Building a Vibrant Community: Love our STW starts a community conversation

The citizen-led organization Love our STW is bringing community revitalization expert Qunit Studer to Stillwater on Jan. 23 for a workshop and a free public meeting to help Stillwater residents develop a plan for moving the city forward. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Museum of Stillwater History at the Sheerar. Organizers ask people planning on attending to follow Love our STW on Facebook and to register so they can be sure there is enough room. Provided

A group of Stillwater residents is asking the community to join them on Jan. 23 to talk about community revitalization.

The organizers of Love our STW hope it’s the beginning of a community conversation that will grow into a vision for moving Stillwater into the future that has grassroots support.

They have invited Quint Studer, a noted revitalization expert, who was involved in the revitalization of downtown Pensacola, Fla. and has consulted with communities across the country.

In 2016, he left the Studer Group, a healthcare consulting firm he founded, to focus on serving as a “full-time volunteer for the community” in his hometown of Pensacola. Studer now serves as the head of the non-profit Studer Community Institute, focusing on improving the quality of life in his city through improving education and economic development.

He and his wife Rishy have also committed resources to building and operating several businesses in downtown Pensacola.

“We all need strong, vital, vibrant communities that work well for everyone, and we can all play a role in building them,” Studer wrote in a recent opinion column for The Coastland Times.

Love our STW member Johnathan Udoka said this effort to organize the residents of Stillwater grew out of a yearlong process. Several people became aware of Studer’s book “Building a Vibrant Community” and formed a book club to read and discuss it.

Udoka says he was personally inspired to join people from 45 different communities last November in Florida for a bootcamp workshop held by the Studer Community Institute that focused on putting ideas into action.

The book club members soon got serious about forming an organization to bring Studer and his tools into Stillwater’s conversation.

One consistent theme that Studer shares with other paths to community revitalization is the emphasis on a thriving downtown area. He also advocates for involvement and investment from both business leaders and the general community. But those community members need to understand what is happening and why.

“Informed citizens are the “boots on the ground” that make things happen. But until they understand what’s going on and how they will benefit, they’ll never get on board with revitalization plans,” Studer wrote in his opinion column, “Civic education helps people understand the why behind growth initiatives. It gets more people to buy in until, eventually, a community achieves the critical mass that allows progress to happen faster.”

In addition to the 7 p.m. Vibrant Community Meeting currently set for the auditorium in the Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar, 702 S. Duncan, a workshop for people who want to become more involved will be offered earlier in the day.

Udoka said he likes that Studer’s approach doesn’t apply a one-size-fits-all approach by slapping a template on every community. Instead, it focuses on establishing what is important to the community and developing a plan to achieve each community’s unique goals.

Love our STW solicited responses to an online survey ahead of the community meeting and has received more than 300, which the organizers consider a good response.

Udoka his co-organizers Jeremy Bales and Mary McGowen want to invite as many members of the community into the conversation as possible and they hope this first meeting is just the beginning.

Udoka says they don’t have a pre-determined agenda and don’t stand to personally profit from the effort but have the goal of developing a community-driven vision that may finally gain traction.

For more information about the Vibrant Community Meeting and other events, follow Love our STW on Facebook.

Admission to the meeting is free but the organizers are asking people interested in attending to register as soon as possible so they can ensure here is enough space. If the need arises, they will move the meeting to a larger venue.

Twitter:@mcharlesNP

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