On the evening of February 28th, over 75 people packed the Griffin Museum for the fifth in a series of Civic Gatherings co-sponsored by the Network, the Town Common Task Force (TCTF), the Winchester Board of Selectmen and the Winchester School Committee.

The primary goals of these gatherings are to facilitate communication and to foster collaboration between groups and individuals. “The Town Common: Where Winchester Comes Together  (TCTF)” supports actual coming together and is also exploring the best approach to a virtual connection.

The agenda for this gathering included updates about three local initiatives and the work the TCTF has been doing to further the goal of online information sharing, and a workshop provided by Essential Partners.

Given this gathering occurred just days after the fatal stabbing of a young woman who grew up in Winchester, in the Public Library, people felt a very strong need to connect with community for mutual comfort and support. Tom Howley, a former Selectman and a member of the TCTF, noted in his opening remarks: “As we look for ways to love and support the family of the woman who died — and I would say both families — and love and support the people who were present that day and the Library’s staff …. we are reminded how important a strong and connected community is — and the importance of gathering as a community to share and support each other.”

The evening began with a delicious dinner of a traditional Egyptian dish, koshari, provided by Koshari Mama Catering.

At the fourth Civic Gathering, the TCTF asked for feedback about what people needed to strengthen their organizations. One of the themes in that feedback was the desire to have more opportunities for collaboration. At each Civic Gathering we take some time to highlight different groups, to help facilitate this.

Three initiatives were highlighted.

  • Lauren Winterer, the Program Director of Connect and Commit, and High School student Jenny Kowalczyk, spoke about the Winchester Youth Alliance, and the closing of the Youth Center. They provided both personal observations and survey data to garner support for the re-opening of a Center.
  • Rosalyn Nazzaro from the Parish of the Epiphany and Marilyn Mullane from the Winchester Unitarian Society spoke about their faith communities’ commitment to be Level Two Support Sanctuaries, to support houses of faith that have chosen to house people at risk of deportation. In addition, they spoke about witnessing ICE activities and supporting people ensnared in the deportation process. Marilyn made a specific request for Spanish-speaking volunteers.
  • Ruth Trimarchi, a leader of the initiative to change the name of the Board of Selectmen to Select Board, described her process in working toward this community change, highlighting the importance of identifying town leaders and communicating and listening carefully. She also urged people to spread the word and vote for the change at the town election on March 27.

For much of the evening, Phoebe Sinclair and Katie Hyten from Essential Partners provided a workshop that fostered self reflection and sharing about factors that are important to be aware of when people are discussing differing opinions and beliefs. For example, people were asked to reflect on a time when they felt they were perceived to be different than many in a group they were in, and what either hindered or helped them to express their feelings in that setting. They introduced a model for having difficult conversations through reflective structured dialogues, which promote listening and curiosity, to enhance mutual understanding.

Casey Bauer provided the gathering with an update on the work of the TCTF to establish a web site and provide a Town Common Planning email list. People were encouraged to sign up to join this email list and guidelines for participation were spelled out in a handout.

Final remarks by Selectman Michael Bettencourt included appreciation and affirmation for all who filled the room and all who are involved in the community building work of Winchester’s Town Common.

 

Thank you to Paula Tognarelli and the Griffin Museum of Photography for hosting this Civic Gathering. The TCTF is grateful to the Town of Winchester and to the Multicultural Network for financial support of this program. If you would like to become involved in the initiatives described here, contact the Network office@wmcn.org.

 

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