A colleague sent me a message the other day with a website to check out, www.soulofthecommunity.org. The website provides details of a most interesting project funded by the John S. and James Knight Foundation. The study interviewed 43,000 people in 26 communities in the US, asking the questions, “What makes a community a desirable place to live?” and “What draws people to stake their future in it?”
“…the study has found that three main qualities attach people to place: social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet, openness (how welcoming a place is) and the area’s aesthetics (its physical beauty and green spaces.)”
The answer did not surprise me – a friend from Kingston always talked about communities having a body and a soul. The Community Foundation’s role, she said, was to nurture both. And so we do.
We provide for the needs of the body of the community by providing grants for things like community gardens and repairing roofs for senior centers, for new pots for a soup kitchen and for equipment that assist children with special needs.
But there are other grants that go beyond meeting basic needs, like the grant we made last year to teach children newly arrived in Canada how to skate, using the rink at Charles Clark Square. In my mind, here is the quintessential Canadian activity, provided to newcomers through the philanthropy of local citizens for the purpose of building community. This grant nurtured the soul of our community.
The Community Foundation depends on our partners who are our donors. We also depend on our partners who are our grantees for such creative projects to fund. Together we work to nurture a community with ties to its people, ties that form strong community bonds to both body and soul.
Glenn Stresman is the Executive Director of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation and has over 20 years experience in both writing and evaluating grant applications.