Connecting the pride and spirit

Published 5:23 pm Saturday, October 4, 2014

Back in April 2012, Vision 2020 revealed the ten vision statements to the public including “Community Pride and Spirit: Create a positive community spirit by fostering service, support and mentorship programs geared towards improving the quality of life and opportunities for all citizens. Support physical beautification through neighborhood organizations working in collaboration with existing programs.”

Volunteer Mary Barinka served on the Idea Selection Committee that crafted the vision statements from the thirty ideas selected as finalists by the public. She called the Community Pride and Spirit vision statement “the heart and soul” of Vision 2020.

That characterization has been apt as the Community Pride and Spirit committee has created several collaborative programs that touch the heart and soul of our community—and build good will that ripples out beyond the city limits.

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A few highlights from the Community Pride and Spirit efforts to date:

This fall, the Peer Power Partners mentoring program will expand to Ellis Middle School. Launched at Holton Intermediate just a year ago, the program matches students with disabilities with same-age peers.

The mentors, mentees and school staff learn what it is like to live with disabilities such as vision impairment, developmental delays and poor social communication. The students participate in social activities and learn specific skills and techniques to support peers and allow all students to build friendships.

Research has shown that guided peer interaction where students are taught how to learn and work together is more effective than one-on-one therapy or instruction for students with disabilities. The program also helps build strong social ties that prevent bullying. Finally, participating students are able to advocate for others with disabilities outside of school, sharing what they have learned at home and in the community.

For this school year, 150 students will be served by Peer Power Partners which is a collaboration of the Parenting Resource Center, Austin Public Schools and Vision 2020 Community Pride and Spirit.

The Community Home Improvement Project (CHIP) completed its second year in 2014, serving eleven homes. A collaboration of Habitat for Humanity, the Austin Housing and Redevelopment Authority and Vision 2020 Community Pride and Spirit, CHIP involved 90 volunteers giving 300 labor hours and over $2,000 in cash and in-kind donations.

This program is able to show some dramatic visual results with houses being painted and removal of overgrown brush. I think the best results are ‘paychecks of the heart.’ For example, one home owner wrote a lettering thanking CHIP for improvements to the home and concluded that best of all, CHIP let him know that he is not alone.

Last fall, a new section of the Vision 2020 web site was launched as a bulletin board for community members to share stories of random acts of kindness and service. We call it “Spread the Spirit,”r and you can read and post stories that help remind us that we live in an extraordinary community. Here’s one recent post: “Thank you to the car in front of me who bought my ice cream cone at McDonald’s!” To find out more and post your own story, go to or Spread the Spirit Austin MN on Facebook.

These are just three examples of how the Community Pride and Spirit vision is coming alive and touching hearts in Austin. I bet you know of many more incredible things happening in our community. Please share them with us on the website.