This Friday evening a special event will be held at the Grand Lake Center to kick off a new initiative that seeks to gather citizen input regarding the future of Grand County's northernmost community.
The Heart and Soul Potluck and Kickoff event will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Grand Lake Center with the potluck scheduled to being at 6 p.m. The event is an opportunity for local residents and anyone who considers themselves a part of the Grand Lake community, even those not necessarily living within the boundaries of Grand Lake proper, to learn more about the Heart and Soul initiative just getting underway in the town.
Heart and Soul is an initiative started by the Vermont based Orton Foundation that seeks to gather the experiences and opinions of an entire community to help inform development and planning decisions for the future of a given community. Robyn Wilson, Heart and Soul coordinator for Grand Lake, explained the goals of the program.
"The goal is to try and reach out to everyone," Wilson said. "To get a representation of all voices and find out what matters most to a community; and to help make long term plans based on those findings."
The initiative operates in four phases. The first phase, called "laying the groundwork" will be wrapping up with Friday's launch party event. Phase two, called "exploring the community" will then begin and includes efforts to gather stories and opinions on the needs and priorities of the Grand Lake from the community's members. After that information is collected the third phase of the initiatve, "making decisions" occurs.
"We narrow down into what matters most to a community," Wilson said. "Then we start looking at options of how we can expand on that."
Wilson highlighted a hypothetical example.
"Perhaps the community thinks there are not enough activities for youth year round," she said. "That would be taken into account. Then decisions are made about what we want to do to create more youth activities."
The final step of the project is called 'taking action" and involves the mobilization of resources to achieve the goals sought by the community.
The town government of Grand Lake does not directly guide the program though the information developed through Heart and Soul would be provided to the town to help inform future decision-making. Additionally the town provided some basic funding, approximately $15,000, to administer the Heart and Soul program.
Wilson is helping oversee the program along with Grand County Economic Development Coordinator DiAnn Butler and Hillary Ackerman. Both Butler and Ackerman are serving as Heart and Soul coaches to help shepherd the process.