Twp. and village officials learn about ‘Heart & Soul’


ALMONT — Community leaders from Almont gathered on May 24 to learn about a program called “Community Heart & Soul.” Representatives from Almont’s Village Council, Township Board, Planning Commission, Downtown Development Authority, Zoning Board of Appeals, Park Board, Almont Community School Board of Education, Almont VFW, Lions Club, and more were in attendance.

Community Heart & Soul, a focus of the Orton Family Foundation, was developed in Vermont. According to their website, “Community Heart & Soul is a resident-driven process that engages the entire population of a town in identifying what they love most about their community, what future they want for it, and how to achieve it. Developed and field-tested over a decade in partnership with over 100 small cities and towns across America, Community Heart & Soul is a proven process for engaging a community in shaping its future.”

Many leaders from Almont discussed how the timing for a program like this coincides with the upcoming master plan update. The master plan outlines the goals for the community for the following five years.

The group of local leaders were introduced to the program and given an overview on how Community Heart & Soul would work in Almont if they choose to participate. If Almont were to participate, they would be following in the footsteps of other Michigan communities like Frankenmuth, and most recently, Armada.

In order to participate, the two Almont municipalities can apply for $20,000 from the organization’s seed grant program. The township and village would be required to provide an equal amount of matching funds. Attendees discussed seeking additional grant opportunities to cover the remainder.

If the municipalities approve the program, they will begin a four-phase process, the first of which is called ‘Imagine.’ In that first phase, teams will be developed, consisting of representatives from local community organizations and municipalities. These teams will be responsible for gathering information and stories from residents of the Almont community. Their goal will be to learn what residents want to see in the community as it continues to grow. One way in which the program encourages community involvement is hosting events for all residents. At these events, the teams would be able to engage with local community members. Their goal would be for residents to share their experiences and their individual visions for Almont’s future.

The decision to participate in Community Heart & Soul will be made by both the village council and the township board. Both plan to discuss the program at upcoming regular meetings.