The Power of Positivity and Volunteerism

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Q&A with Chelsea Luthy, Central Nebraska Community Development Specialist, and CYN Steering Team Member

 

Why are you passionate about volunteerism?

Cody is a village of about 150 people, but it’s so much more than that. I have a soft spot for the people from my hometown and surrounding areas, because they collectively taught me throughout my life that I can make a difference even if it is on a small scale. Overall, my community has given and taught me so much that I feel the need to try to show my gratitude by volunteering as best as I can.

This rural lifestyle is the key reason we moved back after college, and it is how I want to raise my children. Two of my goals are to teach AND show them that we can make a difference.

 

Why is positivity so important in both volunteerism and volunteer management?

Positivity is a crucial factor in preventing burnout, which is something we want to avoid. It seems like the same volunteers are enlisted over and over again, while others are sometimes missed altogether—which can contribute to burnout. In my opinion, leaders of the volunteer efforts have to keep a positive attitude and be understanding of the volunteers’ limitations, like time and energy, and always keep the end goal in mind. These characteristics will trickle down to other volunteers and raise moral.

 

Based on your experiences, how can age affect the perspective of volunteers?

Cody is well-known for its student-run straw bale grocery store the Circle C Market. (Check it out if you haven’t already!) I was an enthusiastic high school youth working on the planning process for the grocery store. Then, after moving back home, I was the Executive Director of a non-profit called Cowboy GRIT, working on a new project from scratch. Now, I work in multiple communities across 14 counties with numerous volunteers and collaborations.

I’ve worked with volunteers of all ages, and what I’ve learned is that nothing keeps you excited quite the same as having child-like enthusiasm, staying focused with a big picture always in the front of your mind and always working to stay positive.

 

How can one stay positive and motivate others?

For me, the best ways to stay positive are by de-stressing, disconnecting and remembering the big picture. I like to work out, knit, play with my kids and go dancing! I keep my mind occupied with family things to de-stress.

Another way I can stay positive is to disconnect from work on weekends as much as I can to relax.

The final way is to always remember the big picture or the end result, instead of getting caught up in the means of getting there. Motivating others is best achieved through excitement, leadership and communication. Fold those three together for a great start.

 

Why is volunteerism important for rural Nebraska?

Volunteering and working together are the future for rural Nebraska. No one can accomplish anything great by themselves. Instead we have to work together and learn from each other. That’s how we are going to get or keep our communities moving forward. No one outside a community can create change and progress like catalysts inside a community can. Insiders already have the relationships in place to rock ‘n roll! Your input also goes further if you have boots on the ground in a project.

 

What would you say to youth or adults who want to get involved in their communities but doesn’t know how?

The best piece of advice I know is to ask. Ask community and civic groups, government bodies, schools, parents, co-workers, friends or mentors what they believe should be improved. Everyone has an opinion on something. Gather ideas. Take one that interests you or a topic you are passionate about and expand on it. Perhaps there is someone else who shares your passion, and you can move forward together. This is the best place to start.

Undoubtedly, there will be obstacles and roadblocks, but they don’t have to stall you. I applaud you for having courage and grit. Remember that volunteering with positivity can make a difference for both you and your community, and that the Connecting Young Nebraskans community is always available for support!

 


 

Chelsea Luthy

Chelsea Luthy

Community Development Specialist | Central Nebraska Economic Development District
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Chelsea Luthy is the Community Development Specialist for Central Nebraska Economic Development District (CNEDD). She grew up in Cody, Neb., and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She hopes to share her love for community improvement through Connecting Young Nebraskans (CYN) and influence her peers to continue making a difference in our work. She believes that CYN is about motivating our young people, facilitating progress within our local community and how that creates additional impacts, and a way to bounce ideas off other like-minded leaders all for the betterment of our state.

 


 

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3 Ps of Successful Community & Economic Development: Purpose, Perseverance & Positivity

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By Megan McGown, North Platte Area Chamber & Development Corp. VP of Economic Development & Marketing
I have served in the realm of economic and community development in our fine state for most of my adult life. While it has been my paid gig these past 10 years, I have come to realize that it takes everyone in the community to be successful—not just those of us who serve in paid positions. It takes people from all walks of life, every age demographic, varying ethnicities, men, women and children. Sound cliché? Maybe, but imagine everyone in your community being on the same page, promoting the same great things about your town. Young people hearing about those great things and picturing themselves living in and raising their family in their hometown – your town. That’s a cliché I can live with any day of the week.

I spent most of my economic development career working in Sidney for both the Chamber of Commerce as well as a position with the city. Two years ago, my family and I relocated, and I currently serve as the Vice President of Economic Development and Marketing for the North Platte Chamber & Development Corporation.

I grew up in a very rural area – aka: the middle of the Sandhills – and currently reside in the Village of Brady, population 432. In spite of the varying differences amongst the places that I have lived, I have noticed recurring themes among the most successful community and economic development programs: Purposefulness, Perseverance and Positivity.

Purpose

This one should go without saying, but I’m going to talk about it anyway, because not all development is good development, and not every project will fit in every community. Purpose requires extensive research, knowing your community and keeping up-to-date on trends.

• Look at the strengths of your community in terms of location, demographics, infrastructure, workforce characteristics and training programs.
• Identify cluster and supply chain opportunities.
• Talk with residents and stakeholders about their vision, needs and wants (but be careful with that last one).

Being able to see the big picture is crucial. Do the ideas on the list make sense for your community? Are they feasible? What would it take to make them feasible? Are your local incentive programs aligned with your goals? Being purposeful may not save time, but it has a much higher chance of producing a successful outcome.

Perseverance

There is a lot of trial and error in community and economic development. Not everything is going to work the first time. The fact is that economic developers work just as hard on the projects that never materialize as they do the ones that become successful. We go all-in on each RFP that the state sends us (provided it meets the Purposeful test). You never know when you will hit a home run. The ability to persevere in your efforts and adapt to new circumstances will set successful communities and programs apart.

Positivity

We all know there is power in positive thinking, but I’m sure you’re thinking: “What does that have to do with economic development?” Positivity and negativity are both contagious—which would you rather catch?

In my college dorm room, my roommate and I made our own wallpaper border that repeated the phrase, “the power of positive thinking,” over and over all around the room. The phrase was a daily reminder to look on the bright side, find the silver lining—you name the cliché. But it helped.

This same mentality carries into the realm of economic and community development. Negativity kills projects before they start. Whether that is the “coffee shop talk,” a negative political climate or some other form of negativity, it can derail various aspects of the process.

Now, I could definitely add more Ps to my list: partnerships, planning, passion, patience, etc. But I have to leave something for my next post!

 


 

How do you or can you implement today’s three Ps in the community and economic development of your town?

How have you gotten involved in your community’s development efforts?

 


 

Megan McGown

Megan McGown

VP of Economic Development & Marketing | North Platte Area Chamber & Development Corp.
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Megan has been in the field of economic development for more than 10 years. She holds a Master’s Degree in Organization Management emphasizing economic development and entrepreneurship. She currently serves as the Vice President of Economic Development and Marketing for the North Platte Area Chamber and Development Corporation.

In addition to economic development, Megan has a passion for downtown revitalization and served as the director of a local Main Street Program for 10 years, earning the community national accreditation the majority of those years. She is a mom of two daughters, wife to a school superintendent and avid runner/wellness nut.

 


 

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