A town’s success depends critically on its ability to engage community members of all walks of life to be active participants in local government, and for volunteers to feel that they can make a difference. There is no magic formula for how to create broader participation. We must work to foster opportunities for engagement and when volunteers or members of our community become frustrated that they are not being heard we must work to re-engage them moving the narrative back to a positive one. When individuals are engaged in a community and contribute the results are magical. One example of an amazing volunteer is Dorothy Mullen. Dorothy embodies the spirit of inclusivity and was recently honored for her work as co-founder of the Princeton Schools and Gardens and founder of the“Suppers”program.
Dorothy is a local civic hero. She has worked tirelessly to initiate a garden in our schools and to provide food-based education programs. She has profoundly changed how we view food at our schools and leaves a legacy that ensures her influence will be felt for generations to come. And she is informed by a strong desire to include everyone in the discussion about healthy food. When she discovered I have a non-verbal autistic child at Riverside School, she organized an event to ensure that the special needs children and their families at Riverside received education and support to participate in the healthy food initiatives. The event helped bring families closer together and enhanced relationships with the staff and leaders of the school.
I want to extend a thank you to all the special individuals in our community that volunteer on commissions, boards, in our schools and with community groups. I hope our town will continue to follow the shining examples like Dorothy Mullen and that we can work to find ways to create more opportunities for all community members to engage in a dialogue with leaders.