January 26 was an amazing night in Elkhart County, Indiana. The kickoff event for Elkhart County, Indiana’s Vibrant Communities initiative brought 593 community members together to start the conversation about what makes their community a great place to live and how to make it even better.
Peter Kageyama, author of “For The Love of Cities,” delivered the keynote address at the two-hour event and encouraged community leaders to think small. The event has generated a huge positive “buzz” in the County, with significant coverage in the county’s largest newspapers, The Elkhart Truth and Goshen News.
“All I can say is ‘WOW!’ commented Diane Lawson, Executive Director of the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau, “Everyone is buzzing about the energy, ideas and excited about the next step. This was a HOME RUN! That’s the term I’ve heard over and over.”
Much of the credit for the event’s success and that of the Vibrant Communities process so far goes to Kyle May who has been coordinating the effort.
Here’s a roundup of the event coverage:
“(I)t became evident area residents are ready to actively help shape the future of the communities they call home,” The Elkhart Truth’s Ben Quiggle wrote in a story that also captured a warm reception from Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese. “I love the flexibility, the fact that there is no predetermined path and the receptive attitude they have toward ideas,” the newly inaugurated mayor told the newspaper.
“If we want to make Elkhart County the best place in Indiana to raise a family, start a business, and grow up, then we have to work together,” Vibrant Communities co-chair Gina Leichty said in John Kline’s story in The Goshen News.
“(Elkhart) County is used to taking care of bigger projects like fixing potholes and other road work, but they’re trying to focus on the little things now for the betterment of the county,” said WNDU reporter Shaun Gallagher in introducing his report.
“Today is just the first step as Elkhart County takes a big step in planning for its future,” said Fox 28 reporter Eric Crouch in a piece that included an interview with keynote speaker Peter Kageyama.
ABC57’s Andreina Centlivre highlighted the 593 attendees as “a lot to voluntarily show up to spend their Tuesday night … talking with neighbors about ways to make their county better.”
The Elkhart Truth and Goshen News also wrote of Vibrant Communities on their editorial pages, with The Truth lauding the effort and calling for the process to be open to all in an editorial that ran two days before the kickoff. Following the event, the News called attention to the need for county residents to become more emotionally invested in their hometowns.
The kickoff was exciting, but the real work continues in Community Conversations meetings that start the week of Feb. 22.