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Hometown Heroes

Everybody has a place that they endearingly call “home.” Whether that be a state, county, city, even down to a specific street in your childhood neighborhood, your home is a special place that you can’t quite identify why, but you love it. This rings true for me, and for many people around the world. Where we come from or where we live is a source of pride for many people. It shapes our attitudes, our values, even most of the “character” traits around the edges can be traced back to where your roots are. I truly believe that in everyone, there is something that drives them to want to shine some light on their hometown. When communities are stronger, people are stronger. Mental health, happiness, and overall positivity goes up when a town or city is connected. I’m writing this blog mainly to share a few ways you can contribute to the uplifting of your hometown.

I’ve written about the benefits of volunteering on individuals and communities in the past, but it is worth reiterating here. Mobilizing people on the front lines, volunteering or donating in your town, is the most direct way to give back to your community. Specifically, working with human service agencies that benefit the citizens of your city collectively goes a long way towards making your community a happier and healthier place. Research has suggested s a direct correlation between health and the strength of social relationships, which goes both ways. Better health leads to better relationships, and stronger relationships encourage good health. This leads to the conclusion that working to improve community health and establishing those strong and tight connections with your neighbors are two of the most impactful actions you can take, both of which can be accomplished through volunteering or donating to local organizations.

Something I am very passionate about when it comes to community-building is supporting the arts. It is an accepted fact that vibrant music and arts scenes have dramatically positive effects on communities. A society without art is a society without personality, inspiration, or a handful of other positive qualities too numerous to list. Can you imagine walking through your downtown and not seeing hand painted murals, or hearing local bands playing in restaurants or in community venues? I hold the opinion that our towns and cities should be encouraging more public works of art, theater productions, concerts, and cultural festivals city and state-wide. On a more micro level, however, we as residents can support our local artists by purchasing their works and buying tickets to attend local events at the venues in our backyards. We want to encourage their work and reward them for their passions. If you’re an artist yourself, consider finding ways to get yourself out there. If there’s no current arts scene where you are, be a pioneer!

While you’re attending the next concert in your town park, consider stopping in to a local mom-and-pop restaurant for dinner. Supporting local business is crucial to any town’s economy, and small businesses are the backbone for many communities. You don’t have to look far to find examples of how a local establishment can bring a sense of pride to a whole community. Whether it’s claiming to be the birth place of the hamburger or rallying behind a few local pizzerias and staking your claim as the pizza capital of the country, parts of our state have shown that people love being able to look someone from out of town in the eye and say, “you won’t find anything better anywhere else.” This doesn’t apply strictly to foods (although food is a topic of passion for many people). Manufacturers, product brands, and company names from a particular place can be a badge of honor worn for generations. Of course, high status won’t arise overnight. As residents with the power to consume, it is our responsibility to support local business whenever possible. The more economic resources we can share with our neighbors, the better we can thrive together and succeed as a city. Small businesses empower their communities in several ways, so their success and gains in turn benefit the people in their regions. It is a direct investment in your home’s future when you buy local, and the power of that investment gets returned right to the people.

Many people dismiss their impacts or potential effects they can have, often feeling they are too small to have any real difference. But, I have a saying I hold near and dear in my life: “The little things are what make up the big things.” Without each individual action, there are no large-scale results. No matter if you’re leading the charge on a donation campaign, or you just happen to pick up a littered soda can on the sidewalk, you ARE making a difference. This is the mindset we all must have. Taking pride in where we live has outstanding effects that can be felt by every layer of a community. The cliché story of the homegrown individual who hits the big time and comes back to uplift their community is great and all, but we can’t forget that we all have the potential and the capability to lead a wave of positive change. We can make our cities and towns better places. We are all hometown heroes.