Bloomington-Normal is a giving community. We may need to make time for reflection, ever so often, to celebrate the leaders and events, small or big thatenable us to enjoy the lives we lead. (WJBC file photo)
By Phani Aytam
Being Bloomington transplants, people often ask my wife and I, “when and what made us consider Bloomington our home?"
I can clearly go back to the time when we were returning from a vacation and had an unsurpassable feeling that we were returning HOME. We started to wonder what it is about a small community like Bloomington-Normal that appeals to people and lends to the quality of life that we get to enjoy. The broader question that I wanted to learn was “What events and which people shaped our community and continue to shape our lives?”
Being a history buff, a story or rather a project about civic engagement and community from the forties really spoke to me. Clay Tate, the ex-editor of The Daily Pantagraph explains this effort so eloquently in his book “Building a better home town”. If you would like to borrow this book, check out your local library.
In January of 1944, a small group called “Better Bloomington Committee” consisting of five community leaders was created to formulate an actionable program to pave the way to modernize and sustain community development. According to Clay, “There is no limit to what a community can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit”. Better Bloomington Committee chaired by a well-connected community leader, Ned Dolan did just that. They took charge of addressing some urgent community issues like water supply, transportation, public health, etc.; issues we can relate to even today. Over a decade, the committee reenergized the community that was plagued by unemployment and an ineffective city administrative system.
Here are a few things that the Committee accomplished:
- Establishment of a county health unit
- Development of city council-manager system
- Appointment of city plan commission
- Improvement and development of municipal airport
One would probably wonder as to what inspired these competent and self-less community leaders to devote their personal time to community improvement. We are all passionate about, well, different things in life. What if those dreams enable the current and future generations to lead a healthy and productive life? What is stopping us from pursuing our dreams?
Bloomington-Normal is a giving community. We may need to make time for reflection, ever so often, to celebrate the leaders and events, small or big thatenable us to enjoy the lives we lead.
The only thing that ever mattered is the resolve of one person. While the accomplishments of the Better Bloomington Committee are big, there are many others that go unnoticed; an inspiring school teacher to a lifelong social worker. Do you know any such person or an event that we should celebrate? Share your thoughts with me.
Phani Aytam lives in Bloomington with his dear wife Sandeepa Sangras. He serves on the board of directors for the McLean County Museum of History and Multicultural Leadership Program (MCLP), an organization that strives to develop diverse leaders He is an avid sports enthusiast with a strong penchant for good spicy food.
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