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BLADE GATES: How are you connecting with your community?

The end of the year always comes at a surprise to me. How is it that 2023 is coming to a close already? While I have never been big on New Year's Resolutions, I always find myself reflecting on the year's past and considering what I want to prioritize in the year ahead. What DO I want 2024 to look like for myself and the people around me?

For me, the word that first comes to mind is 'community'. I want 2024 to be a year where I continue to prioritize my participation in the community around me, both within my work and outside of it. Let me explain why.

As a new staff member of the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce, I am amazed by what the Chamber and the people within it are doing to serve the Manistee community. The Chamber is making strides in advocacy for legislative action at regional, state, and even national levels, the county's economic development arm, opportunities for leadership and professional growth, and the cultivation of a thriving downtown district. These aspects are all directly tied to our community: our neighbors and coworkers, family and friends. Through working in the Manistee Area Chamber, I have the chance to participate in these efforts, and for that I am grateful.

Though, you can't overvalue the importance of your local community. What is a town but the people within it? It is the people in the Manistee area that make this place what it is.

That said, what can it look like to connect with your community?

For me, when I'm not at the Chamber, I have always found a connection through the performing arts. As I write this, I just finished the performance weekend of Nuncrackers, a Christmas musical put on by the Manistee Civic Players; as the music director, I was involved in teaching our cast their music and working with a small pit of musicians. My involvement in the worlds of music and theater allows me to be involved in the lives of other people, all of us working towards the same goal: in this instance, to put on a good show.

This is just one example. Maybe for you, it means being in the know of your local government by attending public city council meetings or by attending public hearings about your local Downtown Development Authority. It might mean volunteering at a local non-profit with a cause you support or attending a community event. Maybe it means going to work and meeting your customers where they are at. It could even look like investing your business into your local Chamber.

I challenge you to be an active participant in your community this coming year. Think about what that means to you. Consider your interests, your skills, and the people in your life. It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from: every single one of us has a responsibility to connect with the people around us. It's how communities survive, and it's how communities thrive.

I look forward to the future. 2024 is going to look great on Manistee. It's hard not to be excited to see how the Manistee Area Chamber continues to support the county and beyond. That just leaves you: how will YOU participate in your community?

Blade Gates is the Marketing & Communications Specialist for the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit 501 C (6) organization. Our mission is to build a dynamic and sustainable organization to serve the Business, Workforce, and Economic Development needs of all in Manistee County. You can contact Gates at 231-723-2575 or