Picture this: You’ve relocated to Venango County—maybe you used to live here and you are returning or you are completely new to the area. You purchase an affordable home, obtain a job where you’ll be using your skills and education, register your children at local schools, take advantage of the outdoor recreation opportunities, and get acquainted with grocery stores, doctor’s offices, and coffee shops.
Yet, you feel like something is missing. You’ve accomplished a great deal since you’ve moved here, but you still notice a void that needs to be filled. Although you have everything you wanted in a place to live and work, why do you still feel somewhat unhappy? More often than not, it’s because you have yet to become truly connected.
There are so many ways to have an excellent quality of life here. Venango County is known for its low cost of living, beautiful scenery, outdoor recreation, low crime rate, and much more, but one of the most important benefits of living in this area is the amazing sense of community.
Sense of community comes in many forms. It can be simply walking down the street and hearing friendly “hellos” from passersby; meeting up with new friends at lunch and chatting for hours; joining an organization, such as a social club or a church, and feeling welcomed immediately; attending a community event and enjoying the entertainment with others; or making a local business connection that will last throughout your entire career.
These are just some of the many ways community members feel accepted and happy. Unfortunately, we have heard many stories of people moving to the area, feeling dissatisfied, and leaving shortly after they arrived. There may be other factors affecting their decision to leave, but more often than not, it is because they were never truly connected within the community.
How can we avoid this? Through the Be Here initiative, I am constantly trying to connect with community members, especially when I see someone new in public or hear that someone has recently moved here. As a community, though, we need to work together and be welcoming ambassadors for our region. Here are some ideas for doing this:
We all have days when we would rather not make conversation with people, but making an effort to look around when walking down the street or ordering your coffee in the morning can help you become more aware of new people. You don’t need to talk to a person extensively and tell them everything they need to know about the area, but simply acknowledging the person and saying hello can make them feel welcomed.
If you’d like to take it a step further and get to know the person, ask them to meet up for coffee or lunch. You never know what type of connections or relationships can be created simply by meeting with someone. Plus, having coffee with various people can make a difference in your own life. According to a TEDx Talk by Bobby Audley, grabbing 50 cups of coffee a year can help you connect with fascinating people and opens up opportunities for new perspectives, mentorships, jobs, friendships, and more.
You may not always have an amazing experience when meeting up with someone, and you don’t have to maintain that relationship just because you feel obligated. Instead, think about what you learned about that person’s interests and background and try to connect them to someone in your network who you think they will get along with. You can also help connect people to local groups and organizations, such as service clubs, social groups, churches, or committees for organizations.
Can you imagine how discouraging it would be for a new community member to hear negative talk about the area? They may have worked hard to make the move to Venango County and hearing comments such as, “This area is failing,” or “There are no jobs and nothing to do here,” can make them rethink their decision. Rather than complain about what is wrong about the area, I encourage you to try to talk about the things that are great and discuss what can be done to fix the challenges we face.
According to a study called Soul of the Community by the Knight Foundation, community attachment is an emotional connection to a place that transcends satisfaction, loyalty, and even passion. A community’s most attached residents feel a bond to their community that is stronger than just being happy about where they live.
Will you join us in helping new community members feel attached and connected?
Photos By: Bright Ideas Photography