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Working towards a unified community

Published: Sunday, March 24, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Woodstock is more than a town. It is more than a shopping destination. It is more than a place on the map. It is more than an attraction. Woodstock is a community. The Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Industry serves this community. To best serve the community, we need the cooperation of all businesses in the area.

In the book “Community: The Structure of Belonging,” author Peter Block outlines how most communities are fragmented and at odds with themselves. However, Block goes on to detail how a community can emerge from fragmentation. Specifically he notes how individuals and leaders can work to create a unified community – moving from a community of deficiencies, interests, and entitlement to one of possibility, generosity, and gifts.

The Woodstock chamber sponsors many events to bring business to the community. We sponsor Victorian Christmas, Pickle Palooza, the Miss Woodstock Scholarship Pageant, and multiple mixers and seminars throughout the calendar year.

The Woodstock community benefits both directly and indirectly from these many events. What we are looking for is for the community to go from passive benefactors to involved ambassadors. It is our community, thus we can all be best served from all of us working together for the betterment of this community.

Empty storefronts should not be the problem merely of the property owner, they are an indication of the health of the overall business community. We should all strive together to fill these voids – to work together to build a unified, thriving community.

The focus needs to be not on the problems of the community, but rather on the possibility of community.

Community, by definition, is the experience of belonging. What better way to embrace that sense of belonging, but to be a member of the Woodstock Chamber – an organization whose sole purpose is to bring together the individual members of the community to work in tandem for the betterment of the whole community?

“To belong to a community is to act as a creator and co-owner of that community,” Block writes. Co-owner is a key phrase. We must work together as a whole – as a group of co-owners – to facilitate the betterment of the community.

No one person; no one company can move the community forward. Rather, it is by working together as members of the Woodstock chamber that we can facilitate an ever improving, ever rewarding community.

If today is the first day in the rest of your life, then why not make it the first day of being a true ambassador of the community? Why not be an active member of the Woodstock chamber ? Why not come together as a unified community?

Our essential challenge is to transform the isolation and self-interest within our community into connectedness and caring for the whole.

For information on joining the Woodstock chamber, visit www.woodstockilchamber.com or call 815-338-2436. We are here to work with all of you.

• Shari Gray is the executive director of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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