On Thursday, January 10, our GreaterTogether Listening Tour made its first stop of 2019 at the Lucy Robbins Welles Library in Newington. About 30 residents of Newington came together for an insightful conversation lead by Jay Williams, president of the Hartford Foundation. After a short introduction, the floor was opened for those in attendance to share what they love about living in Newington, as well as some of the challenges facing their community.
Here are a few things we learned throughout the course of the evening:
- Many towns in our region share similar characteristics and challenges, yet each town has their own unique character. Newington is a fantastic community with great neighbors who help each other out. There are extra services that make this town a special place to live, such as the Art League, Newington Children’s Theater and the Deming-Young Farm. However, as municipal budgets are becoming more and more stretched, the money to maintain the extras is hard to come by. How can these special groups be preserved for the good of the community? The Hartford Foundation recently announced our Greater Together Community Funds which will empower residents of Newington and the 28 other towns in our region by providing the funds for residents to tackle these problems as they see fit. Learn more about the Greater Together Community Funds here.
- Not everyone in Newington has the same socio-economic background. There are folks who work hard but still continue to struggle financially. There are some families that are food insecure. Current options for after-school programs are priced beyond what those families can afford. How can Newington create low to no cost after-school programs and other services so that students and their families have the same access as those who are more financially stable?
- Unfortunately, there have been a number of vehicle break-ins in Newington, and rising crime rates are a concern. While the Foundation can’t fund municipal police departments directly, we can work with community organizations that support public safety.
- Newington is an aging community and they need services for seniors. On a state level, the Department on Aging and the Commissioner on Aging have both been eliminated. As the community ages, there is a real need to create intergenerational connections, to teach younger generations empathy and to find people willing to work in caring for seniors. What role can the Foundation take in helping to break down silos among the generations?
- There was a discussion about workforce development. This is something that has come up at every Listening Tour stop. According to one resident, job training and building in-demand skills are the best ways to support those who are working and still struggling. Returning high school tech programs and apprenticeship programs are ways to keep kids in the community. There is a need to convince parents that the vocations are another pathway to success and that working with your hands is not a cause for shame.
- A common theme we’ve heard throughout our Listening Tour has been the decline in volunteerism, which was brought up during this stop as well. There is a need to inspire a whole new generation to join boards and other volunteer organization to serve their community. Other towns are experiencing the same issue—what might we learn from each other to address this?
- There are populations within the community that are underserved, such as people with disabilities. The disabled are often overlooked. A resident pointed out that the video we show at the beginning of the evening lacked representation. Some within that population want to volunteer and serve their community, but they don’t know how. How do we amplify the voices we don’t always hear? How can Newington create an inclusive culture within their community?
Thank you to everyone who attended. This is the first of our last four stops on the Greater Together Listening Tour! Our next stop will be at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, where we will hear from residents of Suffield and Windsor Locks. If there are any additional ideas you would like share, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you!