Support for Vulnerable Residents, Teaching Street Safety, Proposal for Theater in the Park Topics at Stratford Community Conversations
By Greg Reilly
Providing a pet carrier to a homeless person, stocking the community food pantry to feed the hungry, and taking the time to talk with a lonely person were all positive actions that attendees at the July 19th Stratford Community Conversations found they can do themselves rather than simply rely on others to do to address the issues.
To improve safety on the streets while many youths are riding bicycles and scooters, attendees suggested special bicycle lanes and then learned that the Town is close to implementing a grant-supported Complete Streets project to increase safety for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists. Others suggested that the police do more to educate youths about being safe on the streets and then learned that Stratford Police conducts safety programs for youths regularly throughout the year. It was also mentioned that there may be opportunities to conduct more such sessions in the schools.
When a resident suggested that the riders wear bright-colored clothing, the group was reminded that parents are ultimately responsible for the youths.
When the topic turned to Mayor Hoydick’s proposed development of theater facilities where the old American Shakespeare Festival Theatre was located, and details of size and design were discussed, it was apparent that the primary issue of getting performing arts back on that property is being addressed. Attendees were happy to learn that the so-called “black box” portion of the proposal does not mean that a structure would be a black-colored square-shaped building. The term “black box” refers to flexible indoor performance space with relatively simple design.
Stratford Community Conversations is a program that began in April to bring community members together to discuss issues in a positive, non-critical way and gain a better understanding of others’ views about life in Stratford.
Topics are generated by attendees, and all Stratford residents, businesspeople, community leaders, government leaders and staff are invited. Attendees may simply listen or join the discussion. There is no charge to attend.
In the case of the July 19th Conversations, which was held at Sterling House Community Center, attendees brought to light not only issues that may be addressed by members of the public themselves, but also the fact that a number of actions are already being taken by the Town and others to address the issues.
Regarding homeless persons in Stratford, the Stratford Police captain and the member of the Sterling House staff who were in attendance pointed out that earlier that day there was a meeting of Stratford Strong, a committee of the Town government leaders and community resource providers formed years ago to work together and improve circumstances for vulnerable residents, including homelessness. The positive response of providing information and resources is well underway.
Another Conversations attendee mentioned that one of many reasons that homeless persons resist opportunities to go to shelters is because they have a pet, and pets are not always welcomed. One way the public can help a homeless person is to provide a pet carrier to confine and transport the pet when needed.
When the Sterling House staffer let the group know about another issue – many seniors in Stratford being lonely and yearning for someone to talk with – the group talked about who might take the time to reach out to the lonely. They named Baldwin Center volunteers, students, scouts, church members, and church youth group members. They realized that they, themselves, as well as almost anyone else, can take the time to talk with a lonely person. A reach-out program to visit or call a lonely member of the community could be an organized program or simply done by individuals acting on their own.
While discussing the various person-to-person services that are needed and conducted in Stratford, the group was told that the food pantry at Sterling House was low on food. Monetary donations are accepted, though food provisions themselves are primarily requested to stock the shelves.
The next Stratford Community Conversations will be Wednesday, September 13th at 6:30 p.m. and then run every-three-weeks October 4th, October 25th, November 15th, and December 6th. Venues will be announced.
For more information, contact organizer and moderator Greg Reilly at GPReilly@optonline.net.