Friday, June 18, 2010

The Importance of Social Capital

A few years ago, David Aft, President of the Northwest Georgia Community Foundation, recommended a book for me to read that outlined what was occurring in the US around social Capital. The book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, was written by Robert Putnam. In his bestselling book, Putnam presents an exhausting study of the benefits of social interaction and being plugged into our communities. He also states that our collective social capital increased throughout the first two-thirds of our country’s existence and then abruptly reversed that trend in the later third.

Not wanting this column to seem like a series of twitter blasts or tweets (if you do not know what a tweet is or, ask a teenager); I will outline a few brief examples that will agree with Putnam that social capital is important. I will also argue that Dalton has immense social capital and it seems to be growing.

I, like many of you, attend many community events. In the last few weeks, it seems that I have attended something one to two times per week. And I have to confess, I reluctantly attended a few out of obligation not desire. In order to argue that Dalton has tremendous social capital, let me provide a few brief examples of recent events.

The recent Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame Banquet was a wonderful evening highlighting the tremendous efforts of the honorees: Dr. Don Thomas, Bob and Dixie Kinard, and the rising star honoree, Casey Carpenter. What a fantastic night held in honor of true servant leaders. Junior Achievement, in honoring the Hall of Fame Laureates, was equally deserving of being honored as well. Under the leadership of Judy Norris, the Northwest Georgia Chapter continues to reach and educate thousands of our children within our region. Congratulations to Dr. Don, Bob and Dixie, and Casey. And thank you Judy Norris and all who serve on the Junior Achievement Board.

As a Rotarian, first in the Carpet City Club and now in the Dalton Club, I would be remiss if I did not compliment the work both of these clubs provide for our community. Both were recently recognized at the annual Rotary District Conference with the Dalton Rotary Club being named the best club in the entire district. Under the Leadership of Nancy Kennedy and a very strong board, the noon Rotary was exemplary in all measured categories. Both Rotary clubs along with our Kiwanis Club, Civitan Club, Lions Club, and many more Civic Clubs give back to our community each and every day.

One of the Dalton Rotary Club’s projects is to participate in interviewing graduating seniors from Dalton High School. These interviews are to further prepare them as they leave High School for college or the workplace. Barbara Ward, a Rotarian and future retiree from DHS, organizes these interviews as a final learning opportunity for these students. Over the course of a few days, most of the graduating class is interviewed by Barbara and a fellow Rotarian. These interviews for me were powerful and encouraging. Our young people are leaving High School prepared for life. Thank you Barbara and all that assisted in these interviews.

Just this week, I along with a couple hundred others, had the privilege of playing in the Roman Open Golf Tournament. Even in these very difficult, unprecedented economic times, the tournament was wonderfully supported. The organizing committee and the leadership of the Roman Open deserve a collective community thank you. They put on a first class tournament and raised significant resources that will benefit many of our fellow citizens.

I could go on and on … but I simply wanted to make the case that our community’s social capital is abundant and seems to be increasing. If we want to continue making our community the best that it can be, increasing our social capital will be extremely important. Not only is social capital good in a collective sense, but the individual benefits are immeasurable.

In this day of texting instead of talking and playing video games instead of team sports, having organizations that work together for the greater good are critical. Greater Dalton is blessed to have many such organizations and opportunities for people to plug in. For your individual happiness and for the betterment of our community JOIN IN!

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