Joe Town Vibe: Gathering places build community

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Note to our readers: This column is part of a new series from a blog recently started by a loosely knit independent group of area business people and residents who love and want to promote the energy and enthusiasm of downtown St. Joseph: The Joe Town Vibe.  To find the column online or to read web-exclusive blogs posted every Tuesday, visit

Gathering places are essential to building community in every town across America. Building community promotes trust and makes a city and its citizens more personable, and this can be especially so in a town of less than 10,000 people as it’s essential to have good relationships with your neighbors whom you likely see every day.

The best way to build this trust is to bring people together. Private businesses and religious entities provide places for people to come together in places of worship, restaurants, bars and coffee shops. Local government often provides some gathering places in a city such as parks, community centers, libraries, schools and pools.

All these gathering places serve greatly different purposes but they all bring people together in a setting in which they want to be present. Whether it’s a weekly breakfast with old buddies at the diner, Sunday Mass or Friday happy hour, all gathering places get people interacting with each other. Interacting with new people can help strengthen the community as much as meeting up with old friends. Interaction among neighbors can prevent a lot of distrust or misunderstandings in the future.

Positive relations with your neighbor may very well be the difference between a face-to-face conversation and a phone call to the police in the time of disagreement. Often, knowing and understanding your neighbors will prevent problems in the future from escalating to ridiculous levels.

Interacting in a social setting may also lead to more trust between residents and city government. Meeting a city council member in a social setting may help you realize how they’re approachable and they are interested in improving your city and the community. Getting to know them better will help you trust the local government more when a new project is introduced, or there’s a reason for change that impacts you. Similarly, interacting with business owners or other community leaders may also be extremely beneficial to you and the community. Relationships with local leaders and business owners may help you down the line.

There are countless ways getting to know your neighbor can help you. St. Joseph has been blessed with numerous gathering places where you can get to know others in the community. Each place can help you to build trust with your fellow community members and community leaders. Interaction is what makes a small town a community. Building trust between community members and with local leaders builds trust in community and makes it a more personable and more enjoyable place to live.

Author: Mike Knaak

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