Free for the taking on

They say the best things in life are free. I say the best things in life are free for the taking on.
That’s how community spirit grows. It is one of the good things in life, and I’ve just had three great experiences of it.
Friends now living in Toronto stopped in at the tail end of a tour across western Canada. John and Lenore Williams have visited small towns all along their route. They saw museums, libraries, and community centres. They talked with many people proud of their town and pleased to explain its uniqueness.
John and Lenore are thrilled at the variety of successful efforts to make small-town life rewarding. It isn’t just economic redevelopment and diversification (though that’s happening).
They witnessed many different community service and recreational activities.
The “death of distance” is evident–people feel less isolated as they telecommute more. Small towns offer neighbourliness and nature; they are again good places for raising a family and making a living.
In Rainy River District, my friends took extra time since John was born in Fort Frances and worked at Sapawe early in his career. He heard the district has targeted itself to become the safest area in Canada!
John understands the new mandate for municipal governments to deliver quality services at low taxpayer cost, and the need to find new sources of revenue.
That’s why he is impressed with Rainy River’s aim.
Achieving and maintaining an excellent safety record has long been an industrial challenge. Rainy River is accepting it, and going far beyond.
Targets for total safety include schools, streets, homes, play areas, water–everything people can think of. The effort can attract financial help from the institutions that would save on the human and material cost of accidental loss.
It also will demonstrate the tangible value of prevention, much as a focus on good health reduces illness.
Rainy River Valley’s aim of becoming a provincial, or even national, safety model is highly worthwhile. As a way to rally the whole community in a common quest, it’s inspiring.
What a different way for a small town to make its mark! Just think how many other opportunities there may be for your town to be distinctive.
Another example of “free for the taking on” is Atikokan’s 100th birthday celebration. Emo just had its centennial, too, and there are many more to come in Northwestern Ontario.
Two years ago, Atikokan’s planning committee started small but with big ideas. Last week was a culmination of much effort by many, many volunteers.
We had about half as many former residents and other visitors here as local citizens. All had a great time. A wide variety of cultural and social activities were well attended, and praised for their quality and good organization.
The town has been spruced up for months and decorated for weeks. It’s wonderful to note how many people are proud to have lived in Atikokan at one time–and how many are proud to live here now.
Looking for an entrepreneurial opportunity? This idea from Betty Scott, former Atikokanite, is free for the taking on, too: interview the 100th birthday planning committee and then write a manual for how to hold a great centennial event.
It would be worth a lot, and it should get takers.
The celebration was for the past and in the present. The buoyed community spirit helps create a good future.

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