YOUTH VIOLENCE in Wilkes-Barre sparked the startup earlier this year of a community movement called Building Bridges, but this group's aim goes far beyond stopping street fights.
Yes, tamping down the drug and gang-type activity that too often escalates into violence among teenagers remains a top priority.
However, organizers see their mission as something much larger: to change area residents' lives for the better.
They hope to involve people like you in making the city a safer, happier and healthier place to live – for residents of all ages. So far, they've held about a half dozen information-gathering sessions in Wilkes-Barre Area schools, including one session specifically for students. They talked to attendees about "community well-being" and explained how it gets measured in national surveys.
More important, they listened. Perhaps that's a skill honed as preachers; Building Bridges co-founders the Rev. Michael Brewster and the Rev. Shawn Walker each leads a Baptist congregation in the city. Lately, they have attracted "followers" of another sort – people curious about whether this grassroots initiative can turn good intentions and a groundswell of early support into meaningful action.
Soon, if all goes as planned, organizers hope to reveal a community project for the fall and to start recruiting volunteers for committees, each charged with keeping an eye on an issue of particular concern to community well-being (such as emotional health, physical health or access to basic necessities and services).
To succeed, they will need plenty of helpers – people as passionate, as devoted and, yes, as improbably optimistic as they to dare to believe that a few determined souls have the power to change a community's collective outlook. Are you one?
Building Bridges' backers dream big.
They harbor ambitions to form a new nonprofit group and support it with staff and a volunteer board. They envision multiple community centers – places that strengthen neighborly bonds and foster new friendships. (They have a website to reach their audience, at www.buildingbridgeswb.com, although it's still in development.)
The challenges in the months ahead, of course, are immense. As with any new endeavor, the energy could quickly drain. Building solid "bridges" between skeptical residents could prove more difficult than expected. Existing social service agencies might not take well to the new kid on the block, vying for a limited pool of public donations and grant dollars.
That said, we hope Building Bridges' advocates keep marching forward, changing paths if necessary, but moving toward the goal. Far better to dream big and be part of a revolution than to do nothing and curse your destiny.
Wouldn't you agree?
Far better to dream big and be part of a revolution than to do nothing and curse your destiny.