A Reflection by Tia Taylor
As I reflect on the meaning of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I have gratitude for the many seeds of IMPACT that I have harvested over the last eight months. IMPACT seeds are sown all over Silver Spring, all year round. As diverse as our community is, the harvest comes in many colors, forms and sizes. Like the leaves that are currently falling from the trees in our wonderful community.
HOW IT STARTED
I became a member of the East County Community Circle in February of this year. It really happened by chance. I was new to this area and wanted to get involved in the community and meet people. While volunteering at Greencastle Elementary school's Family Market Day in February, I met the first IMPACT seed. Lanita Whitehurst, East County Organizer, was there helping to distribute food to families also. When I asked a school staff member more about the program and the community, she suggested that Lanita was the woman I should speak with about community activities. Lanita invited me to the next Circle meeting the last Tuesday of that month (and every month if you are interested).
At the Circle meeting, I met a roomful of positive, friendly, active people who clearly cared about this community and each other. Lanita keeps the meetings on track with a calming zen-like demeanor and providing healthy snacks. We start with a check-in and end with a check-out. How cool, calming and peaceful is that after a hectic day? All meetings should be like this!
SEEDS OF ACTION
There are so many project seeds planted in the East County Community Circle that I cannot name them all! A member volunteers their time and energy to lead each project. The Circle provides a supportive environment and information.
Community organizations and leaders are invited to speak at each meeting so that we can learn about our resources.
Guests have included: Commander Marcus Jones from the 3rd District Montgomery County Police Station, Song Hutchins from Asian American Homeownership Counseling, Beverly Coleman from Montgomery College, and many more. The Circle has also undertaken several community action projects, such as:
1) Maydale Nature Center & Park - Revitalizing, re-opening center, promoting park.
2) Clean-up Days - 3 days throughout the year to clear trash and debris in the neighborhood.
3) Senior Village - Activities for seniors that connect them to each other, youth, and the larger community.
4) East County Family Reunion and Basketball tournament.
5) Fathers and Friends - Supporting fathers and men to be more engaged with children in the community.
6) Arts on the Block - A very recent and exciting seed is Arts on The Block (AOTB) selecting the Briggs Chaney community for "Community pARTnerships"! After Jessica Aguero from ATOB pitched the idea at a Circle meeting, members attended meetings, submitted surveys, and provided input on how this would better our community. This project hires teens to plan, coordinate and oversee the building of an art project that will benefit the area by building a stronger sense of community and teach vital life skills.
**There are many more people and projects that are not listed, yet just as important to support the Briggs Chaney and East County area.
THE IMPACT OF MEMBERS
One of our very own Circle members, Tamar Ruth--previously Vice Principal of Greencastle Elementary School (now at Olney)--received the IMPACT Momentum Award in May. An IMPACT seed being recognized for her contributions. I was able to share in the celebration with our Circle members and other community members from the area involved with IMPACT.
Most recently, Dolores Chavez was nominated to the IMPACT Board of Directors. Dolores' work in the Circle leading the Clean-up Days and helping with other projects shows her activism, talent and skills. All will be a great asset to the Board.
Additionally, we support each other and have formed seeds of friendships. Lisa, a Circle member, requested support of her son's project to feed 200 homeless men. A young Circle member planting seeds of nourishment for those less fortunate. Aside from supporting individual activities, I have become friends with some members. Outside of meetings, there may be a night of karaoke here or there in a local restaurant. I sang a great version of "I'm Every Woman" and dedicated it to the positive, strong, passionate, caring women of this community that I was dining with. (Sorry, no video. Just visualize.)
SELF EMPOWERMENT AND IMPROVEMENT
One of the most personally impactful IMPACT seeds was attending the UnMasking Discovery Workshop in June held at the Civic Center. As Circle members we were given the opportunity to submit a poem for a contest to win tickets to this two-day transformative workshop. I was selected to attend. This workshop was a powerful, personal journey that helped me to tap into some of the barriers or "masks" I wear that hide my authentic self. In communities, other people may be dealing with similar barriers.
The big take away for me was: no matter who we are, we all have some feelings of vulnerabilities and strengths. We have to learn to be true to ourselves to improve and live our best by focusing on the positive (not the negative) and learn from our past. The connecting point for members in a community is that those feelings may come from different origins, but we can connect as a people based on meeting each other at that similar feeling. The strength of another can help where someone or something is challenged. That creates and builds balance and abundance in community.
I am grateful for all of the amazing people and experiences I have had by being involved with IMPACT in less than a year! It has helped me be more connected and involved in my community, and to encourage others to do the same. The personal growth opportunities appear in various ways just by being a part of the Circle and are an added bonus. The seeds were sown and I am reaping the harvest of IMPACT!