Lansing is moving in the right direction, getting stronger day by day.
The economic downturn took its toll, but now tangible investments are being made throughout the community, and it’s safe to say we’ve weathered the storm. From the fully refurbished grade schools, downtown facade improvements and streetscaping, new commercial development projects underway, or new housing starts, Lansing is transforming.
There are also intangible strengths to Lansing. Hopefully by now you’ve experienced the second annual Lansing Autumn Fest, a true grassroots celebration in our downtown. Held the second weekend in October, this year’s festival — ending today — epitomizes what is good about Lansing.
The festival brings together the entire community for a weekend of good food and fellowship in an open air venue. Organized by a few core volunteers, the festival’s special events and entertainment bring out the young and old, current and former residents and entire families, and enable many to experience Lansing's hometown charm.
The festival and its many volunteers have triggered a renewed sense of camaraderie and connectedness to Lansing that might have been dormant for a while. Thanks in no small part to members of the Lansing Association for Community Events, the civic organization in charge of the event, there is a fresh sense of optimism in the community and a passion for the village that is contagious.
I recently used the phrase “Lansing strong!” to describe the positive attributes within the community. I meant it to encompass the many positive brick and mortar transformations that have occurred in the last year or so, but also to signify all the individuals making a difference in the community — those like the members of LACE who give so selflessly to make Lansing a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Lansing strong! was my response when Lansing’s JoEllyn Kelley received the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Linda Morgan Award for Volunteerism. JoEllyn was recognized for going above and beyond the call to volunteer her time, talents and energies to make her community better.
JoEllyn is not only one of the founders of the Lansing Autumn Fest, but is also a tireless supporter of the military. She’s made her restaurant, JJ Kelley’s, available for welcome home celebrations for local members of the military and held fundraisers for the Lance Cpl. Philip J. Martini Foundation, a Lansing son and Thornton Fractional South graduate who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country in 2006. Lansing stong indeed.
Lansing strong! will be my reaction when the community’s many special volunteers are recognized during An Evening of Thanks next month. Nearly 50 locals will be recognized during a special dinner event Nov. 8.
Lansing strong! will be my thought as Autumn Fest closes tonight. It’s the intangible strengths of a community that make it a vital and welcoming place to call home. Yes, there are positive changes afoot but it is the heart of the community — its volunteers — that are contributing to Lansing’s renaissance.