On Thursday, January 24, our Greater Together Listening Tour made its second stop of 2019 at New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks. A small, but dedicated group of residents and stakeholders from Suffield and Windsor Locks braved torrential rain 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 Suffield and Windsor Locks, as well as some of the challenges facing their communities.
Here are a few things we learned throughout the course of the evening:
Suffield is a lovely blend of country and convenience. It is located between two major cities – Hartford and Springfield, Massachusetts – and has easy access to Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks. There are beautiful open spaces and farmland, which as one resident put it, gives Suffield “a country town feeling within easy access of the city.”
Like other towns on our tour, the people really make the community special. Suffield and Windsor Locks are no different. Each community is full of friendly, hardworking people. As one Suffield resident quipped, the town has “good spirit”. Suffield even has its own sweet, local paper, The Suffield Observer, which gives the town a unique voice. The paper is published 10 months out of the year and is put together entirely by a staff of volunteers.
There was a celebration and general appreciation for volunteers within the community. However, as with other towns on our tour, volunteerism is starting to wane. Like other towns, Suffield and Windsor Locks always see the same people. As one resident put it, “It wears you down.” There is a need to inspire a new generation to serve their towns. In November, we launched our Greater Together Community Funds to empower residents of Suffield, Windsor Locks and the 27 other towns in our region by providing the funds for residents to tackle challenges within their own community. To manage these funds, each town will be able to form their own Advisory Committees. The creation of these groups could be just the thing to encourage new, younger, diverse folks to get involved with their towns. The Hartford Foundation is working on convening a discussion around volunteerism to help address this issue that almost all of the towns we’ve visited struggle with.
The folks that attended were very curious about the Foundation. There were some great questions about how we operate and do our work. Some were curious as to how we generate revenue and how we plan for future dollars. One way is through the generosity of donors. Another way is through our investment process and spending policy. Over the years, these dollars have made a tremendous impact in the Greater Hartford area. To learn more, check out some of the stories featured in our 2017 annual report.
A question about the impact that the state’s budget crisis has had on our work was raised. Our role in the region is to not fill in the gaps or make up for what government doesn’t have. However, we recognize the power of public policy to increase the impact of our investments. To that end, we engage in a broad range of public policy and advocacy activities so our grantmaking can be more far-reaching, sustainable and responsive to critical community issues. We act as a thought leader, bring people together, and use data to show the importance and impact of key programs. In the coming year, we will roll out a new strategic plan. In partnership with nonprofits and other partners, Hartford Foundation efforts historically have recognized disparities that exist in our communities based on race, place, and income and have sought to address them. Over the next three years, we plan to do more, in partnership with our communities, to support analyzing data and implementing strategies that show promise, and to measure impact to document what works and what doesn’t.
Thank you to everyone who attended. This is the second of our last four stops on the Greater Together Listening Tour! Our next stop will be at the South Windsor Public Library, where we will hear from residents of East and South Windsor. If there are any additional ideas you would like to share, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you!