to run our town within our means.

It took a whole neighborhood working together to come to this conclusion.  McKnight & Block explained, “Associations are a primary place in community where individual capacities get expressed” (2012, p. 71).  We had all of the resources we needed to get the job done right in our own neighborhood: a state legislator, a lawyer, and old ladies to pass out newsletters on their morning walks.  I understand now my neighbors trusted me to lead our association through this complicated mess because of my background, and success, in housing advocacy.  I had gone from not knowing what I was doing to being the expert!

It only takes one person to create change, but when a community works together for a common goal, the end result is amazing.  We each have a responsibility to do what we are called to in order to bring about positive change in our communities.  I need to take that responsibility seriously and encourage others to join me.  No more waiting; the time is now.

References

Clements Orlan, K. S. (2012). Created & called. Informally published manuscript, Master of Arts in Servant Leadership, Viterbo University, La Crosse,W.I., Retrieved from https://kristaclementsorlan.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/created-called/

McKnight, J., & Block, P. (2012). The abundant community: Awakening the power of families and neighborhoods. San Francisco, C.A.: Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

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