Strong communities

by Louise

Totebaggers, we often hear about doing good for our communities. In today’s world what does that mean?  Volunteering, donating or taking care of our families and helping out our friends the best we can?  What are the issues facing your communities?  How about experience with government programs at the community level. Have they worked?

I feel with this election cycle there has been a long period of time where we have become distracted by day to day sound bites and have lost focus on the issues that really affect our communities.



43 thoughts on “Strong communities

  1. Timely topic for me! We are finally getting some normalcy back after the Hurricane, although I know that’s not true for many communities.

    When it passed over us, it was a Category 1 (consistent wind speeds of 75 miles/hour). This was such a huge relief, because when we evacuated it was projected to hit us as a Category 4. Still, even with just a 1, the destruction was remarkable. People keep saying it looks like a bomb went off. So many trees down, it took a week to restore power. But the community was just astounding. People came back as soon as they were allowed, and went right to work on their property and neighbors’ property. A lot of people were delayed in returning, and their neighbors were taking pictures and sending reports so folks would have an idea of how much damage they had to deal with . I’ve never seen so many people working in other people’s yards. And the kids that were out helping – my own boys worked for 3 days straight helping their dad, and they worked HARD.

    We had significant property damage, but no damage to our house. School reopens today and most businesses as well.

  2. My post got eaten somehow. Typing from iPad so probably user error. Was much longer but gist of it was: no structural damage to house. Community hit very hard. Community came together amazingly. Seeing people take care of each other and all the kids pitching in to help was *almost* worth being out of power for a week. All well now, just months of clean up.


  3. Great news Lark!!

    I think active volunteers are vital to a successful community. My neighborhood seems to be overflowing with them, but occasionally groups we belong to at different points in our lives can’t seem to muster enough people willing to chip in their time. It is not possible to pay for all the things that need to get, regardless of how you define your community, so people have to step in and help. Lark’s post is a great example, but it’s true at church and PTO, in the bike club, even things like bunco or book club.

  4. So I think this is why upper middle class+ communities are so successful – we’re all falling all over ourselves to volunteer at school/church/neighborhood, etc. We see it as an investment in our community and success builds upon success. Our neighborhood has “block captains” to ensure each new family in the neighborhood gets a proper welcome (i.e. drop off a welcome gift/directory, etc) and there are neighborhood improvement days that get a decent turn out. It’s the norm to help so people do. I think the problems that poor communities have because of not having time/money/bandwidth to be properly engaged in one’s community and also having to deal with crime/not knowing or trusting your neighbors are tougher.

  5. Tying into Atlanta Mom’s comment, I think working class communities are divided by culture and religion more than upper middle class communities. Note my observation that none of my 9 nieces and nephews attend public school- a generation ago, my family attended public schools and were part of community (vs. church) ball leagues, Scout Troops, etc.

  6. Good to hear Lark. I hope the beach house is fine too.

    WCE – are the kids homeschooled ? Here homeschooled kids do the same out of school activities as other kids but I noticed that things like dance and music have day classes so we don’t normally see the homeschooled kids.

    One thing my community has tried to do is ask volunteers if they are willing to help lower income communities. I don’t know how. We already help with charitable food bank, transition housing for women and children but what I think is needed is probably helping more people on the job front. Are they prepared for the job is a whole different question, that brings us to schools, families etc.

  7. Upper middle class communities are geographically and culturally segregated from the get go, sometimes just as narrowly as the clan groups WCE referred to above in a working class or straight middle class community. Our fellow totebagger from Eastern Mass who recently moved left a neighborhood in a super UMC totebag municipality in which her family was enough different in temperament and background from her neighbors that when we first met and she told me where she lived I was visibly surprised that she had bought a house there. Back in the day, Catholic school kids played Little League with public school kids, and if you went to Armenian or Jewish day school or private school or were home schooled (rare), there weren’t enough kids to form your own scout troops or teams.

  8. Louise, one family homeschools and one family attends private school. Only some of the kids are school age, so maybe classifying the little ones that way isn’t yet quite accurate. One family may eventually attend public high school (especially for advanced math/science classes) and one family will likely not prioritize 4 year college and at least some kids will have terminal community college degrees, hopefully of the “middle class” variety.

  9. The nearby Catholic school sent their girls over to my public elementary for Girl Scouts. I was just the other day wondering if they still do that. Somehow I doubt it. I wonder if Girl Scouts is even as popular as it used to be.

  10. WCE, if these are your nieces and nephews, and if your sister is single, then these are the children of your brothers, yes? I’m surprised to hear that your engineer brothers won’t prioritize four-year college for their kids.

  11. RMS, you are correct. I suspect one brother will prioritize 4 year college and the other brother (3 daughters and counting) won’t, at least for the girls. I suspect his son may get a 4 year degree, in large part because he’s sufficiently bright that a 4 year degree is not a huge hurdle and has a good ROI for an expected breadwinner.

  12. “and the other brother (3 daughters and counting) won’t, at least for the girls”

    Does not compute (in Totebag land).

  13. I have found the soccer fields to be a very coming together experience. The kids come from different schools or homeschool and the teams originate from churches, the Y or through the local soccer league. This is not competitive soccer so the fees per season are not prohibitive.
    Another place where kids come together is the Y. The Y’s here offer discounts for families based on income. Of all the things the Y’s offer in my community free/discounted swim lessons are the most important.

  14. One of the serious issues facing my community is the quality of education in the public schools. In the past few years, there has a been a change from the default assumption that unless someone was odd or had some issue about learning evolution that there kids would go to the public school. Within the last year or three, more and more families are pulling their kids out of the public school and traveling 25-45 miles each way to put them in private school. Eventually, these people give up and move to where their kids go to school. This actually represents a huge loss to the community because the people who leave tend to be the ones who coach little league, are 4-h leaders, participate in the revitalization efforts and just generally give a darn about the community they live in.

    Last week, at a school meeting, the principal stated that all the school had to do was offer classes that met the minimum standards, and nothing more. It is so frustrating, because I think we are on a good path with the high school, adding more AP classes and more opportunities for kids to get on a college path. Some other parents and I are going to meet with the superintendent, and we have someone knew running for school board. We need to find another person to run as well.

    I have no argument with the people who take their kids to private school. No child should be used as canon fodder, but their parents still need to step up as adults and community members and explain why they left.

  15. As for me, I volunteer on a local government commission, am a youth leader, and a volunteer driver for the high school.

  16. Finding a community to belong to was a challenge when I was single and working (really) long hours. I can see the draw of attending a church for that purpose, if one was so inclined. Now that I’m married with the kids, we feel part of the school community. This is much less true of the weekend activities where the kids attend class and are not on a team. When the kids switch to middle school, in all likelihood away from their elementary school friends, it’ll be interesting to see what community we will be able to join then, if any. May need to join a team sport or ratchet up an out of school activity.

    In the much broader sense of community, my neighborhood can really pull together when needed – Hurricane Sandy for example.

  17. “their parents still need to step up as adults and community members and explain why they left”

    While the explanation might be nice to know, I don’t see this happening. Doesn’t happen here and there is a large amount of turnover in the neighborhood (as I’ve probably mentioned ad nausea ).

  18. I serve (have served) on the board of trustees for 3 independent schools, leading financial aid initiatives so that our schools can reach out to the broader community and not just those who can afford the ~ $40k tuitions. I also support our local startup community through angel investing and mentoring at a local community college entrepreneurship program. We are making a difference in our city with attracting more entrepreneurs. In these two circles I am amazed at how much time and treasure people give in our community!

  19. Girl Scouts is very popular here and I think it’s a great organization. It’s an activity where you bond with other girls, get outdoors, do crafts and it’s very inexpensive. I actually am one of the leaders for my oldest’s troop and it’s been a lot of fun – even the camping chaperoning is okay. I remember being sort of over the whole thing by fourth grade but my daughter’s troop has lost very few girls and they all still seem to love it. The troops seem to disband here after ES because everyone goes to different middle schools (some go to private school) or the girls meet every few months once 6th grade starts if there’s enough interest. I wish everyone used the public schools here but it’s a city so there are a lot of options. The middle school has improved a ton over the last ten years but people still have this mindset that private is better (which it may well be but not sure if it’s $25K per year better).

  20. My Australian and U.K. friends back in DC were amazed that parents came out to help get the soccer fields ready for the season. In general, they reported far less volunteer activity back home than they observed in the US.

  21. Hmm, community. We didn’t have much of one at our old house – part of that was the mismatch between the community we were in and our own style – but also haven’t developed much of one here yet. The town does seem to be very welcoming and lots of stuff going on, and the kids are happier with their school here than last year, so that’s good! But we haven’t done much to integrate ourselves (like we are not going to the town budget meeting tonight and we didn’t go to the town fall festival a few weeks ago). We’ll see if we make any new couple/family friends – there are some parents that we met with whom we may get along. :)

  22. We’re there posts between 1:58 and 4:59? I don’t see any, but think I remember seeing some when I put up that catalog post. Houston, can you believe that she skipped over their name for lingerie, “intimate solutions”?

  23. Rocky, well yeah, I actually do like that gown. I like Williams Sonoma AND that annual send-up of it Too. And I believe this author when she says:

    Yes, this is the totally surreal world of Soft Surroundings. And the scary thing is…

    I kind of like it.

    The thought of decorating my house in pastels and wearing comfy caftans while drinking wine all day long– I mean, what’s so bad about that?

    Oh well, to each their own funnybone.

  24. On topic: Trying to separate national from local level actions doesn’t make sense. An example: the Asian-Americans using the thisis2016 hashtag. That is all very local, and has increased because of national events.

  25. Getting the Soft Surroundings catalog when you’re pushing 40 is one thing, but just wait until you start getting the “As We Change” catalog when you’re pushing 50. It’s pretty depressing to be reminded that you’re now in the demographic where you’re probably looking for pajamas that will allow you to sleep through your hot flashes:

  26. Soft Surrondings and As We Change were interesting. Never heard of either of those.
    I have always shopped at Talbots which is “classic” or old lady however you want to view it. I stopped by Ann Taylor in the mall after ages and they seemed to have gone back to classic pieces. Will have to check them out again.

  27. Pfft! The Soft Surroundings and As We Change catalogs are not as bad as getting cemetery plot and funeral planning flyers in the mail!

  28. I’ve been negligent in contributing much to my community lately. TBH, many of my previous forays into volunteerism and other involvement were challenging and mostly unsatisfying*. Part of the problem is that I have some fundamental differences of opinion with many of my fellow residents, and I find some of the volunteer activities a waste of my time. Maybe I’m just a disgruntled curmudgeon. Now that I have more time I’m going to try to think of ways I can contribute.

    *When I volunteered with the Girl Scouts I found the troop activities too fluffy and unstructured. Too much focus on socializing and less on leadership. I also volunteered with the Boy Scouts, and I found the dynamics there more to my liking. I was encouraged to run for the school board, but with my oppositional views that would not have been good for my kids.

  29. Evil Twin, so many girls continue with Scouts past elementary school?

    And on the topic of all of those spare jackets in the closet, you could tuck one in each of your DH’s suitcases, golf bag, the trunk of his car, and suggest that he take one to the office. They could also be offered to guests who arrive in need of one. There is a closet in our house with spare outerwear for the surprising number of friends who come for football weekends without checking The Weather Channel.

    I have never heard of those two catalogs. Definitely in the right demographic. Certainly AARP has found us.

  30. I’m not in the right demographic and we get AARP, funeral planning, estate planning, hearing aids, and hip replacement mailings all the time. Mostly addressed to my DH, but few to me as well. Someone must be paying attention to our tv viewing habits (History Channel, AHC, PBS).

  31. We get teen/tween catalogs like PB Teen which Catches DD’s eye. American Girl Doll is still persisting. The other catalogs are ones I order from occasionally. I don’t order from the catalogs just online but some how even without checking the box for marketing materials a catalog appears.

  32. I aggressively unsubscribe from catalogs. Recently I somehow got on Sundance’s mailing list – so NOT me. I own no turquoise jewelry. ;)

    CoC, estate planning is useful no matter what age you are! :)

  33. I enjoy catalogs. We still get toy catalogs – DD just circled all the stuff she wants from the Young Explorers catalog. For myself, I like JJill and Northstyle. We get some catalog with lots of gadgets too, and of course seed and gardening catalogs

  34. I have never heard of Soft Surroundings before, but I laughed at the link. The amount of wine in those photos is hilarious. I do own some tunics, however, and I have shopped at Garnet Hill and Lands End before though. And Boden, which I wouldn’t quite put in the same category even though the author did.

  35. I’ve never heard of Soft Surroundings, but AARP has found me. I’m kind of thinking its an aspirational catalog. Immaculate house, comfy clothes and lots of wine….

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