What do flower pots and foster parents have to do with each other? Well apparently, when you bring together people from various backgrounds and diverse perspectives, unlikely things happen. This unlikely combination emerged after our first Community Café in January. During the Community Café events, community residents, non-profit staff, business owners and parents gather together to talk, share food and participate in unique activities, one being a marketplace. During the marketplace, community members have an opportunity to state their name and make an offer, a request, a declaration or simply pass.
In January, members offered things like clothing, art supplies, and handmade slippers. Others made requests such as, “If anyone is able to offer me a ride to the grocery store this Saturday, please let me know” and “I’m looking for new flower pots – mine are broken” and “We are looking for foster parents in the Middletown/Middlesex area, so if you know of anyone, please let me know!” After sharing this story at a team meeting, one of our partners shouted, “From Flower Pots to Foster Parents!”
Creating intentional space(s) where people can be themselves and gather together with others they may not normally see on a regular basis allows for these unlikely ideas to emerge. Our culture is highly individualized – placing a huge focus on self-expression and self-interest, with little regard for the collective whole. How many times have you heard the phrase: “Just do you”? Middletown WORKS is working to change that. We intentionally put relationships first. In the words of David Brooks, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, “Culture changes when a small group of people, often on the margins of society, find a better way to live, and other people begin to copy them. We need to create hubs where these decentralized networks can come together for solidarity and support.” (2019, A Nation of Weavers).
For the past six months, we have been working diligently to create hubs for people to come together to dialogue across differences and connect with others in our neighborhood. Along with offering a monthly café, we have also been offering monthly “Conversation Circles.” These are more intimate and take place on the 3rd Thursday of the month from 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM at the Family Wellness Center on 635 Main Street. We welcome anyone who cares about single-parent families in Middletown to join us for conversation and light refreshments. The next Conversation Circle is Thursday, April 18th. We’d love to see you there. And our next Community Café is on Monday, April 29th, from 4:00 – 5:30 at the Middletown Roller Skating Rink. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you experience!
As Middletown WORKS expands, we are looking to grow not only good ideas, but also our social network. All individuals and businesses who would like to make a difference for Middletown’s single-parent families are invited!
For more information and to get involved, please visit our website at www.MiddletownWorks.org or call us at 860-975-5405.