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Senior Correspondent

According to Gallup, government dysfunction recently replaced the economy as the most pressing problem facing the nation.  Who knew? 

With social challenges on the rise and state and federal solutions on the decline, it is always heartwarming to see creative solutions emerging from concerned and caring community members, Citizens.   These folks are not about to wait for government fixes. They are far too wise and way too spirited.    

As long as I can remember, there has been a culture of creative volunteerism in our community. Folks get a bright idea, say why not, and take action. They create amazing projects enrolling dozens and dozens of other volunteers in their vision along the way. And, by George, stuff gets done.

It was an honor to be on hand recently  as one of these grass roots brainstorms was hatched. On a beautiful October Saturday morning, a collective of caring Citizens came together to dream on behalf of some wonderful folks who live in the Faith House at Emmaus. Emmaus provides residential and program support for adults with developmental disabilities.

You would really need a flow chart to figure out all the players, but the collaborators included local contractors, Emmaus staff members, parents of residents, Tannenbaum Auction Committee members and Friends of Emmaus. After visiting Faith House, the group came together to share creative ideas for "giving Faith House a facelift," to make it better for those wonderful folks who call it home. The room was abuzz as people dreamed together and then defined some practical action items. How would the Faith House improvement project be funded? The annual Tannenbaum Auction, of course!  

The Tannenbaum Auction features Corporate Sponsors, hundreds of decked out holiday trees, topiaries, wreaths, centerpieces and "can't live without" items. Guests can view and bid online between November 19-21 by visiting www.TannenbaumAuction.com or join the live celebration on Thursday evening, November 21, featuring walking-talking Tannenbaum Trees. 

Proceeds go directly to Friends of Emmaus, a nonprofit organization providing funding for various resident programs. Friends of Emmaus and Tannenbaum folks have worked hand in hand over the years to pick up where Emmaus funding sources leave off. This year Tannenbaum proceeds will seed improvements at Faith House, and hopefully pave the way for other such home improvement projects at Emmaus.

Taste of Home Cooking School is another excellent example of a grass roots movement. A brainchild of my friends, Dennis Kramme and Lynne Unnerstall, this pre-Thanksgiving happening is a must for home chefs and wannabe home chefs.

These kinds of creative initiatives seem to spontaneously spring up in our community, in response to locally identified needs. One project spins off another, creating solutions "of the people by the people for the people."

Local solutions have a great chance of getting right to the heart of the problem. Ownership for outcomes increase with citizen engagement, making the fix more durable and sustainable.  

Perhaps volunteerism should come with a warning label. I understand folks literally get high on helping their neighbors. This stuff can be quite habit forming, you know, and apparently good for one's health.

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