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Public Engagement and Increased Communication Identifies Needs and Wants Within the Community

In an effort to give myself ample time to complete my research for my upcoming blog on the school bond referendum and where I stand, I decided to take this week to reflect on a conversation that I had with another Iredell County resident:

The conversation was about the importance of individual inspiration and expression; a vital characteristic in which residents should be able to express themselves, and talk about experiences and ideas. This is how problem solving and brainstorming find common ground to assist in furthering the development of positive ideas and solutions.

For me, my ideas have derived from interactions and experiences of my daily routine, in which I hear the concerns, the needs and the wants of Iredell County residents. 

As a restaurant business owner, I spend time working directly with customers — an interaction that has enabled me to engage in face-to-face conversation with individuals, providing them with a listening ear. I believe that encouraging someone to think for and inspire themselves, while also enabling them to believe in their own ideas, is a great first step in helping conversation move forward. 

This is especially true when it comes to discussing new and opposing ideas. As an Iredell County Commissioner candidate, I will strive to listen to all views and concerns from all of our Iredell County residents. Even though views may not align, a fair conversation can be eye-opening and thought-provoking.

I have learned so many important lessons from my interactions with non-profits within the community. I have spent over 30 years volunteering in the Iredell County community, with a wide variety of organizations, including: 

  • Rainbow Kidz, trained volunteer; 

  • School PTO (parent teacher organization), served 10 years as president; 

  • Purple Heart Homes, community volunteer;

  • Love United Iredell - United Way, steering committee

  • Girls on the Run, coach

  • Habitat for Humanity, previous  landscaper

  • Salvation Army, volunteer

  • Taught youth at church for 11 years. 

I have had the opportunity to both lead, and to simply be a helping hand for these life-changing organizations and non-profits. I have been an active part of board meetings in which I have listen to other conversations, learned from others’ experiences, and have shared some of my own ideas. I have been a part of break-out groups with take away assignments, which have permitted me to do committed and creative research, in an attempt to bring back constructive and useful feedback to the group.

My experience with volunteer work has inspired me to find ways to improve the means in which individuals communicate and express what is on their minds while also providing them a variety of ways to do so. 

To start, in suggesting one improvement in this much needed communication, I feel that there should be a stronger connection between non-profits and local government. Non-profits and other community agencies that assist citizens with daily needs should have a stronger, more effective and direct communication with elected officials. I strongly believe that with these two types of entities working more closely together, their improved communication would strengthen the county and further improve the ability to drill down to direct needs and wants of the community. 

I have been so inspired by the individuals I have met throughout the years, heard their stories, watched them overcome hardship, and watched others helping others just because it’s the right thing to do. I wanted to have even more of an impact in helping raise awareness about the good that these nonprofits and community groups do, so I opted to host two radio shows — “Motivational Monday” on WAME 92.9 and 550 and “Why Should I Care” on WSIC 105.9FM 100.7 FM 1400AM — and I have seen a higher level of involvement and curiosity from residents just by highlighting these entities.

This has been my most successful endeavor in improving connections and awareness between the community and non-profits. I meet representatives face-to-face, follow up with emails, make phone calls, attend meetings, all for the preparation of the live radio shows which are solely dedicated to making a positive impact, raising awareness within the community, and inspiring others to take action. These are real people’s stories. And I feel that it is important to hear an individual’s personal story. Finding a topic that someone feels passionate — something that ignites the fire that propels an individual to share their ideas for improvement, feel pride for the place in which they live, and feel inspired to take action in improving their own community. 

With this experience, as an Iredell County Commissioner, I promise that I will continue to help make connections that will help individuals express ideas to their elected leader:  ideas to improve their community, thoughts that they are passionate about, in an effort to more specifically address Iredell County residents’ needs and wants while also helping to inspire individuals to take their own action in improving our community. 

Awareness is good, action is necessary. I will strive to provide opportunities for people to get involved because together is how we grow and improve as a community.

Another idea would be to have a more easily-identifiable, more accessible list of active non-profits and community organizations within the community, a description of their mission, and a direct link to their contact information. This would be another start to enabling more people to be a part of conversations and sharing ideas, while also discovering community groups that share those same passions. This would all be done in an effort to bridge the gap, and create an environment that is conducive to engaging residents’ creative and critical feedback while also employing them to take action and be a part of that change. 

I will continue to encourage folks to get involved in their neighborhood groups and local organizations that may actually align closer to their wants and needs than they ever realized — all it takes is awareness, an informed public, and a desire to take action. I will continue to connect individuals and organizations on projects that will create opportunity for local government officials to take action.

And once the creative ideas of a group of active, productive citizens create that such opportunity for local government officials to assist, it would be effective to produce a timeline and project evaluation for each endeavor. Seeing the amount of time a project is taking keeps you aware of progress, and sharing a timeline with those who are involved (including the public) would organize thoughts and steps that have been completed, and those that still need to be done. Evaluation is key to growing and moving forward. 

As a matter of fact, I am excited to announce that I am re-inviting my first guest back to my radio show in an effort to highlight all the amazing progress they have accomplished since first speaking there. I always let my guests know from the beginning that I want to do a follow up show so that I can showcase the amazing progress and positive impact these nonprofits and community organizations create within our community. 

I realize that when people donate dollars and time to community organizations, they want to be reassured that those donations are being used wisely in creating a growing, sustainable non-profit that will continue to have impact on the community, while also planning for the improvement of our future. 

So I am excited to continue my radio shows in this effort to raise awareness for our community, but I also promise to bring this same passion and mentality to the Iredell County Commissioner seat.

So vote for A Leader Like Neader on March 3 during the primary election, and visit my blog next week to hear my thoughts and research on the school bond referendum! 

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