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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

Letters to the Editor: Hammonton Heart & Soul

To the Editor:

What is at the heart of a community? Around kitchen tables, we talk about our churches and schools. In committee meetings, we bring up our streets and parks. In public, we praise our local businesses and town-wide events.

These topics, no matter how worthy of discussion, seem to obscure the most important resource of a town: The People. Our families, friends and neighbors. Whether you know their names or not, the folks you pass by everyday are the driving force behind our community today and for years to come.

With this in mind, the question then becomes, “How can we tap into that potential?”

I believe the answer is Community Heart & Soul, a resident-driven process that engages the entire population of a town in identifying what they love most about their community, what future they want for it, and how to achieve it.

This model has been field-tested for over a decade in partnership with more than 100 small cities and towns across America, from New England to the Heartland and all the way to the Pacific Northwest. Now, it’s come to Hammonton.

Only five towns were chosen in South Jersey to accept this challenge. A dedicated group of volunteers have worked for over a year on this project and they built a sturdy foundation, but we need your help to finish this project.

We’ve just entered the second phase in the Heart & Soul model. Called “Connect,” it asks us to gather stories and feedback from residents that will help us to develop action plans to propose to town council in Stages Three and Four.

The initiative is guided by three powerful principles—involve everyone, focus on what matters most and play the long game. I especially want to emphasize that first part. Hammonton Heart & Soul wants every member of our community to speak up, regardless of age, ethnicity or origin, and have a voice in our town’s future.

In a world that moves faster every year, it’s easy to become distracted or downright exhausted. We’re transfixed with screens that feed us a steady stream of content that agitates rather than inspires, and the apps that promise to build community profit on our division. There has to be a better way, and it’s not going to come from a tech company or politician. It has to start with us.

We can grow apart or we can grow together. I’ll choose the second option. I hope you will, too.

Zack Brown


Hammonton Heart & Soul


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