By Sue Panek
When I began thinking about sharing my opinion about what Oshkosh needs, immediately my thoughts went to the various problems that NEED to be addressed in our community. In 2011 we conducted a local needs assessment, the LIFE Study, and we learned about a lot of needs. So, I could say, we NEED more volunteers, or we NEED more housing units, or we “NEED more services, or even that we NEED more money to fix our problems, but you already know all that.
Instead, I decided to share with you another NEED; the NEED for Oshkosh to display its PRIDE!
Maybe it’s because of our heritage or our strong work ethic but Oshkosh doesn’t “toot its own horn” nearly enough. We have a world-class education system with our university, technical college and K12 schools – we NEED to support them. We have some of the highest ranked health care systems – we NEED to be sure that everyone has access to them. We have excellent emergency and public safety services with our law enforcement and fire departments – we NEED to thank them.
We don’t always show it, but we have some really great things for which to be proud. We have a proud history of identifying problems and taking care of them. When refugees NEEDED a place to resettle (because they were forced from their countries of origin) many of the faith communities and organizations stepped up to welcome them, and we continue to do so. When a new playground was NEEDED, local service clubs joined together to coordinate the building of Little Oshkosh. And now there is work being done to develop an inclusive playground with the primary purpose of creating a safe and accessible outdoor recreation environment for individuals of all abilities and ages.
Oshkosh has a tradition of being responsive to community NEEDS. There was a time when the Grand Opera House was in NEED of some serious repairs and this community rallied together to make it the beautiful gem it is today. We also stepped up for the Paine, the Public Library and the Public Museum which continue to add to the cultural strength of this great city. When our community NEEDED an identity, the Chamber, Convention and Visitors’ Bureau and others engaged the community in establishing Oshkosh as Wisconsin’s Event City. Downtown redevelopment became a priority in Oshkosh.
So, when we determined that in order for downtown to flourish, we NEEDED a first class hotel and after years of neglect, we got it. We also have a great farmers’ market that continued to draw huge crowds Saturday after Saturday, and connects growers with those of us who NEED access to fresh fruits and veggies. And speaking of growing, Growing Oshkosh and the “hoop houses” have not only filled a NEED for fresh vegetables, sprouts and other great edibles, but provides people with opportunities for teaching gardening to children and volunteerism.
The Oshkosh Civility Project came about because of our NEED to live in a community where we treat each other with respect and dignity. Most recently, we have identified the NEED to address the increase in the use of heroin and we’re attacking it head-on by focusing on prevention, treatment, harm prevention, and law enforcement.
We have so many things for which to be grateful, but what we NEED are more of us who are willing to promote this great community. >>
So what do we NEED to do to show our pride?
Be a supporter not a detractor.
Be part of the solution not part of the problem.
Willingly get involved at the neighborhood or community level – whether it’s at school, your house of worship, with a non-profit, or by running for a government
Celebrate our success and share it with others…especially those who don’t live here.
Be an advocate for this great city and, find a way to make pride contagious.
Sue Panek is in her 20th year as Executive Director of the Oshkosh Area United Way. She actively volunteers in our community at the YMCA, St. Raphael’s Catholic Church, and Oshkosh Rotary Club. She also serves on the Advisory Boards for UW Oshkosh and Fox Valley Technical College, and the Winnebago County Board of Health.