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December 06, 2012

Getting, and Staying, Involved

December 06, 2012

Community is a funny concept. Most of us think of physical space as being a crucial component of community. In reality, a community is much more than a place, or a collection of buildings, or even a collection of people. To me, these things are more akin to neighborhoods. Community speaks to a broader concept, something closer to “a body of individuals brought together by common interests or a common cause.” That’s not an official definition, obviously, but it inhabits the spirit of the idea.

I have never been told officially, but I am pretty sure that being involved in the greater Indianapolis community is a requirement for being a SmallBoxer. So many of my colleagues are involved – deeply and passionately involved – in communities within Indy. It’s quite moving, really. Whether we’re talking about the local music scene, the start-up scene, Fountain Square, Irvington, Broad Ripple, the art scene or any number of nonprofit boards, there is likely to be a SmallBoxer involved. These people care, and it’s inspiring.

This got me thinking, “what can I do to step up to the plate this year?”

I start every year thinking that I’m going to be more engaged in the community. It almost seems a forgone conclusion to me that I am going to be involved. Of course I’m going to give back! And, yes, I participate each and every year, but never to the level that I intend. It’s easy to say, “I just don’t have time.” But the fact is, I do. I just don’t make it a priority.

This year will be different. Here are my plans.

I live in the neighborhood known as Irvington Terrace. I participate in our executive committee, though not to the extent that any of us would like. So, this year I’m going to lead the charge to find community grants. We need a lot of things, just like the rest of the city, and access to capital would help immensely in completing some of our projects.

I’m also going to lead the charge to develop a new website for my neighborhood. Makes sense since I work for a company that designs and develops websites, right? There is really no excuse for me having not done so already, honestly. As I said before, I have the time, I just need to make it a priority.

My second endeavor involves a community that is close to my heart, if not my hearth… the Greater Southeast. Most people know this area as “the rundown neighborhoods surrounding Fountain Square.” I’ve been working with this group for several years, off and on, through my connection to the University of Indianapolis. I’ve never been involved with a more diverse group of people, and I’ve never seen a group of people with such a singular focus on improving what was, by most accounts, a pretty bad part of the city.

For more than five years now I’ve been involved with a small group of academics, activists and volunteers to help ensure that Citizens Energy Group fulfills its responsibility to clean up and reinvigorate the recently closed Prospect Street coke (coal) processing facility in the middle of the neighborhood. It’s not only an environmental imperative that this massively polluted site is cleaned up, it’s also an enormous opportunity for an influential local company to prove that it values the people of the city, and to do right by them. I plan to continue doing what it takes to help keep the people of the neighborhood armed with the best tools to compel cooperation out of Citizens Energy, by providing them with information to feed their political will.

These are two very deserving groups, and I have let both down over the past twelve months. It has been far too easy for me to make excuses not to help as much as I should. I have a young daughter. I work two jobs. I need time for myself. But these are excuses, not valid reasons. I waste a lot of time. It’s time to turn that waste into something useful. I’ll call it my personal recycling endeavor. Let me know if you want to help.

What more could you be doing to get involved in your communities?

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