I see chipped paint, disappearing resources and businesses closing their doors. I can remember a time when I would have to weave through foot traffic while walking along Queen Street. I could easily find a handful of friendly locals to chat with in the middle of our bustling downtown district. I still see much of Martinsburg’s potential and possibilities on its good days. The architecture, people, and atmosphere have drawn me to living here full time.
I grew up around Martinsburg and the Eastern Panhandle and have lived here all my life. Over the past two decades, I watched the changes in and around town; some good, some not so great. During my time here, I have experienced friends, family, and community members lament about the state of Martinsburg. Criticism ranges from a lack of services and resources to the overall look of the community. There are concerns about empty buildings and vacant properties. When I ask what can be done to help, the responses often are no more helpful than shoulder shrugs and finger pointing. As the population of a community changes, the sense and definition of place slowly changes. The importance of benches, trees, shops, and the associated memories disappear with the people who hold them in their hearts and minds. Communities ebb and flow with the connections people make within them. The ever growing feeling of need to give back to Martinsburg and become one who effects positive change gets stronger as I get older.
Towns and communities are made up of the people who live and work in them as well as those who visit, and Martinsburg is no different. We share the same locations, the same spaces, and we benefit from what those spaces have to offer. A network of people giving back, supporting, and helping out is at the core of a thriving community. Philanthropy is the lifeblood of all small communities. People come together when a problem or issue is brought to attention and new needs and challenges are constantly coming to the forefront: cleaning a park, fundraising for a non-profit, helping rebuild after a fire. Many programs, events, and activities suffer from a lack of resources and people-power. With so many different projects and needs in Martinsburg, how can one choose what to do? Can one person even make a difference? The good news about community involvement is how simple and easy it can actually be. With a small amount of effort, anyone can make a difference.
A saying that has popped up recently in service circles is “Time, Treasure and Talent.” Many non-profit organizations and faith based initiatives have adopted this mantra to assist members and peers to think outside the box of what it means to help. When we talk about the idea of “giving back,” we often think of monetary donations. This limited idea is often a deterrent for those who are looking to help. Time, Treasure, and Talent tries to turn this idea on its head, giving community members more options for helping out. The concept is simple enough. A person can do at least one or many of these to involve themselves in the community. They can donate their time, they can donate a treasure, and/or they can donate a talent.
Time is the first “T” in the “Time, Treasure and Talent” mantra. Time can be the most useful resource, but finding spare moments can also be the most difficult. I feel as if I barely have enough time for myself. Trying to balance work, family, and home is already a delicate balancing act. Giving time to an organization or community activity can be daunting with a full plate of other activities. One solution to this is to volunteer your time to an organization with which you already participate. Churches, sports organizations and schools are always looking for individuals to help with different fundraisers and events. These are also likely groups with whom you already have a shared vision and can coordinate with like-minded individuals. Committing to one event can make a big difference in the lives of other volunteers. It is also less daunting when we recognize that small amounts of time add up to big changes. Sharing one hour a week may not sound like a big commitment, but it is one hour that can immensely help a community. One hour a week translates to fifty two hours a year.
Treasure, the 2nd “T,” traditionally means money when talking about “Time, Treasure and Talent.” Donations can also include gently used items, or spare food from our pantries. Sharing these items with people in need is helpful to the community at large. Offering treasure does not always mean giving our goods and money to a cause; it can also consist of lending equipment or goods to organizations or others for temporary use.
Ideas, often overlooked, should also be considered a type of treasure. Diverse ideas are important for a variety of reasons. We can often get stuck in groupthink, keeping and agreeing to the same ideas without branching out. Different ideas allow us to come up with alternative solutions to the problems facing our community. The most important voice in any community is that of its citizens, who have different backgrounds, ideas and experiences.
The final “T” is Talent. Just like ideas, talent is often overlooked when we think of “Time, Treasure and Talent.” Technical, artistic and practical skills take years to master. These skills can be out of reach for community members who do not have such expertise. Construction, graphic design, tech support and automotive mechanic services are a few examples of different talents that are useful to non-profit and other organizations in the community.
MiBurg is a project created entirely on the volunteered time of passionate community members. I personally share my talent as a photographer and community social worker with Miburg, helping to cultivate community in Martinsburg and the Eastern Panhandle. I also participate in a mentoring program for a few hours each week, helping an at-risk child experience a healthy male relationship. The time, treasure and talent that I share make a difference. What can you share to help our community?