Posted: July 22, 2019 by Kelly Murphy-Redd
Like many of you, I value my involvement in the community. It’s a pleasure to see friends and colleagues and to catch up on what’s new. Many busy people are taking time to be involved in something beneficial to their community. There are as many different reasons to be involved as there are people. Some say they are too busy. Some wear busy as a badge of honor. I contend, we make time for what we want to make time for. However, that’s another topic altogether.

I learn something new all the time.
  • For example, I didn’t know about Food for Thought. This group currently serves nearly 3,000 students at 30 schools in Walton and Okaloosa Counties.  They provide backpacks of healthy snacks for students to eat at night and over the weekend. Some students won’t get to eat if they are not at school.
  • I am involved in helping Okaloosa Academy. This is a charter school that serves as an Alternative Placement educational option for students who are no longer able to attend their zoned public school for a variety of reasons. I was talking with a financial advisor the other day and she said she didn’t know about this school.
  • A United Way volunteer was telling me about the free tax service the United Way provides. She detailed a situation where someone needed help when there was death in the family and financial issues needed attention. She asked me if I knew the United Way provided this service. I said no.
  • I was looking for community organizations online for someone who wanted to become more involved. I found many but I know there are many, many more.
  • I was talking with a client recently and found they did not know about One Hopeful Place. The Fort Walton Chamber of Commerce created a homeless shelter for single men. There wasn’t one before.

My point is that so many good things are going on in our community that we don’t know about. It is surprising. How can we get this information out to everyone who wants it? Why does it matter? What does this have to do with economic development?

Quality of life and a sense of place are terms spoken often in the world of economic development and community development. A strong community where the residents help each other and where there are resources to tap into when a life need arises helps create a sense of place and increases quality of life.

How can we let everyone know about people helping people? Our local media should run more stories about all these groups. There are so many, it would keep them in stories for a long time. These stories are news worthy and matter to the public. Perhaps our local tech companies could create a database of some sort that people could find online. There would have to be an appeal to everyone in the county to provide information. Again, the local media could help with this. Perhaps the chambers could have a people helping people spotlight moment in their meetings.

Connection, relationships and caring are critical to a healthy and safe community. These kinds of communities attract a talented workforce and companies wishing to start, expand or relocate a business. These kinds of communities are where we want to live.