A New Place For Connecting in Galesburg

by Peter Schwartzman

Eight months in the making, The Center opens its doors this week for the first time. Centrally-located in downtown Galesburg (123 S. Cherry Street.—ac-across from the public library), The Center provides a space for members of the Galesburg and surrounding community to gather, connect, and learn from one another. There is a tremendous amount of wisdom, vitality and spirit in our community. Yet, many people are disconnected from one another by artificial barriers and fixed patterns of behavior. This disconnection leads some to feel apathetic, isolated, and powerless. In order for Galesburg to flourish and prosper in the coming years, it is very important that its members reconnect and seek mutually supportive solutions to our pressing concerns. The Center hopes to foster new connections and provide opportunities for productive engagement among GalesburgÕs various communities and individuals.
    There are many existing institutions and organizations (both governmental as well as private) that provide critical services to our community. The Center has no intentions to replace th
eose institutions or their functions. Rather, The Center hopes to support these institutions and establish new opportunities for people to solve their own problems to share ideas and collaborate on worthwhile projects. . How might it do this? Well, we don't know yet. But, we have supreme confidence that the people that come to The Center will figure it out. To avoid seeming excessively vague, let me sHere are a few waysuggest that a few ways that some of the originalcurrent members of The Center have thought this connection and collaborationis might happen: . The Center's members will connect and support each other by: (1) watching films about topics relevant to citiestowns like ours and talking and talking about their implications for how they relate to local issues[sc1] ; (2) offering local kids activities that are educational and confidence-boosting; (3) providing resources to one another (through trading, sharing, charity, creating local currencie& s & free stores); (4) (2) playing games and establishing new friendships; (53) sharing local/personal histories; (64) enjoying local artists' offerings (in the form of music, sculpture, photography, comic relief, or poetry);; (5) offering local kids activities that are educational and confidence-boosting; (6) providing resources to one another (through trading, sharing, charity, creating local currencies & free stores); (7) tapping into local knowledge in areas that can support sustainability, health, and well-being (such as, canning, knitting, yoga, gardening, etc;.); and, (8) directing visitors and other members to local agencies, institutions, and organizations that offer assistance and guidance. These are just some of the ways The Center hopes to be  of used. Other ideas are expected to come from community members (such as you).

The Center is an organic enterprise, growing and reconstituting itself all the time. The main tenet of The Center is: Connection through Volunteerism, Community Building and Empowerment. Connecting is how species survive and prosper. Humans are no different. When times are tough, it is the whole that protects the weak. We need to strengthen ourthese networks of support. The Center has no paid staff, and very little budget to speak of. Thus, it is imperative for its activities and services to come by way of volunteers. This may sound idealistic but, if the first eight months arehas been any indication, volunteers will make The Center a vital and energizing facility. As more and more people organize and come to The Center's functions (all of which are beinghave been organized by volunteers), a new community spirit will undoubtedly be formed. Evolving out of this spirit will be new collaborations and associations, both indications that community building is occurring.  In the end, by working together and developing new connections, people will be empowered to solve their own problems and/oror fulfill their needs by using the resources available to them reliably and effectively.

In the above ways, The Center offers a different model from that many found today. It believes in the power of individuals working together to value each otherÕs wisdom and spirit and as a means to generate solutions to existing problems. It expresses this belief in its open door policy and its lack of religious, economic, political, ethnic, or social affiliation. It relies on human confidence, ingenuity, spirit, persistence, humility, and a sense of purpose. In this way, it doesn't depend on fund raising (though, donations are always welcome) or a paid staff. In the end, The Center depends on you and others like you for its strength, character, and vision. The Center will become what you make of it. Come out to one of its functions and see for yourself what The Center can offer you and what you can offer it.


How do you become a member of The Center? ThisIt is about as easy as it comes. Just show up! There are no membership fees/dues or other required expenses. Since last summerJuly 2007, volunteers from various communities of Galesburg and surrounding areas have convened weekly to make The Center a location fit for gatherings and activities supported by community members—whichthat means YOU. Central to its mission, The Center's future depends on the involvement of the community. Thus far, around fifty members of the community have volunteered at/for The Center in a variety of ways—busting out plaster, painting walls, building scaffolding, passing out invitations, building a website, planning and organizing activities, baking cookies, taking minutes, etc. It has been a wonderful experience to see so many people express their hope and respect for the community in these ways.

While we don't have regular hours yet, we do have several things going on. The CenterÕs members convene Ttwice a week (Sunday morning  and Wednesday evening), The Center's members convene) to discuss and plans its future for meetings. . Everyone in the community is welcome at these gatherings. Beyond interactive planning meetings, The Center will be having several exciting kick-off events in the next few weeks (see insert). We are hoping folks will attend these events as well as spread the word about them. Future events are in the works and The Center always needs people to join and participate. If you want to get involved in The Center, please contact us by email: connect@thecenteringalesburg.org, or mail: 123 S. Cherry St., Galesburg, IL 61401.  We also use our mail slot at theour front door to receive feedback and offers of volunteerism from the community. The Center's website (www.thecenteringalesburg.org) also contains its latest information and happenings.

Come get connected and acquainted with new neighbors. Bring your friends. Let's be part of something special. Let's make Galesburg the best place in the world to live.


¥    Friday, Feb. 29th, Open House for Community Leaders (by invitation only)

¥    Sunday, Mar. 2nd, Opening Movie (6-8 PM)
¥    Thursday, Mar. 6th, Discussion about Solutions to Climate Change (with author Larry Lohmann) (9-10:30 PM)
¥    Friday, Mar. 7th, Open Mike (7-9 PM)
¥    Tuesday, Mar. 11th, Open House for Community People (6-9 PM)
These All but the first events is are open to all community members.



 [sc1]I thought having playing games as number 2 came off a bit too cavalier.