Visit someone else’s corner

Many of you are aware that I am currently on the Alpena Public Schools Board of Education. When I first told people I was running the comment I heard most was some version of, “Are you nuts?” That was usually followed by, “good luck.”

I’ve now attended four school board meetings, several committee meetings (finance and property), and a workshop. I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. We talk about many different topics, and many of the same topics that I talk about in my position at the Chamber of Commerce. We also discuss new topics that never or rarely come up in my position at the Chamber.

I also recently was invited to attend a meeting of the Human Services Collaborative Council. The HSCC has the following mission: to use interagency collaboration to strengthen the well-being of individuals and families and to promote a healthy community. It is a great concept.

There are so many agencies doing similar work, providing services for the same clients, or are doing work that could enhance what another agency is doing. The HSCC gives them an opportunity to find valuable connections, partnerships, and opportunities between the organizations. Even though it is out of the realm of what I do every day, the meeting was valuable to me because we often receive inquiries about area services and I now have a better grasp of what service each agency provides.

I enjoy my time on the School Board and I enjoyed the HSCC meeting. Although I want to provide value to every meeting I attend, I also want to receive value from the meetings.

The most valuable thing I get out of participating in meetings that are outside of the normal scope of what I do for my job is the different perspective. We each operate in our own corner of the world, but our little corner is part of a bigger community. Each of the parts impact each other and broadening our understanding of what other people do in their corner of the community helps us to see things more clearly and make more informed decisions.

For example, I know there are people in this community who need assistance with things like putting food on the table, heating their home, or finding transportation to and from appointments. I know there are children in this community who are at risk in one way or another. I know these things exist but I don’t often think about who is doing the work to address it.

In my job I am far removed from the front line work in these areas. The HSCC meeting helped to paint that picture for me. I left with a page of notes about the updates from all of the agencies around the table. The agencies are doing great work in and around the community. It was nice to be made more aware of what they are doing and goals they have.

The same thing happens when I’m at a School Board meeting. I am pretty far removed from the schools in my everyday life. The Chamber works with the schools on different projects and I am on a few committees that overlap with Chamber work, but without having kids in the system, I am not very aware of everything they are doing. Being involved on the School Board really keeps me in the loop concerning Alpena Public School activities, programs, and challenges.

These things are important to at least be aware of because the different components of a community may be far removed from the work you do every day but it actually has an impact on you. If the HSCC agencies weren’t here, I guarantee we would have a very different community. If the schools were not doing a great job educating our youth, we would have a different end result.

There are many moving parts to a community that all interact with one another and rely on all of the other parts working effectively. It may be enough for you to simply understand that, but I encourage you to take it one step further and explore areas you don’t currently know. Gain a better understanding of some of the corners of your community that you are unfamiliar with. I believe you will have a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the community in which you live.

Jackie Krawczak is president/CEO of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.