Announcements, Health, Seward Community Foundation

Ice Rink & Recycling chosen as Seward Strong Projects

 

Community participants of Seward Strong day join together to celebrate the day’s successes. Photo by Kelley Lane.

The Seward Strong planning day selected two goals by popular vote for the coming year: the construction of a covered ice rink and the creation of a stronger recycling program in Seward. On Tuesday, December 5th, members of Seward nonprofits and community members joined together to decide on goals and projects for the upcoming year. This day of visioning and collaborating was part of the second-annual Seward Strong event, hosted by Seward Wellness For All. The event was held at the Alaska Sea Life Center, in a conference room that overlooked Garden by the Bay, one of the 2016 Seward Strong projects chosen. It’s a bit difficult to talk about what the Seward Strong event is, because its model is novel and incorporates strengths from a variety of disciplines.

The day starts with icebreakers and introductions, allowing participants to feel more at ease with one another. As the day progresses, all participants are given a chance to brainstorm and then pitch their ideas. The overarching theme of the day is finding and refining ideas for the improvement of Seward and its surrounding community. The reasoning behind the day is that local people know their own communities. They also know what might make their lives and the lives of their fellow townspeople more vibrant, healthier and fuller. In the same way that individuals often know themselves and what will improve their lives, Seward Strong is based on the belief that community members know what can build resiliency in Seward.

Micheley Kowalski, owner of Resurrect Art Coffee House, was recently hired to head Seward’s Wellness For All program. In the month leading up to the Seward Strong event, Kowalski could be seen around town spreading the word about the upcoming event. Kowalski’s previous work as a counselor at AVTEC, her training in mindfulness and her broad community connections made her a natural fit for the position. Kowalski, along with Doug Osborne of Sitka, facilitated the day’s events. In order to move from initial introductions to two project goals all in the course of one day, the timeline had to be well managed. Each section of the day was timed, based on one of the stated guidelines for the event “start on time, end on time.” Kowalski was excited at the goals chosen. “It’s great to see people care so deeply about Seward.”

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Goals chosen by the 30+ participants of the Seward Strong Day, held at Alaska Sea Life Center. Photo by Kelley Lane.

The two projects chosen will receive $2,000 starter money from Wellness For All, as well as a letter of support, which has tremendous value when applying for further grant funding. Broad community support is one of the metrics used by foundations and governments when choosing projects to fund. The ice rink idea received the most votes of the day. It was selected as a long range goal, with the expectation that it will likely take more than a year’s time for it to become a reality. The written vision of success stated: “when our community has a covered sports rink for ice and court sports accessible year round.” The voting took place during the lunch hour, which left just an hour’s time to do initial planning for a kick-off meeting. Allison Fong, of Seward’s Community Foundation, said that her hope was for a space “available during the day.” The group constructed a long invite list that included people that represented a broad range of interest groups and who possess useful knowledge. The kickoff meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 9th from 6-8pm at the Seward Community Library.

The recycling group chose as their goal to increase recycling within one year. Kyle Nuckols, Manager at the Harbor 360 Hotel in Seward, said that his interest in strengthening Seward’s recycling program stemmed from “working at a hotel right on the waterfront. [Plastic in the bay] affects us everyday.” The group of 15 people talked about their desire to see Seward catch up with the rest of the nation’s recycling efforts, as a way to protect our natural resources and keep plastics from entering the ocean. Patti Linville spoke of her family making their living from commercial fishing, and how plastics could negatively impact the health and wellbeing of habitat. Cindy Ecklund, of Seward’s Planning and Zoning Commission, said that she was “excited because I can see concrete wins immediately for Seward.” The recycling group will have their kickoff meeting on Monday, December 18th, 6-8pm at the Seward Community Library. The event will be a potluck style gathering; please bring a dish to share.

The Seward Strong planning day concluded with the group reconvening in the conference room to express closing thoughts and give feedback for next year’s event. “Thank you for your time – a whole day,” said Micheley Kowalski. The day’s schedule had been something of a whirlwind, and the round tables were spread with the detritus of a successful planning day – scribbled notes, inspirational quotes and chocolate squares. Casey Warner, a community member had been part of the whole process, including a full day’s run through on the day prior to the main event. When asked about whether she expected these goals to be the ones chosen, she responded “not at all.” In many ways, that is the magic of Seward Strong. It allows the community to brainstorm ideas and choose projects whose time has come. Members of the community are encouraged to jump on board for the kickoffs of either or both projects. More information about Seward Strong can be found at https://www.sewardwellness.com/

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