There are a lot of things to love about Centre County, Pa. Beautiful natural features. Ample opportunities to socialize. An open and accepting attitude among residents.
And according to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, qualities like that create a sense of attachment that inspire Centre County residents.
The Knight Foundation's Soul of the Community project found that there is a strong, positive correlation between residents' attachment to their community and economic growth in that community. It also found that the qualities that most attach people to the place they live are aesthetics (the natural and manmade beauty of a place), social offerings (exciting opportunities to socialize with old friends and make new ones), and openness (how welcoming a place is to diverse groups of people).
The Centre County region was ranked highest in terms of attachment among the 26 communities that Knight studied. But there is always room for improvement.
We're using the Soul of the Community project to get people talking: what do they love about their community? What could be changed to make them love it even more? We believe that community foundations are uniquely positioned to take on projects of this scale, which is why we would like to take the time during Community Foundation Week to encourage people at community foundations across the country to examine how aesthetics, social offerings, and openness impact their community, and how they can improve on those qualities. The potential rewards of this endeavor (a more attached, more economically prosperous community) are too good to miss out on.
Erin Rowley is a program assistant at the Centre County Community Foundation, a member of the Council on Foundations.