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Coalition event aims to help communities work 'Better Together'

Last Thursday Alan Robichaud, community development director for Lakes Region United Way, talks about the Lakes Region Family Coalition’s “Better Together” event set for this Friday at the Gilford Community Church. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
May 19, 2010
The Lakes Region Children and Family Coalition plans to grab the community by the reins to prove that local agencies and municipalities can work "Better Together."

The coalition met last week for a press conference announcing the "Better Together - From Ordinary to EXTRAORDINARY" event, which will be held on Friday, May 21, and join together local agencies and community members. Participants were given a "Better Together" booklet weeks ahead to prepare for a dynamic conversation.

The booklet is co-authored by the keynote speaker for the day and President and CEO of the NH Charitable Foundation Lew Feldstein.

The coalition, formed last November, aims to provide a forum for communication and collaboration and help build strong and healthy families, which is exactly what members aim to do Friday. The event strongly encourages participants to brainstorm issues that need to be tackled in the Lakes Region.

Not only will businesses, elders, and local schools be taken into consideration, but youths within the community will be a prime focus to ensure that the Lakes Region community is a safe and thriving environment.

Alan Robichaud, community development director for Lakes Region United Way, said "citizen engagement" is key in serving the community the best the coalition can.

"When people get together, great things can happen," said Robichaud. "That's the kind of excitement we want to stimulate in Belknap County."

Robichaud and other members of the coalition agreed that most people are tired of mundane meetings, and said this event should be anything but the typical meeting, but instead, an exciting dialogue between members of the community.

Tammy Levesque, community health educator for the HEAL program, explained that participants may enjoy a skit or two and will sit at tables covered with paper to encourage each person to write down or choose from key words they would like to address during discussions and perhaps tackle on a greater scale.

"This is the start of something bigger; it's a movement and it needs action," said Levesque. "We are asking people to act, to strike interactivity and reach out to their neighbors. We are trying to make the meeting creative and give them something to work off of."

Shannon Robinson-Beland, community support coordinator for the Lakes Region Family Resource Center, said over 100 participants already registered a week prior to the event.

"This is exciting for all of us and people in the community are getting excited. Hopefully they will carry this back to their own neighborhood," said Robinson-Beland. "We want to focus on what the community says is important."

Although this event is only a day long, the coalition said they are aiming for long term goals, and they plan to continue conversations sparked during the event, long after participants have gone home.

Along with the keynote speaker, lunch and various activities, the "Better Together" event will focus on goals that can be accomplished when community members work together, personal insights and contributions from participants, and a discussion on making a difference in the community and creating an ideal place for children and families to live.

The event will be held at the Gilford Community Church's Fellowship Hall May 21 from 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

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