With help of grant, Cambridge will show its “Community Heart & Soul”

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The Henry County Courthouse in Cambridge, Ill.

The Henry County seat of Cambridge, Ill., will work to transform itself with a new national grant,.

In August, Community Heart & Soul announced the Village of Cambridge as among the first recipients of its national $10,000 Seed Grant. This grant and program provide the potential to transform the community through Community Heart & Soul, a resident-driven community development process that leads to increased local pride, more viable economic development projects, and stronger community connections, according to a Tuesday release.

On Saturday, Oct. 9, the group will make its public launch in conjunction with Cambridge United Methodist Church’s 31st annual Fall Review. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Cambridge Community Heart & Soul volunteers will be at the entrance of Cambridge Community Hall, located at 125 N. East St., to hear first-hand from residents why they love where they live and their hopes for the future of the area. This will be the first of many story-gathering exercises in the community.

“I am really excited to see what the Community Heart & Soul program can do for Cambridge,” says village administrator Steve Brown. “I know from talking to residents that the desire to rejuvenate and grow our town is strong and many are willing to be a part of it. To help Cambridge grow to fit all of the needs of the community is something that we will all be proud of.”

Over the course of the project, which is expected to take 18 months to complete, the group will attempt to reach every resident in the Cambridge community to gather their stories. In these stories, it is anticipated common themes of what residents love most about the area and their hopes for the future are expected to emerge, the release said. These themes will then become the foundation for decision making and be used to create a long-term vision for the future of the community.

Mike Wignall, the project coordinator, said that “volunteering for the Cambridge Community Heart & Soul project is one of the best decisions I’ve made. We are making a difference in Cambridge, Illinois and the changes will come from community residents, all of them.”

Galesburg, Ill., is also part of the Community Heart & Soul program.

In addition to Cambridge, Community Heart & Soul awarded its first three $10,000 Seed Grants to Akron and Westfield, Iowa; and Winchendon, Mass. The Community Heart & Soul Seed Grant Program funds resident-driven groups in small cities and towns working to revitalize their communities by undertaking the Community Heart & Soul process.

Awardees provide matching funds and work with Heart & Soul coaches to launch community development efforts using the Community Heart & Soul process.

“Small cities and towns have an opportunity to emerge from the pandemic with a brighter, more prosperous future,” Mark Sherman, Community Heart & Soul executive director, said in August. “Our Seed Grants accelerate the adoption of Community Heart & Soul so that more communities can use the proven model now, when it is needed most.”

The cities of Akron and Westfield are supporting the use of Community Heart & Soul throughout the Akron-Westfield Community School District in northwest Iowa. “During the pandemic, many folks have realized how good we have it here. There are new businesses opening and our community is excited to build on the positive momentum through the Community Heart & Soul process,” said Akron resident Lisa Harris.

Il Cambridge College Square
A playground in Cambridge, Illinois.

The Village of Cambridge was beginning to embark on a community planning effort when they found the Community Heart & Soul Seed Grant Program. The timing was perfect to use the model to guide their efforts. “The pandemic has amplified the need for community involvement to reenergize the area,” village board member John Taylor said then. 

Interested parties are encouraged to follow the Cambridge Community Heart & Soul pages on Facebook and Instagram for more information on the project, how to join the effort, and future activities and events.

For more information, visit communityheartandsoul.org.

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