Recently, The Patterson Foundation and The Harwood Institute hosted 8 roundtable discussions (Healthcare, Education, Foundations/Funders, Faith-Based, Nonprofit, Economic Development, City/County Government, and Catalytic Community Guides) with more than 105 community members in attendance to kick off the Harwood Project in DeSoto County. These conversations highlighted the love and pride that DeSoto County residents have for their community, while also remarking upon some shared aspirations for the community going forward.

A community event with a keynote presentation by Harwood Institute President and Founder Rich Harwood drew together more than eighty community members to listen, learn, and share. The atmosphere of enthusiasm, readiness, and ownership was apparent throughout the evening as the community showed up to share their support for this project and the work within their community.

While I can reflect on my own experience planning and attending these roundtables and the community event, I always find the community expresses itself far better than I would have been able to. Here are some thoughts shared by participants in these events and their hopes.

When asked what the week's highlight was, one attendee shared that the keynote stood out to her: "The speaker. He was trying to show Arcadians that they have to get up, let their voice be heard, and make changes. Even if it is only a few, somebody has to do this, or the town dies and becomes a county where no one wants to live."

Another shared that he felt encouraged by the keynote presentation, sharing that "Mr. Harwood presented a thoughtful and encouraging point of view. He said "build on what is good," which I liked."

Finally, one person shared that these events had inspired her to get involved, and she "would like to be a resource and volunteer to organize events" so that DeSoto County residents remain engaged and connected to the work.

Each of these comments remarks upon the impact of this project on the community and the hope with which community members seek to engage with this work. If you or someone you know is looking to get involved, please feel free to email Avery Crews Prado de Lima to learn more.

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