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“I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: two roads diverge in a wood, and I, I took the one less travelled and that made all the difference.” - Robert Frost, American-poet
I still remember my first day on the job back in March of 2008; it started with a conversation between me and Governor Daniels. We both believe that good works were happening across the state Indiana, sometimes with a little bit of government’s help and oftentimes despite it. We also agreed that we can and should do more to facilitate the frequency and number of organizations doing good work. It could mean bringing people together who couldn’t come together on their own, leveraging government resources in order to bring more to the table or simply shining the spotlight on their good works.
The Governor ended our meeting with the words, “Do whatever it takes Ike.” With my marching orders in hand I went to work.
From that conversation, a mission was established that would encourage the full energy of the State of Indiana to enhance the community-building work of religious congregations, neighborhood associations, and other value shaping organizations – the grassroots institutions uniquely capable of strengthening families, providing positive activities and mentors for children and community renewal.
And, because I desired to witness these local transformations first-hand, I was compelled to visit and meet with grassroots experts from across the state of Indiana, seeing their challenges and triumphs and documenting their good works to share with others engaged in similar quests.
Without a doubt those words from noted poet Robert Frost, best describes my first year as Executive Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
Admittedly, there were times that the choice of roads I took during my statewide travels was less about seeking adventure as it was simply missing my exit. Yet, I’ve learned not to regret the numerous u-turns I made whether it was driving to a new community or developing policy for the OFBCI. I soon came to the understanding that every road leads somewhere.
During my year-long odyssey I observed four common tenets; 1) local pains are best healed with local hands, 2) every community has assets, 3) everyone in a community can be both an expert and inspiration, and 4) a disaster is the worse time to hand out a business card.
As Director I’ve also had the distinct honor to provide oversight to the AmeriCorps*State program for Indiana. From this vantage point I’ve watched and recorded the results of hundreds of young Hoosiers who use their passion for service to strengthen the social infrastructure of a community. It is nothing short of amazing to witness what young minds and bodies can do when given opportunities to make a difference.
I'll admit my tasks aren’t particularly complicated – the best solutions rarely are. All that is required is leadership that works daily to nurture and strengthen relationships so that good work continues regardless of who is in charge.
I will always maintain that government should not have a monopoly on good works. Truth is, in many cases the most appropriate thing government can do is build the capacity of grassroots organizations, and allow them and their communities to become more self-reliant and resilient for the next challenge, be it natural or economic.
As the Director of the Indiana Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives my responsibility and that of my staff is to assure that the road a neighborhood or community chooses to prosperity is as navigable and smooth as possible…even if that road just happens to be the one less travelled.