Throughout the years, Ames and Story County have been fortunate to receive numerous accolades for our high quality of life. Whether we are listed as a great place to raise a family, retire, or recreate, these accolades align with what I have often heard from our own residents: “We have a great community.” This is a vague phrase, but we seem to universally understand it as a summing-up of our community’s positive traits. It is also a casual phrase, yet it implies that there is a tremendous ongoing effort, both intentional and organic, to maintain and enhance our positive attributes. This effort is the act of community development.
Although community and economic development are separate concepts, they are generally interdependent and interlocking. They reinforce one another, and a strong presence of both builds resiliency for communities and regions. Story County is replete with examples. In Roland, a group of local mothers banned together to form a pool committee. The existing 50-year-old pool was in state of hastening deterioration, but the committee understood the importance of maintaining the facility for their children and future generations. They volunteered their time to create a campaign to save the pool, and they succeeded with the overwhelming passage of a $3.1 million bond. While the pool will not directly generate revenue for the city, it is an asset that will serve to retain and attract young families to Roland. Those people may purchase homes, shop locally, or work within the laborshed. Some may start businesses. Their children may attend Roland-Story. The committee members themselves developed grantwriting, public relations, and community development skills, and their success provides them with the momentum to apply these skills to the next project.
In a time of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, past, present, and future community development efforts are especially important. Strong service clubs, booster groups, foundations, religious institutions, and other organizations provide a support structure for residents and businesses. Their very existence creates a culture of mutuality and a sense of obligation among their members to help, and this culture catches fire. For instance, look around, and you will find it difficult to avoid the phrase “We are in this together.” There is no phrase that better captures the spirit of community. It mirrors local pride, commitment, empathy, shared experience, and mutual obligation. It reflects our connectedness. Locally, the #StoryCountyStrong campaign similarly embodies this spirit of community.
It is in this spirit that we uplift the efforts of every individual to make Story County a “great place to live.” Whatever your role, know that it is because of your efforts that we have the pride and connectedness to endure difficult times and emerge stronger than ever, together.
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