Building Community in Sanger

 Monday, February 01, 2016
Hugh Ralston


It is a rainy Tuesday morning in Sanger. In the Eagles Hall, metal chairs and folding tables, coffee and morning treats are ready and waiting. The monthly Sanger Community Task Force meeting has become a routine, and at the same time it has become something extraordinary.

Representatives from community groups, public institutions, nonprofits, businesses and others gather to share information, make connections, keep track of changes and push forward Sanger’s agenda.

It is an agenda of building community.

Connecting to Local Issues

Born 8 years ago in the midst of crisis, some visible and some not so, the Task Force has developed a level of support and trust that puts real meaning into the word community. Representatives around the table – male and female, long term residents and newly minted nonprofit leaders, took a moment to share what every community in our Central Valley is focusing on:

• Gang violence and prevention 

• Connecting veterans to services 

• Helping students stand up to bullying 

• Identifying the number of homeless 

• Helping folks understand what mental health services are available 

• Broadening awareness of tutoring options 

• Supporting local artists and local businesses 

• Helping girls get prom dresses and foster kids get blue jeans 

• Connecting students to what a healthy relationship should look like 

• Helping kids transition to, and through, the 8th grade

Building Relationships

Some presentations were invitations to connect, and others to identify changing roles.

• New pastors and those retiring 

• Women’s groups connecting and sharing 

• Chamber of Commerce efforts to promote downtown 

• Launching the Blossom Trail events 

• Mixers for the Chamber 

• Recruiting coaches for softball and basketball

Some events seemed particularly local – the blessing of the bikes or the Screaming Demons (with cans of food for the homeless), the delivery of 400 presents, upcoming preparations for the Blossom Trail and the energy unleashed when an 11 year old found his voice to thwart local bullies.

Local Work Matters

The work of community moves forward, steadily and with purpose. Local folks, not willing to give in or give up, are determined to tackle these issues. It is majestic in its own way. Meeting by meeting, trust, respect and local expertise is continually being built. Folks who want to connect with others doing related, similar or partnered work are expanding relationships, leveraging resources and making a difference.

A Model for Connecting

The Sanger Community Task Force may be a model for how we can chart the future all across this rich and fertile valley. Community in Sanger is earned, negotiated and sustained at the local level. Concepts are given life by the actions of citizens who recognize that this is their home and each is willing to step in and help chart a better course. In Sanger they are doing what my old colleague used to describe when talking about the history of social change in America - people would stand up in the church basement, the community meeting or a public gathering and say, ‘not good enough’ – not any more.

We are caught in transformative times that often exceed our ability to absorb change or recognize the future before it arrives. We see the impact on the verities that drive our daily lives. In our neighborhoods, faith communities, social organizations, community institutions and workplaces, all of us have had the temptation to shout: Stop! Or at least, slow down.

And yet - as we look at our neighbors, our colleagues, our children and grandchildren, and those in our towns, the response can be empowering as well – to step up, connect and help shape a different future.

The Basics Remind Us

Sometimes the basics are simple: connect, listen, share, learn and do. There is a lot we can accomplish by listening to each other, helping where we can and doing what we must. It is working in Sanger, and in countless communities throughout this Valley. Come find how you can be a part of this powerful community building.

Best Regards,

Hugh J. Ralston
President and CEO 
(559) 226-5600 ext. 101 

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