Aligning the Stars at the 4th Building a Community of Belonging Forum

Everyone here is a star, today we stretched and reached for the stars to make Kalamazoo a place where everyone belongs.” A tapestry of people from throughout Kalamazoo gathered at the Kalamazoo Nature Center for the 4th Building a Community of Belonging: A Forum of The Arcadia Institute and It Partners. Beth Mount, our guest facilitator, created opportunities for people with disabilities we have worked with to share their stories in small groups – that became small communities for that day. In the afternoon, the groups made colorful collages that represent not only the hopes and dreams for the person focused on – but also for our community.

A theme throughout the day was stars. Stars are symbols of so many things: hopes, dreams, the future, light, - you continue the list. Beth also mentioned that stars are symbols throughout world religions. The Connect Kalamazoo Network introduced their new logo – in it there is a star.

Soon we will have a blog in which Beth will share her reflections of her time in Kalamazoo. In the meantime, here are some comments from the evaluations of the Forum:

• It is very important to make connections naturally in neighborhood, people around already

• Too many to list! But there are a few that stand out: 1. Listen with care 2. Find the key 3. Connect to a place and we are all pieces of a mosaic picture. Everyone has value.

• That each of us have to be an ambassador to build our “community of belonging”

• The core of community is relationships, not services.

A special thank you to our Partners, Supporters and Sponsors for not only supporting the Forum financially, but also being part of the day. All of our stars are aligning toward creating a community that is welcoming, supportive and respectful of everyone, especially those with disabilities.

Building a Community of Belonging Forum Partners The Arcadia Institute YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo Kalamazoo Nature Center Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo Southwest Michigan Council of Boy Scouts The Portage District Library The Media Arts Academy

Advocacy Groups ARC of Michigan ARC of Western Wayne County Disability Network of Southwest Michigan

Sponsors Center for Disability Services Residential Opportunities, Inc. Family & Children Services Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency

Supporters Kalamazoo Community Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services Julie Pell USA Tae Kwan Do YMCA Sherman Lake Kalamazoo Metro Transit People's Food Co-op of Kalamazoo

Additional Funding Kalamazoo RICC Support for this forum was provided by a grant from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.