When Bob George and I wrote “The Story of Kennett: Shaping Our Future One Child at a Time,” we highlighted the agencies and community processes that helped Kennett be a better place to grow up in and grow old in—every day!
Bridging the Community is one of the community processes that was attributed for helping to bring the community together to “bridge” resources with needs these past twenty-plus years. A bi-monthly meetinghas been held since 1998.
With the occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was cancelled for the very first time due to “social distancing” orders from the governor! Later, we heard of Cinco de Mayo and the Mushroom Festival being cancelled this year. In a flash, these cancellations highlight the unparalleled time that we are now experiencing, and in its midst, demonstrating that the spirit of Kennett is still alive and well.
With time to reflect over these past six weeks, it has become clear that the five Guiding Principles that Bridging the Community has been promoting since its beginning are being actively expressed during the pandemic in Southern Chester County. It seems these principles have become embedded in the culture and are being lived out on a daily basis, even when new and old community members can’t meet in person.
“Coming from the heart” is the foundation for Bridging the Community. Starting from a deeper level of caring versus an obligation is the basis for our community work. Stopping and experiencing our appreciation for our lives and all that supports us certainly is one way that the pandemic has opened our hearts to going beyond ourselves. In fact, this pause in the busyness of life has evoked many random acts of kindness.
From children creating chalk art and messages of hope on sidewalks, persons stepping up and making hundreds of face masks, to receiving surprise food packages and baked goods on one’s doorstep, the Kennett community is offering heartfelt gestures to its fellowcommunity members.During this time of being prevented from gathering, one might say, as we do at Bridging meetings, there is a “miraculous mushrooming of care!”
Which leads to the next Guiding Principle---“Community is the lowest common denominator.” Seeing how one’s individual agenda fits into the larger community helps leverage resources and enhances the overall outcome. The many stories of how persons/agencies have joined together at a Bridging meeting and have becomepartners in their ongoing work could add up to thousands of “bridges.”This process is now being actively expressed through the Opportunity Network, which meets every Thursday morning by zoom to coordinate essential community services—assuring that our vulnerable community has food, shelter and other needs met.
During this pandemic, we are asked to think about the community first! We are told that wearing personal face masks is primarily being recommended to protect others from one’s own early or carrier viral infection. Even staying sheltered at home is an act of thinking of the community first, beyond one’s own pleasures; making the community the lowest common denominator.
“Add no infrastructural burden” is another Guiding Principle. The Bridging meetings are held with no membership, dues or charter required. This Principle guides the meeting process and also the way we approach life in Kennett after the meetings.
As mentioned, during the pandemicsocial service agencies are working togetherand sharing resources to lighten the load, instead of building a whole new infrastructure. The Southern Chester County Opportunity Network has a new website and has kept current a COVID-19 Response page at www.sccnetwork.org/response. Their goal is to use this site as a central place for information. This platform is being used to communicate, connect, and coordinate the community’s response to COVID-19 in the social sector.
“Start from potential” is thePrinciple that has guided “bridging” folks throughout the years. Looking for the potential beneath an emerging drug problem on a street, helped bring about the revitalization of East Linden Street Project/Carter CDC. Starting from potential was also the source of the many after-school programs, that saw potential in the free hours after school for engaging youth in meaningful activities, instead of leaving time for them to “get into trouble.”
In experiencing the dark side of the pandemic, there also is a light shining through that points to an improved quality of life. Bonding with family; appreciating nature; reflecting on core values are just a few of the ways that the quarantine potentialis being realized.
“We each have a role to play,” which rounds out the Bridging Guiding Principles. The workers in health care, first responders and food providers are certainly appreciated for the essential roles they are now playing. Everyone else who is abiding by the “stay at home” directive is being praised for the role each is playing in slaying the coronavirus!
The pandemic demonstrates that a healthy, thriving community depends on all of us, no one more important or less. No longer is the statement, “we are all in this together” a trite statement. Each of us is experiencing this reality and Bridging Principles are helping to guide our way!