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Thumbs up: Chat ’n’ Chew forum lets people foster change in the region

Nov. 20, 2013 @ 07:50 AM

We all have a long list of problems we think “the government” should fix.

But there is a special power in finding the ideas and initiatives that will attract our own time and efforts, says nationally known community organizer Vaughn Grisham of the University of Mississippi.

Huntington’s weekly Chat ‘n’ Chew sessions have certainly shown that to be true. The informal Thursday night meetings were begun by the Create Huntington group in 2009, and for the last five years, ideas for positive change have been flowing freely. Even more importantly, many of those thoughts have turned into action and achievement.

Success stories that had their roots in Chat ‘n’ Chew conversations range from the revitalization of Heritage Station to the Huntington Dog Park, tree plantings, recycling efforts and many other community events and improvements.

But for organizers Thomas and Stacy McChesney, the greatest achievement may be changing the mind set of residents from “no we can’t” to “yes we can.” Years of decline and civic disappointment had led to plenty of negative thinking, and a common reaction to many new ideas was to list all the reasons it would never work.

“Our hopes for the first couple Chat ‘n’ Chews was that we wouldn’t have people protest,” Thomas McChesney said. “Now it’s so different. We go in and expect good things to happen and positive things will occur.”

Grisham, who has visited Huntington several times as part of local community development efforts, is not surprised.

“I never ask what do you want your public officials to do,” he told The Herald-Dispatch last week. “I ask what are you willing to invest your time and money into. That is exactly what Chat ‘n’ Chew does.”

The forum, held at 5:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Frederick Hotel on 4th Avenue, welcomes anyone who wants to share an idea or discuss efforts to make Huntington a better place to live, so join in.