Janice Scanlon is collecting a database of dreams and a vision of the future.
They might result in an indoor pool, or a recreation center, a central theater venue or better access to medical care in Brookings. At Kalmiopsis Elementary School, a student dreams of more trees. Another wishes there was less bullying.
A person at St. Timothy’s wishes for a greenhouse for the needy; many hope for better access to medical facilities, a place for kids to hang out, more jobs – a man named Mitch is looking for a date.
“Eighty percent of the school kids want an indoor recreation center,” Scanlon said. “The mayor wants a bike path. St. Timothy’s comes in and says, “We have a lot of diabetes in this town; what can we do?’”
She and others involved with Catch the Wave will hold a meeting for people with ideas – big and small – at 6 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Chetco Community Public Library.
No dream is out of reach for Scanlon.
Scanlon, who has lived in the area since 1998, hails from Kewanee, Ill., nicknamed “the pig capital of the world.” When she brought up a similar idea – a broad-based community-wide effort to address local problems – the mayor said they would likely come to fruition when pigs fly.
Scanlon’s seen a lot of pigs in the air.
“You couldn’t drink the water in our town,” she said. “We got an osmosis system put in. You couldn’t go to the hospital; you’d die there. We even got the newspaper financially stable again. All these things got fixed.”
The dreams came true because Scanlon believes that combining talent, experience, ideas and a few connections can get them done.
“The only limitation is us sitting around,” she said. “There is a wealth of people here who are brilliant. Why do we have budget problems, empty storefronts? And it’s them who’s going to fix it. They know the government’s not going to come sweeping in with money. We just need to start moving on it.”
That they have.
The Chetco Activity Center – she calls it the “Center of Activity” – has already implemented a series of health talks to take place throughout the year. Diabetes discussion is slated for January, heart health in February and stress relief in March.
And the organization nudging everyone on, Catch the Wave, made surfboards available to elementary school students on which they wrote their dreams of what they’d like Brookings to be. Walls at the Chetco Activity Center are plastered with paper on which others can pen their dreams. Some restaurants have paper at the tables for those who do their best thinking while eating.
“We’re asking people this tall to 90,” she said, motioning to her knees and up over her head. “‘What do you want?’ Then we sit down at a table and say, ‘What’s next?’”
She has the support of the schools, the chamber of commerce, VISTA, the health department, the city and retailers. She’s utilized help offered through universities, the extension office and the Ford Foundation.
Ideas have resulted in the city of Brookings building a water treatment plant, making improvements to parks and other amenities.
Ideas, she said, are fun and easy. The challenge is motivating people to get behind them and turn them into reality – especially when people are depressed about job availability; or there’s a lot of civic apathy, people are tired or have serious time limitations. Many are home-bound. Scanlon doesn’t view those as obstacles so much she does little bumps to be ironed out.
When Scanlon was working at the Del Norte Triplicate in Crescent City, Oprah Winfrey stepped off a plane and proclaimed the city “ugly.” That got Scanlon going.
Scanlon motivated business owners, city officials, friends and neighbors and successfully mounted a campaign to clean up the city. They gave awards to people who kept up their yards. And they instigated a “Come Back, Oprah!” campaign.
The effort requires cooperation on everyone’s behalf, requiring people to put aside politics, egos and parochial thinking to come to a common goal and dovetail ideas and solutions with other organizations.
“Sometimes, some group thinks they’re by themselves, and they hear others are doing the same thing,” Scanlon said. “And they think, ‘Why are we duplicating?’”
And, of course, there’s the monetary aspect of it.
“That’s just a matter of dreams,” Scanlon said. “It can happen. It’s getting the right people in the room. I believe in this 100 percent. I have seen it work – twice.
“This is just one vision,” she added. “But this is just one person.”
For more information about Monday’s meeting, contact Scanlon at 541-469-6822.