The Adventures of Craig & Trudy, Chapter 3: Community Trusteeship and the Early History of the Chamber Foundation
By Trudy Fitzsimmons and Craig Rider
The Early History of the Huntington Township Chamber Foundation:
Leadership Huntington was founded by members of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce. Longtime Board Member. Ken Christensen attributes the very beginning of any mention of a leadership program to Dick Bornstein a fellow chamber board member. Dick traveled to a national chamber training program every year. He brought home news of a leadership program he thought they should consider. No one took up the idea until sometime later, although The Chamber did run a one-time program called “Practical Politics.”
At that time, The Chamber’s board included a number of members who were passionate about serving the community. One big idea they had was to start a childcare center. In order to do this and other things, they needed a mechanism by which they could accept donations, essentially a 501(c)3. So, the Chamber created “The Chamber Foundation.” It was chaired by Libby Hubbard, assisted by Ken Christensen, Jill Tane and others. While Libby was forming the foundation, Dick Bornstein suggested applying for a state grant to help get the childcare center started. The grant application needed a total list of everything a child care center would need to start operation and a budget.. Libby contacted Katie Roach, a local child care center owner, who was able to give them all the details for the grant in very short order. That contributed to the success of the grant.
With receipt of the grant the Foundation hired an Executive Director, Dianne Parker, to put together this child care center, as well as a health care facility for the community and other work. At that time Arthur Goldstein, a local attorney was the Chamber Board President. For the Health care facility Arthur and Dianne were looking at a warehouse on Pulaski Road used by Huntington Hospital for storage. Long story short, Arthur negotiated a variance for a bathroom which helped make the space suitable. He was so successful in selling the idea that, next thing you know, they were ordering an MRI machine. He also found a state grant and county money to move this along, and convinced two people from Huntington Hospital to be on the new health care facility’s Board of Directors. This is how what is now known as the “Northwell Health Dolan Family Health Center” came to be.
To say Arthur was a catalyst for good is an understatement. I wish I had more interaction with him. What a wonderful human.
The Power of Community Trustees
This group of people, some whose names I have mentioned, some I haven’t and never met, had a vision for their community. These people were and are Servant Leaders, or Community Trustees.
By that I mean they took seriously the notion that community leadership is:
This approach reflects a life-transforming attitude for both the individuals and communities that embrace it. With the advent of the over 1000 Community Leadership programs it has inspired, it has strengthened and transformed communities nationwide by encouraging lifelong learning across interests and perspectives, and by actively strengthening relationships throughout communities.
Community Trusteeship has changed attitudes and helped participants become more effective local leaders. By focusing on exploring the deepest values of participants, it improves both sense of self and empathy for others. It advances clarity of purpose, deepening and broadening awareness, respect for diversity on multiple levels, and both the desire and ability to serve the community for the common good.
The phrase “Community Trusteeship” identifies a key ingredient that is fundamental to a healthy community, and is too often lacking today: TRUST.
Greed, dishonesty, divisiveness, corruption, and acting exclusively in one’s own self-interest without regard to others destroys trust. Even without theses being actively perpetrated, lack of human connection fosters disbelief, skepticism, and suspicion. Lack of trust destroys relationships, undermines institutions and makes it difficult if not impossible to bring about effective solutions and public goods.
Trust requires honesty, mutual understanding, faith, predictability, and integrity. Earning trust is an act of the heart. Giving trust is an offering of vulnerability in good faith that it will be honored. When demonstrated by individuals who act in an unselfish manner to consider each other’s interests as fundamental to their own, it is a powerful benefit to society.
Community leaders who hold their communities in trust model commitment and caring competence. They recognize that each of our self interests is bound up in the health and well being of the whole. In this, Trustees provide deep service and leadership to individuals and organizations. At the same time, they empower the development of these people and organizations who comprise the communities they serve.
Community Trusteeship is an act of caring commitment that transcends narrow self interest to serve the whole community; taking responsibility for and acting on behalf of the common good, and endeavoring to help individual interests find a healthy place as part of the whole.
The concept reminds us that leadership is not about us; that our communities are complex organizations that existed before us and will continue long after we have moved on. It honors those who came before, endeavoring to understand their triumphs and tribulations, and the issues overcome and still before us. It recognizes the contributions that created and preserved the amenities we value today. It recognizes our duty to protect and enhance these resources effectively holding them in trust for those who will follow.
Community Trusteeship is more about personal commitment than specific skills, even as its execution is much about identifying strengths and then coordinating and putting them to good use. In this, it is at least as much about interaction as it is about individual action; a commitment to continued learning, relationship development, and endeavoring in service to the whole.
I am grateful that those who formed the Huntington Chamber Foundation and participated in all its good works took these concepts to heart. I hope that you will, too.