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  • Writer's pictureDan Bachalis

Hammonton Heart and Soul seeks input from residents

Hammonton Heart and Soul wants to hear from everyone, every demographic, every corner of this amazingly accomplished and amazingly diverse community. (Courtesy Photo)

By now, every household in Hammonton should have received a mailer announcing the beginning of the Hammonton Heart and Soul (HH&S) initiative. This endeavor aims at bringing out the stories, interests, concerns and ideas of as many Hammontonians as can be reached.

In a town of less than 15,000 people, some 4,500 households, while it is an ambitious goal, I don’t think it’s impossible. Hammontonians want to be heard, we want to have our say and have it count for something. I’ve heard this from the first time I had a conversation in town, some 20 years now (I know, I know, some folks have had that conversation for over three generations, but I’m trying to catch up!).

Hammonton Heart and Soul wants to hear from everyone, every demographic, every corner of this amazingly accomplished and amazingly diverse community. The “Creative Hammonton” experience in 2016 helped to bring out so many great ideas about what we need and want in our town; Hammonton Heart and Soul has the power not only to get those ideas back on the board again, but also actually to create a way to activate them, all the while nurturing a new generation of community leaders.

I am proud to be a small part of this effort, and I have seen firsthand how the methodology of this time-tested program brings positive results.

The protocols call for careful consideration about getting all corners of the community involved, not just those with traditional influence, not just the “insiders.”

The effort involves reaching out to everyone in town, to capture their stories about what people love about the town, why they’re here, what their hopes and dreams are for the town, what their concerns are and what they think needs to be done to make the town better and to help us reach more of our potential as a community.

If ever there was an initiative that embodied the social/cultural pillar of sustainability, it is Heart and Soul. Without the reinforcement of our social bonds, we fall apart – as a community, as a nation, as a civilization. Heart and Soul encourages and guides us through the proven ways to include everyone’s input, everyone’s ideas, so that we can seriously develop a more cohesive sense of our direction as a self-actualized community. Creating an awareness of our commonality — and, yes, our legitimate and respectful differences — is too important an opportunity to let pass by.

On HH&S’s website you’ll find information about the initiative, as well as how to add your story to the mix, and how to volunteer for the effort.

Heart and Soul is also on Facebook and Instagram.

When I first moved to Hammonton, I hadn’t counted on falling in love with the place, but that’s exactly what has happened. Having lived in other towns in New Jersey and elsewhere on the Eastern Seaboard, and having traveled enough elsewhere in the world, I absolutely know how much of a gem of a town we have here in the Pine Barrens. One doesn’t get the sense of belonging, of home, that one gets in Hammonton in very many other places.

This town is special. Hammontonians are special. Not perfect, but special: devoted to family and place, dedicated to making sure that things go as right as possible, interested in helping their family and friends and neighbors be safe and prosperous and happy.

That’s why this new Heart and Soul initiative is so important: it gives us a way to come together and act on our best impulses, to share our experiences here and our insights and suggestions about how to make things better, and then to harness our energies to make it all actually happen. Things like Heart and Soul don’t happen too often.

Only six communities throughout all of South Jersey were selected to participate in the program. Hammonton is special, and the folks at the Orton Family Foundation and the Community Foundation of South Jersey recognized that. Now it’s time to recognize that fact fully ourselves.

Check out the Heart and Soul website. Visit the Facebook and Instagram pages.

Also, please join a group of Hammonton Heart and Soul volunteers on April’s Third Thursday celebration, April 22, beginning at 6 p.m., behind Casciano’s, for some friendly discussion about what HH&S is, perhaps to share your story, how to get involved, and definitely a good, socially-distanced cup of coffee downtown.

Be a part of Hammonton Heart and Soul, because you already are Hammonton’s heart and soul, and people need to hear your story, your issues and your ideas.

Dan Bachalis is a former town councilman and has served a number of town committees. He currently serves as the chairman of the Hammonton Environmental Commission and the Lake Water Quality Commission.


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