On Thursday, March 14, our Greater Together Listening Tour made its final stop at the Simsbury Public Library. Nearly 60 residents gathered 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 Simsbury, as well as some of the challenges facing their community.
Here are a few things we learned throughout the course of the evening:
- As with so many other towns, Simsbury has a wonderful spirit and has a wonderful group of volunteers. Neighbors give of their time and money to groups like the ABC House, the Symphony, the Simsbury Land Trust and Friends of the Library. Volunteerism is something that has come up at many Listening Tours. Over the next year, the Foundation will investigate best practices, systems and other ways to connect people who want to give of their time in service of others. What that will look like is still an unknown, but it is something we are excited to work on!
- Simsbury has demonstrated a commitment to social justice (including the Better Chance program, social justice work of the Congregational Church). They are proud of the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King spent summers in Simsbury when he was young. However, Simsbury is a not diverse community. How can they be more inclusive? How can they cross the mountain, or bring people over the mountain, and share their natural resources with others? Is there a role for the Hartford Foundation to play as a convener, or perhaps the new Community Fund workgroup? How might initiatives like the East Coast Greenway help connect Simsbury to Tarriffville and Bloomfield?
- Simsbury lost two big employers with the departure of The Hartford and Eversource, yet economic development is more than attracting major employers; small businesses are just as, if not more, valuable. What can Simsbury do to attract and support small business? How can the community reclaim vacant properties? Is there a place where the Hartford Foundation could help, such as through public policy? Have other community foundations in the state had success with similar projects?
- Like other towns in the region, Simsbury has wonderful natural resources, with their greatest asset being the Farmington River. How can the town encourage smart development, balancing nature and the need for affordable housing? How can Simsbury make the river more accessible to more people?
- Transportation is an issue in Simsbury. Transportation is essentially limited to cars, often with only one person riding inside. For those who rely solely on public transportation, options are limited. As children with disabilities age out of the system, parents are stepping in to provide transportation, often to the detriment of their own jobs. Adult children with older parents are also stepping in to provide transportation for seniors. Transportation challenges have come up in other Listening Tours. How can Simsbury provide more transportation options within and beyond the town? Is this something the Community Funds can help with? Are there ways the Hartford Foundation can bring communities together to brainstorm solutions?
Thank you to everyone who attended. This marked the final stop on our Greater Together Listening Tour! This has been quite a journey. Our Listening Tour began in January 2018, and since then, we’ve done 20+ events and had the pleasure of meeting with residents of all 29 towns that we serve. We’ve been around 90 years and are deeply embedded in many issues but there’s no replacement for hearing directly from residents. We learned so much and left every event inspired. Thanks to everyone who came to one of these events. This isn’t the end - we will see you again soon! If there are any additional ideas you would like to share, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s keep the conversation going!