Community Building

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Community Development

By Nancy Wood, Bastrop Main Street Manager

With a snip of a red ribbon and more than 70 people in attendance, the historic Laake Farmhouse in downtown Bastrop and the Bastrop Main Street Program (BMSP) opened a new chapter in June, with the launch of the new Bastrop Community Volunteer Center.

The Laake Farmhouse dates from Bastrop’s earliest days and is prominently located a short distance from Main Street on Chestnut Street, one of the axes of the 62-block Main Street Program area. The 1,200-square-foot building was extensively renovated two years ago at the same time the Bastrop Convention and Exhibit Center was being built next door.  The circa 1885 home was tailor-made for the BMSP: office, meeting rooms, work spaces, and ample parking—all well suited to this active program. In short order, local nonprofit organizations discovered the facility, and the Main Street welcome mat was rolled out for them for small meetings and work sessions on a daytime, space-available basis.

The increased use of the building for these purposes has helped bring the BMSP into sharper focus for these groups and has brought new volunteers to the program. This dynamic prompted the 50-plus participants in last January’s annual BMSP planning retreat to go further with the recommendation that the BMSP:

  1. formalize the use and extend availability to include evening hours when many nonprofits hold their meetings.
  2. establish a clearinghouse for people interested in volunteer activities throughout the community.

The BMSP Organization Committee produced the ribbon-cutting event on June 20, and brought together leaders from more than 20 organizations for a short course on scheduling Bastrop Community Volunteer Center facilities and explaining how the center will match prospective volunteers with their organizational needs. From that introduction and a  positive response from participating organizations, the Organization Committee has focused on accumulating volunteer-opportunity materials from organizations and preparing for a community-wide information campaign to acquaint the public with volunteering resources. That effort will include mini-presentations at club gatherings throughout the community, brochures, a website, news releases, and social media.

Shawn Pletsch, chair of the BMSP Organization Committee says, “Volunteerism is one of Bastrop’s greatest assets and factors very heavily into the amazing success we’ve seen in our Main Street Program, as well as in our community’s quality of life.  Currently, members of the community find their way into volunteer work through incidental conversations with neighbors and friends. We think this BMSP effort creates an easy point of contact for newcomers and others who have an interest in serving the community.”

This post is a modified version of an article in Main Street Matters, a monthly newsletter published by our Texas Main Street Program.

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