Community Renewal uses relationships to better Shawnee

Morgan Smith, Faith Editor

“We Care.”

Shawnee residents have become accustomed to seeing this phrase on signs around the community.

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It is the slogan of Community Renewal, a non-profit, faith based organization that established itself in Shawnee last April.

Their goal is to restore communities by building relationships.

Those involved in the organization thought it would take three to four years to establish itself in Shawnee, but in less than a year it’s extended itself to the rest of Potawatomie County’s communities.

On Tuesday, October 11, Community Renewal had an informational meeting.

Anyone interested was invited, and able to RSVP on the organization’s Facebook page.

Madison Roach, an OBU graduate, has interned with Community Renewal since her senior year.

She is continuing her work with the organization, and takes part in the organization’s after-school program.

She says the organization is personally important to her.

“I think for communities to come together, a lot of involvement and support and people coming together regulate the value of restoring the community through relationships,” Roach said.

Brandon Dyer is the director of Community Renewal in Potawatomie County; he spoke at the meeting on Tuesday.

“Relationships are what actually makes a community,” Dyer said.

He said that when a community collapses it’s directly tied to relationships.

“I grew up right behind OBU, and every summer we’d wake up in the morning, eat a bowl of cereal and then we were out the door on our bikes,” Dyer said.

He said he remembers knowing all his neighbors growing up.

“Shawnee is full of way more good folks than bad folks,” Dyer said.

“That’s not the world that exists today,” Dyer said. “There was a connection that was implicit in that world.”

Dyer explained the organizations new plan to create a city wide network of caring people.

Community Renewal has already added 1,000 people to this network since April.

There are three aspects to Community Renewal, a “We Care” team, a block leader network and friendship houses.

The “We Care” team enlists individual, faith groups, business, clubs, schools and government organizations to make caring visible.

“What I believe in my heart is that Shawnee is full of way more good folks than bad folks,” Dyer said. “The reason why the ‘We Care’ team is so important is it highlights the visibility of caring people in our community.”

The block leader network is made up of volunteers who restore relational foundations where they live by trying to get to know each other.

The friendship houses will serve to develop a “system of and relationship platform to bring resources to stressed neighbors.”

Community Renewal plans to start fund raising for the house and start building a house next year. Travis Flood, the friendship coordinator, said this is just the beginning.

“Hopefully through things like block parties and after-school programs, they’ll be able to do this and build eight houses,” Flood said.

Anyone can sign up for Community Renewal, and the program has an internship program available to college students.

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