Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rural social club evolves into civic organization that helps the community address major issues

What began as a town social club in rural Tennessee is taking larger civic matters into its own hands: preservation, publicity and community outreach. Suzanne Normand Blackwood reports for The Tennessean that the Triune Community Club in Williamson County, just south of Nashville, has been busy organizing panel discussions, running a rural-themed book club and reinventing how a community can affect the life of a small town in a rapidly subrbanizing area.

As agriculture changes and declines, and land-use planning becomes a key topic, the community club is a vehicle for expression and debate about change. The club embraced such issues two years ago to "allow the citizens to have a voice so they can discuss issues that concern them with appropriate agencies and officials," Ginger Shirling, a lifetime member, told Blackwood.

Key to the club’s mission is activism in the face of change. Members of the local book club have been reading Rural by Design: Maintaining Small Town Character by Randall Arendt to gain a better understanding of land-use planning, and several people in the 60-member group are holding educational debates about the importance of historic preservation and decisions about commercialism in the area. History "gives me a foundation so that I can be better prepared to go forward," Karen Emerson-McPeak, a member of the club's historical preservation committee, told Blackwood. "I feel like we should embrace the past and combine with the future, creating a better Triune." (Read more)

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