Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

August 18, 2013

Brautigam: Kokomo is a story worth telling

By Faith Brautigam
Guest columnist

— “How do you like Kokomo?” That’s the one question I’ve been asked more than any other since I arrived here last November. In response, I’ve often emphasized how welcome I’ve been made to feel, but there’s a more compelling answer that is harder to explain in casual conversation. There are a whole lot of people here who see a need and do something about it. On the face of it, that doesn’t sound exceptional. Dig a little deeper, however, and I think you’ll see that it goes far beyond casual generosity or an easy, short-term push.

Given the size of the community, the sheer number of private social service entities is impressive — and that doesn’t count the myriad services they offer or their commitment to creative and passionate partnering and fund-raising.  Local leaders took on a down economy and refused to let Kokomo die when our major employers hit hard times, and Kokomo School Corp. started a successful magnet school program that expects more from its students, not allowing poverty to be an excuse for stagnation. Separate entities work together to create whole new collaborative groups, and BLUSH exists because of two women with a vision. Ivy Tech’s automotive center marries innovation and practicality to such a degree that after I visited, I talked about it for three days straight. The list could go on and on. The We Care machine itself could be the topic of an entire article.

I love living and working where I regularly meet People Who Make Things Happen. It’s even the case on the weekend, since the church I attend has just rolled out expanded ways to support kids in need at the closest elementary school. Having moved around the country, I have encountered SEWDI (Somebody Else Will Do It) in an exhausting array of venues. It is exciting and refreshing, instead, to see people taking responsibility for change and making a difference in people’s lives as a result.

A current example, and one I’ve been privileged to be a part of, is the upcoming Howard County Women’s Summit. A few months ago, a small group of women decided to look into the idea of holding an event that would allow local women to meet and to think about the issues facing local women and then to use that as a jumping off point to create change. Even without any formal organization, or the things that go with it such as a budget or a website, it’s about to become a reality; if you’re a local woman we’d love for you to join us. On Saturday morning, Sept. 14, at IU Kokomo, we will host nationally known speaker Suzie Humphreys and kick off the inaugural Howard County Women’s Summit. The logo says, “Thrive, Empower, Advance” and given the can-do spirit of the women behind this event, I expect we will have a great morning and in time create real progress on those fronts.

The next time you’re talking to friends or family from out of town and get asked how things are in Kokomo, perhaps you’ll have time to talk about the local people you know who are tirelessly working toward change. Tell about their latest success stories, too. The collaborative nature and can-do spirit in our community add up to a story worth telling.

Faith Brautigam is director of the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library.