Building “Community” Together

Building “Community” Together It was almost 20 years ago that I first got involved in the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB) as a board member. I had volunteered with the organization before that time, and had gathered canned goods as part of food drives at work and at church, but in 2002 I was asked to join the board for the first time. ( I recently finished serving my second 6-year term on the board, and continue to be a big fan and supporter!) Back in 2002, I was asked to be part of a marketing committee by Bill Bolling, founder and long running Executive Director of the ACFB. Bill and I continue to work together today, as he has now retired from the Food Bank and I work with him as a board member of The Food Well Alliance, a non-profit focused on strengthening the local food system in metro Atlanta by supporting urban farmers, community gardens, farmers markets and other organizations involved in the local food movement. If interested, see more at https://ift.tt/1xRj6Fz.

Back to the marketing committee! At that time, the ACFB was expanding its footprint and was involved in numerous side projects/initiatives and the marketing committee was asked to work on how to capture all the projects under a common “food bank umbrella” and develop a re-branding/re-naming approach that might help all of the initiatives make more sense to the supporters of the food bank. We dove into the project, worked with a local agency, and came up with a number of branding/naming/graphic ideas that would simplify the communication challenges and one of the recommendations that we came forward with was to drop the word “Community” from the organization’s name as a way to streamline/simplify things. I still remember the immediate and dramatic reaction from Bill Bolling when we showed him our ideas, with him exclaiming that the word “Community” was the ONLY word that could NEVER be dropped….. that we were at the food bank, using food as a tool to help our community…. especially the members of the community most in need….. that the food was not the objective, a stronger healthier community was the objective…. Community was the whole thing!

Community: noun,
• a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
o “the scientific community”
• a group of people living together in one place, especially one practicing common ownership.
o “a community of nuns”
• a particular area or place considered together with its inhabitants.
o “a rural community”

While the marketing committee project didn’t go too far , the lesson from that review has stayed with me for decades and has been growing on my mind over the past few months with the challenges and struggles facing so many of us across so many communities. Consider the challenges the entire world is facing from the Covid crisis, the struggle for racial justice and equality, the growing pervasive issues from accelerating climate change, the nightmare of gun violence in our country, and the list goes on! WE are facing an incredible set of challenges across the board and before we try to dive in and “fix” one of them we have to come back to the fundamental truth that WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER! We are part of one large COMMUNITY!

If we have learned anything in 2020 it is that our actions affect those around us and vice versa…. Whether it is someone not wearing a mask in a grocery store ( not good!) or one town/country spewing toxic emissions into the air and water that flows downstream to the neighboring town/country, we don’t live in small isolated units…. we live in a world incredibly interconnected and what we do (or don’t do) doesn’t just affect ourselves, it ALWAYS affects each other! Maybe its overly simplistic, but I am thinking back to Bill Bolling’s admonition a lot these days ( “Community: is the indispensible word!) and am thinking about how we can take action and work on “Building Community Together.”

Where ever you are, urban or rural and regardless of country (or political party) we can all chip in and find ways to help support and strengthen our communities broadly. Partly driven by the covid crisis, our food banks have never faced a time of greater need, our local support organizations have never been more stretched, look around you and find ways that you can help/support/strengthen ‘community” wherever you live….. the need is great and as a “community” we can accomplish great and needed things for OUR COMMUNITY, but only if we act as a “community!”