The Polson Heart & Soul project asked residents what they loved about Polson and their hopes for Polson’s future. The Team listened and recorded every one of their answers. The data was compiled and about eight themes emerged. Following the confirmation and determination of a final set of values in early 2014, the final step was the recommendation and action-planning phase. Recommendations provided community volunteers, nonprofit organizations, civic groups, and local government with a clear idea of how to align their projects and collaborate on community priorities.
Economic concerns and a desire to work on solutions led to Polson’s interest in Community Heart & Soul. Polson retained the essential charm and benefits of a rural Western town, but it had not enjoyed the same growth or resort status of neighboring communities. Many believed Polson is a community rich in opportunity and in the strength of its people, but it has not thrived economically since the homestead and timber shipping days of the early to mid-1900’s. Residents of Polson were said to lead good lives, but not necessarily easy ones.
Volunteer and Community Response:
Polson Heart & Soul project gathered stories from hundreds of residents in 21 neighborhoods and gathering places. They held story gathering sessions with community leaders, teens and youth and listened to neighborhoods with different concerns and views of the future.
Heart & Soul Outcomes
An outcome of the Polson Heart & Soul project is that community members ultimately identified and agreed upon eight community values. Over the course of two years, the project solicited community input to the questions “What do you love about Polson?”, “Why did you come to/stay in Polson?”, “What would you miss about Polson if it were no longer here or changed?”, and “What are your hopes for Polson’s future?” The project hosted 21 meetings, conducted two community surveys, and reached out to residents through special events and organizations. The result was agreement on what matters most to Polson residents. They described things they like, things that the community is doing well, and the community assets. They also described issues, suggestions, concerns, or areas for improvement related to these comments. By summarizing the issues and concerns, Polson Heart & Soul provided a launching point for continued community discussion that will guide future action.