Advancing a dream … starting in Cañon City

A mentor of mine – Steven Dawson – taught me a valuable lesson. When something good happens, look for ways to make something even better out of it.

When good news arrives, do you stop at the light or step on the gas? Stopping and celebrating is sometimes the exact right thing to do. Sometimes, delaying the celebration and parlaying the good news can make a good win a great win (what about a win-win).

A few weeks ago, a representative of Clayton Homes advised us of their desire to place a donated home in a ROC. Last year, they donated one new home to a formerly homeless family that is a client of Family Promise. This year, they planned to donate three new homes, and put one in a co-op.

Last summer, Family Promise bought, rehabbed and resold three homes in C&C Co-op in Billings, Mont., and their national office was excited with the news of a new home going into a ROC.

We supplied both partners with a list of vacant sites in the 248 co-ops in our Network and they identified a 2019 co-op in Cañon City, Colo. – the Rocky Mountain Homeowners Cooperative – as ideally located for the Clayton manufacturing plant and retail sales center as well as near a highly capable Family Promise office.

Our Network affiliate in Colo. – Thistle – approached the co-op’s Board and once their questions were satisfactorily answered, they approved the project. The new homeowner would need to be approved but otherwise it was a go.

We and our colleagues at Thistle, Family Promise and Clayton are excited.

And then, we got to thinking.

We are “whole community” people, not one-off lottery-winning type people. Hey, anyone would love to win the lottery, which is what a new free home would mean to anyone of us, for sure. And, we’re happy for the family that will get the home.

We asked ourselves, how could we build off of the new home to advance a community-wide set of projects so every Member would win? Isn’t that what a co-op is all about?

And, then it was obvious: This happenchance project could lay the groundwork for a dream that the region’s ROC Association Director, Lorie Cahill, and I have had for a few years.

Ironically, I always prefaced the dream by saying, “If I win the lottery, we are going to have a #BetterTogether crew and travel co-op to co-op engaging communities in community-wide home and community improvements.” We know some communities have some homes with real health and safety needs, and every community has a list of community projects. We’ve just never had the resources to fund a community organizer, project manager and materials that could be combined with skilled and unskilled volunteers within co-ops and from the surrounding area.

It was failed thinking to put off this powerful, community-building dream on the odds of winning the lottery.

So, we took the good news of a new home and stepped on the gas with the Members at Rocky Mountain and Thistle staff to advance the dream. Instead of waiting for the lottery, we are going to start that way we do most things, with a small test. We’re going to start humbly.

In Cañon City, time was short. The home is already being built!

We took immediate steps to engage Marcia Sprague – a consulting community organizer with Thistle – to lead a community-wide improvement project. ROC USA also put up the first $5,000 to fund materials that volunteers – neighbors and community members from the area – will need to make some improvements. There’s a playground and signage on the list, I know.

We’re focused on Rocky Mountain but our eyes are on the horizon.

Imagine, every new ROC being visited by the #BetterTogether crew to engage everyone in a Member-selected list of community and home improvements. Imagine the impact.

That’s our dream. With more time, we know other funders will join us. We know community members will be excited. And I know ROC USA employees and co-op Members from other area co-ops will show up to lend a hand.

This is a self-help community movement – locally owned and supported regionally and nationally by a network of like co-op communities and mission-driven nonprofits.

So, we’re soon off to Rocky Mountain Homeowners Cooperative to celebrate a new home and family as well as a day of community self-help. It is a humble but exciting first step toward our dream. Together, we and Rocky Mountain are stepping on the gas. We’re taking a small step toward our big dream.

Maybe someone reading this will help us take more steps toward realizing our dream.