When someone says “non-profit” or “charity,” we usually think about that heart-wrenching Sarah Mclachlan song and sad puppy dog eyes, or the red buckets and bells at every big box store in December. Maybe we think about local community service organizations, health or social services, or educational programs that we support. Rarely, however, do we think about community development and downtown revitalization.
We are fortunate to have not one, but two amazing community development and revitalization organizations right here in the Mid-Ohio Valley – Marietta Main Street and Downtown PKB. Both organizations follow the national Main Street model and are connected to state-wide and national networks, resources, workshops and training opportunities. Not every city qualifies to be a Main Street community, and not every city has a community development organization, so we truly are blessed to have two within a half hour of each other.
So what does a community development organization do, exactly? I’m sure if you asked either Executive Director, they would counter with, “what don’t we do?” Some of the most visible examples in Marietta are the famous flower baskets that hang from every lamppost downtown, the flower beds throughout downtown, and the flags that change with events throughout the year. All of these enhancements are managed by Marietta Main Street, coordinating hundreds of volunteers each season to make sure the city stays beautiful year round.
Bringing people together in the heart of our cities is another mission, and both organizations host a full schedule of events. In less than a month, Government Square will be filled with people and every good food you can imagine for Taste of Parkersburg – an event run by Downtown PKB. Summer festivals, Shop Local events, parades, art walks, block parties – these are all events frequently hosted by community development organizations to enrich the quality of life for a community and bring people together.
Economic revitalization is at the heart of the success of any community.
“Economic revitalization is at the heart of the success of any community, which is why Main Street organizations across the U.S. are focusing on their downtown districts – as top indicators on whether the economy of community rises or falls, downtown districts are notably the hub of small business, arts, culture, entertainment, and unique design. We are very proud of the impact of our work thus far in downtown Marietta, and we look forward to partnering with Downtown PKB to really embrace community development across the Mid-Ohio Valley,” Marietta Main Street Executive Director Cristie Thomas said.
Not only do they want to bring people downtown, they want to make sure that downtown is still a thriving center of activity, and that our economy continues to grow and sustain itself. Thus, Downtown PKB and Marietta Main Street both spend time working with established and aspiring business owners to make sure they have the resources they need to succeed, by hosting workshops, meeting one-on-one, and promoting shopping local. They know that every dollar spent at a local, independently owned business is an investment in our communities, our schools, our service organizations, and ultimately, our residents.
It is also up to these organizations to make sure our community’s assets, such as historic buildings, public art works, and landmarks, are protected for future generations to enjoy. The intricate architectural detailing on these big, beautiful buildings are the reason many of us love walking the streets of our downtown, and a large reason we choose to live and work in the Mid-Ohio Valley. We have an incredibly rich history that is evident in each of these landmarks, which paints a lovely picture of our cities’ pasts.
While community development organizations might lack the emotional appeal of sad puppy dog eyes, the work they do is no less important, and just like all of the organizations mentioned above, these groups are 501c3s, or charitable, tax-exempt nonprofits – though sometimes we tend to associate them with member-based organizations, like our chambers of commerce or our visitors bureaus. It’s easy to do, because all of these entities are doing great work for our communities. Distinguishing between the two is important though when it comes to investment. When it comes to investing in your community, ask not what your community development organizations can do for you, but what you can do for your community development organizations to help make your city a better place to live – for yourself, for your friends and family, and for future generations to come.
(Thankfully, the internet makes giving to these organizations easier than ever before! Whether you can donate time by volunteering, or funds as a business or an individual, Marietta Main Street and Downtown PKB both make the process painless on their websites.)