KState Southwind Extension: First Impressions

Submitted by Carla Nemecek, Southwind Extension District Director 

All communities have difficulties viewing their surrounding as others – customers, visitors, potential residents and potential businesses – see them. Our views are skewed by over-familiarization, a lack of differing perspectives, expectations and a reluctance to be completely honest with our neighbors when dealing with difficult issues, such as the appearance of buildings, customer service and the maintenance of public facilities.

Next month, a group of volunteers from Iola will be traveling to Baldwin City, Kan., to participate in a program offered by K-State Research and Extension called “First Impressions.” Likewise, a team from Baldwin City will travel to Iola to gather their First Impressions of our city.

With First Impressions, a team of volunteers from other towns makes an unannounced visit to a participating community to explore its residential, retail and industrial areas, plus schools, government locations and points of interest. The idea is to take a look at a community with a fresh pair of eyes.

Whether in one’s own home or community, it’s easy to pass by something without thinking about how it looks to others. For the first-time visitor, is the drive into town welcoming? Is there something unique that may help draw people to shop? Does it strike them as a community they would like to return to? Sometimes strengths are taken for granted, and weaknesses are accepted as part of the norm.

First Impressions is an effort to strengthen Kansas communities and is made possible by a partnership started in 2015 between K-State Research and Extension, the Kansas PRIDE Program and the Dane G. Hansen Foundation. Once completed, the assessment helps drive goal-setting and priorities for new development, plus identifies ways to strengthen community services.

What’s next? After the two visits, a K-State Research and Extension Specialist will compile the results from each team. Those findings will be shared locally in the form of a community meeting that will likely be conducted after the first of the year. Details will be shared through local media outlets to make the program available to anyone interested.

I look forward to facilitating and participating with the Iola Team and working with the City of Iola. However, readers should be know that this program is offered by K-State Research & Extension and open to any Kansas Community, regardless of size. If another town in Bourbon, Neosho or Allen County sees the benefit of First Impressions, please do not hesitate to contact me by calling Southwind Iola at 620-365-2242.


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