Twin Bridges Community Association – Providing a model for community leadership, getting things done

In Twin Bridges this past year, getting people in the community organized and motivated has taken a new turn.

More than a year ago the Twin Bridges Community Association formed in an effort to bring organization and leadership to many of the concerns, issues and events happening in town.

Today the group helps run the River’s Edge Gallery and Art Center, helps organize the annual Floating Flotillas and Fishing Fantasies Parade and is working on bringing wireless Internet access to all of Main Street. The TBCA has also recently been awarded tax-exempt non-profit status, which will pave the way for more grants and more contributions to the group that will be used in various ways to help the community, said Heather Puckett, treasurer for the TBCA.

The idea for the TBCA came out of the Horizons project that Twin Bridges participated in beginning about three years ago, Puckett said.

Horizons started in Ennis, Sheridan and Twin Bridges in the fall of 2008. The idea behind the program came from the Northwest Area Foundation as a way to address poverty in rural communities. The idea was to look at poverty from more than just a financial condition. The three communities were challenged to find ways to address the overall condition of the community – from a social, financial and health aspect.

The Horizon’s training really showed people how delegating responsibilities for events and projects in town helps keep them healthy, Puckett said.

“We all learned how to delegate so much better through the Horizon’s training,” she said.

Too often in small communities, a select few end up volunteering for most of the events. But the TBCA has been successful by first soliciting ideas from the community members and then by letting folks who are passionate about events or projects to take them on.

“It seems like we just learned that everybody in our group can’t be relied on to do everything,” Puckett said.

The key was getting the community involved early.

“When we had the roundtable discussions where we identified the needs and wants of the community, we heard from people we had never heard from before,” she said.

The group took those ideas to heart and also asked more people to be involved. The idea is to delegate projects to subcommittees that are made up of people who might not even come to TBCA meetings, but want to help the community.

“It really brought all the groups together that operate in the town and showed us we’re not competing for dollars in the town, but that when any of us succeed we all succeed,” Puckett said. “We realized that letting go of control of something doesn’t mean that it’s going to be out of control. It’s still going to be done in a way that’s going to make the TBCA successful and the community successful.”

The results have been pretty exciting, said Jack Leber, vice chair of the TBCA.

“Everybody feels they have a value and something to contribute,” Leber said.

The mission statement of the group really captures it, she said.

“The Twin Bridges Community Association, a not for profit organization, strives to enhance the lives of people who call Twin Bridges ‘home’ as well as those who visit, through beautification efforts, promoting our amenities, planning and supporting healthy events and activities that provide economic growth and entertainment for the community.”

The genesis of the group really started prior to the Horizon’s program, Leber said. Originally it was a local merchants group, but that kind of split up.

After Horizons, the group decided to refocus and make it a community group, she said.

“There were three or four of us that were really committed to making Twin a better place and then we invited everybody,” Leber said.

Other things the group is involved in are the Fall Festival, Christmas Stroll, holiday decorations and light pole banners around town, the farmer’s market and producing a community blog.

The wireless Internet access on Main Street will be a big benefit for businesses, citizens and tourists, Puckett said.

The project should cost less than $3,000 and the group is writing grants to help with funds. It already received one grant for $500.

“The plan is to take existing Internet connections on Main Street and bounce them and amplify them with repeaters and routers so that anywhere along the Main Street corridor people can use their wireless,” Puckett said.

Another project the group will work on in the near future is organizing the flower planters along Main Street, which is a project with groups at Twin Bridges High School, Leber said.

The TBCA generally meets once and month and May’s meeting will be held at 8:30 a.m. May 6 at the Old Hotel. Anyone interested is welcome to attend.

For more community information, check out the TBCA’s blog: twinbridgescommunity.wordpress.com.

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