The People in Galesburg is a group working to mobilize city residents toward a brighter future and more supportive community network.
The organization was founded in May 2009 by a group of community members with the goal of improving Galesburg.
“When people who may not otherwise have a voice do have a voice, things get done,” said Knox senior Abby Pardick.
Pardick has been involved with The Center, a Galesburg community meeting place, since June 2008. Pardick and other community members involved with The Center believe that greater positive changes could be made in the community. Along with a small group of community members, including professor Peter Schwartzman, People in Galesburg set to work planning a town hall meeting.
The group began distributing home-made question mark flyers to which they would gradually add more information. Two weeks before the first town hall meeting, the organization revealed its intentions through press releases and a spot on WGIL Radio.
“We wanted to get people thinking ‘What are the possibilities,’” said Schwartzman in explanation of the question-marks.
The People in Galesburg held its first town hall meeting in July at the Galesburg Public Library.
“We wanted to hold it somewhere accessible and free,” said Schwartzman.
Approximately 100 people were present at the gathering including a number of Knox students, Mayor Sal Garza and members of the Galesburg City Council.
“We were floored. We figured we’d have 30 or 40,” said Schwartzman.
“I [was] speechless,” said Pardick of the turnout, “It was great.”
Attendees were each allowed one minute to speak at the meeting and the issues they raised were listed on a chalkboard. The gathering then voted and from that vote compiled a master list of concerns they wanted to see addressed.
Five action groups were also formed around issues. An action group, according to Schwartzman, is a group assigned to focus on a certain issue. Schwartzman currently heads the hunger action group and Pardick is in charge of the children’s issues action group.
“Anyone can step up and lead an action group,” said Schwartzman, encouraging Knox students and community members to get involved.
Community involvement has been an important aspect of Schwartzman’s life in Galesburg.“I felt I wasn’t connecting with lots of different groups of people. There was a lot of separation,” he said of his sense of the community before The Center, “I wanted to get folks together.”
Pardick also longed for a more prevalent collective feel. “I’m from a small town and always had a close community at home. The Knox community is great, but I came to the realization that I was in a city and I didn’t know anyone here,” said Pardick, “That was missing for me.”
Pardick first became interested in community organization after she attended the Powershift Conference in Washington DC and volunteered in New Orleans, Louisiana. “That gave me more insight on community organization,” she said.
Knox staff member and one of the founders of People in Galesburg, Diana Mackin, also hopes the organization will foster a strengthened community atmosphere in Galesburg. “I have an abiding faith in the common sense of real, average people,” she said.
Group ambassadors encourage Knox students to get involved in community events. “It makes me sad that people don’t get out of Knox,” said Pardick, “There are really great people and services. You really do live here, even if it’s only for nine months.”
The organization hopes to continue hosting town hall meetings and reaping the benefits of the progress of its action groups. “Those things wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for seemingly outlandish ideas,” said Pardick.
For further information on The People in Galesburg: