A big part of my job is playing the role of a broker — connecting people who could benefit from being connected. I talk to a lot of people in the course of my job so I end up knowing a little about a lot of things that are going on around town.
I try to put that knowledge to good use whenever I can, and many times that’s a simple as making a phone call to put the right people in touch with each other. I guess that makes me a bit of a community match-maker (I don’t remember that being in the job description) which when things work out right is one of the most fulfilling parts of the job.
A good example of the community connection would be when I was approached by 3 members of the CSPC — The Concerned Seniors of Portage County — who had put together a very thoughtful and well-designed yard waste clean up project that they wanted to offer in Kent. Their goal was to help enable low-income older adults, particularly individuals with limited financial and social support, to remain in their home by assisting in yard maintenance duties. The volunteers of CSPC had gone to great lengths to write-up the project, outline the tasks required, set performance measures, develop questionnaires, establish operating procedures, client profiles, release forms, etc.
And, as seniors themselves, the CSPC volunteers had an excellent handle on who could use some help. Pretty much anything you can think of, they thought of, but they had one problem — they needed to find strong young backs and shoulders to actually do the work. That’s where the community version of e-harmony kicked-in.
It turns out that I’ve been working closely with the folks up at Kent State University that manage student services for about 4 years. And for at least the last 2 years, the KSU administrator that oversees student volunteerism talked about how hard it was find yard maintenance types of projects, particularly for seniors or community members in need, that students could sign up for on weekends. Queue the music as this was my ah-ha moment — here’s strong backs and shoulders looking for yards.
The rest is history, or at least it will be after this Saturday (November 6) when the first CSPC Yard Clean-up program will be underway. From my perspective, town-gown relations doesn’t get any better than seeing students giving up their time to help community members in need, particularly seniors with such limited resources that this may be the only way they can keep up.
On the City’s end, we’ve offered to help supply some of the basic supplies and we’ll schedule a special pick up on Monday of the leaves or debris that get raked up this weekend.