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Community partners help make our lives meaningful

Community partners help make our lives meaningful Community partners help make our lives meaningful

It could be logically asked, ‘What is the big deal about a downtown commercial center, a town square, a Main Street?’

After spending a good many years advocating for the healthy revitalizing of these central cores of our communities, I have boiled it down to this: Our downtowns unite us when they serve as meeting and gathering places. We become a community when we exchange not just goods, services and ideas, but human camaraderie as well. Human beings need each other to survive and flourish.

Years ago, I met a young man who told me he had just been hired to find the center of Carmel, Ind. Carmel at that time was the expansion of Indianapolis residents who wanted new homes on large pieces of land. I had to laugh inside at his question. I had known Carmel as a small hardware store, a movie theater and, as I remember, it had a second-hand shop. It was an example of urban sprawl at its worst.

The question of finding the center of this disjointed growing community was asked as new leadership began to see potential in an aggressive, strong city growing out of the talent moving there from a decaying inner city of Indianapolis.

Look at Carmel today. They began by building a vibrant center for their community that included architectural quality, a diverse service and commercial district and creating enticing areas for people to gather, learn, participate and enjoy life. Carmel today is consistently named one of the best cities in which to live in the United States. They started by building the infrastructure that people needed to flourish and become active with each other.

During the day and on evenings, the sidewalks are alive with people. Their restaurants are busy. The road traffic controlled. Art, entertainment and recreation are draws to local people and visitors alike.

We are so fortunate in Harrison, Crawford and Floyd counties. We have town squares built and defined by history. The buildings remind us of the activities that our county courthouses brought to the areas. They are the center of populations in a geographical area and among people often of like heritage. However, with interstates and the commercial districts that developed at their interchanges, courthouse squares have been struggling to maintain their vitality. Our courthouse squares still define who we are as a people, and we can’t let them slip into becoming just nostalgic remnants of the past.

On April 12, the Main Street Corydon program hosted a regional meeting of communities using their downtown commercial areas as the foundation of community revitalization. They came to Corydon because of recent successful activities.

Angel Frizzell, executive director of Main Street Corydon, serves as the professional who performs tasks similar to those of a shopping center coordinator. She has marketing skills that get the word out so we all can participate in what’s going on.

I recently met with Angel and her sidekick, Janelle Amy. Wow, did they fire me up for the cause.

But, our bustling downtowns are not built by turning the work over to professionals. Revitalizing a community is, indeed, a total community effort. It is in the doing of things together that we become a community. A successful program results when people are asked what they need and want and what they can contribute. Rolling up our sleeves as volunteers and sharing a fun or challenging task together builds the bond that unites us.

Look around when you come to the center of Corydon. Don’t the refurbished facades on our old buildings look great? These old buildings remind us that our community is built on a firm foundation created by thousands of people through the years. We didn’t just arrive as the first residents to face the good and the bad of life in this spot of the Earth. In walking on their floors and working and playing within their walls, we come to know who we are. We feel secure in our belonging, and we feel the energy of the past that feeds us today. In our fast-moving and changing society, it is a thing of comfort to feel connected with the life around us.

However, don’t be lulled into thinking fixing sidewalks and storefronts is the end of the story. It is often just the beginning. We are not merely preserving the past. Our historic buildings are being adapted to new uses. It is vital that all our resources serve today’s needs and visions for tomorrow.

Imagine the feeling of having an apartment in the old school you used to attend or sleeping in a building that provided the bolts and nails that built this town more than 200 years ago. The message is loud and clear: If they could tackle life way back then, so can I and, indeed, I must honor what they did making life here possible today.

It doesn’t make any difference if you came here from afar or grew up in the area; we are all brothers now.

Watch Janelle’s Corydon Conversations on Facebook, keep track of merchants’ events as published in this paper and just walk around downtown and pick up the buzz and excitement.

I don’t invite you to be martyrs for a cause, but rather to be partners in making life meaningful.