A better Truckee is everybody’s business
At a gathering a few weeks ago, I spoke with Judith Vrooman, owner of Vrooman Woodcarvings & Wildlife Gallery. The topic turned to Truckee Community Christmas and the number of families served through this program. Judith was outraged that Truckee has 183 households without enough resources to provide Christmas for their families.We all should be outraged.As generous as this community is, it is not enough to give to Community Christmas. We must also ask the harder questions: Why are there people in Truckee who are employed full time who still need assistance with food? Why do we tolerate substandard housing for people living in Truckee? And what can we do to alleviate it and prevent it from ever occurring again?In the for-profit world, success is measured simply and easily: You sell a product and at the end of the year you either made money or you didn’t.The people who specialize in the nonprofit world (and who do truly impressive work) have a harder time measuring success. Good ideas are not enough. At the end of the year, nonprofit boards, staff, and the public must ask “Is this community better because of our work?”Fortunately, nonprofit organizations don’t work in isolation. Hundreds and hundreds of volunteer hours augment the work of nonprofit staffs.Community service is a part of Truckee’s business culture. People participate on nonprofit boards (board service is not a ceremonial position in this town). Service clubs like Rotary and Soroptimist have strong memberships. There is the expectation that business owners must be involved in making this a better community.Take Mike and Jennifer Blide, owners of Cottonwood Restaurant. Mike and Jennifer determine how much their business can contribute back to the community each year when they sit down and figure out their priorities on where they want those gifts to go. In addition to supporting many nonprofits’ auctions and raffles, Mike is on the board of the Truckee Trails Foundation. That’s where he believes he can make a difference.As you start planning for your next year of business, consider the ways you would like to see Truckee improved. Give your money, if you made any. Give your time, where you can. But, most of all, give your voice. The way communities improve is through civic engagement. We can spend our time arguing with each other about which of our “causes” are most important – helping poor people, protecting the environment, fostering the arts, or educating our children. Or we can say our town belongs to all of us and all voices are equally valid. We are truly interdependent.Diana Aviv, the new CEO of Independent Sector, identifies changes that have occurred in our society by people joining together for a cause in which they believed. These nonprofit associations have contributed major shifts in public opinion and actions. She describes it as:The list is endless – the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, public education, the settlement movement, community hospitals, and in more recent times the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, the organizing of migrant workers. There is also the reemergence of the religious fundamentalists as a powerful political force. All of these grew out of voluntary actions by private citizens working together. In some case, we can name great leaders – like Martin Luther King, Jr., or Betty Friedan or Cesar Chavez or John Gardner. In other cases, the leaders are less well known, but we are enriched by the results nonetheless.Those of us who live here are here by choice; many of us made significant career decisions in order to live in what we know is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. As citizens of this town, we must demand more of our neighbors and of ourselves. We have the capacity to make good civic judgments, to join with our neighbors to do the work of the community, to make a difference.What are you outraged about? Where do you want to put your energies? Ask the hard questions that need asking in our community. Join and support the nonprofit organizations working on issues you care about. Find the answers that are correct for our community.Go forth. A better Truckee is everybody’s business.Lisa Dobey is the CEO of Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation. TTCF’s role is to promote philanthropy and strengthen community. She can be reached at 587-1776 or email@example.com.
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