Local group forms to promote respect

Published 6:31 am Sunday, September 30, 2012

A group of Freeborn County organizations are coming together to encourage respect and kindness in the community.

Called Choose Civility: The Power of Words, the initiative encourages people to be courteous and polite to each other, both in the workplace and in their personal lives.

“Given a chance, simple courtesies and kindness can change a community,” said Peggy Havener, director of the Albert Lea Public Library. “If all you want to do is smile, that makes a difference.”

These window clings are starting to appear on vehicles in the area. They represent the Choose Civility initiative.

Email newsletter signup

Havener said Choose Civility began in Howard County, Md., after Johns Hopkins University professor P.M. Forni, author of “Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct,” came to speak at a staff development day at the library. Based on what the staff heard, they developed a community-wide initiative.

She said she heard a presentation about the initiative through a work session with the public library association and brought the idea to some other local community leaders four or five months ago.

So far, the United Way of Freeborn County, the Albert Lea Human Rights Commission and the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce have jumped on board and formed a steering committee with the library.

Ann Austin, executive director of the United Way, said the initiative ties in with the United Way’s message of living united as a community.

“By stepping up and being there for people — sometimes it’s just a small thing of saying hello to people — that is really what Live United is,” Austin said.

Havener said the committee is receiving support from Howard County through materials and other public relations tools. The committee is organizing events with speakers, a community book read and visits to the local schools. It has come up with a Choose Civility booklist for adults, teenagers and children and is also asking for partnerships with area businesses.

“We’re trying to help people see that incivility in the workplace has a cost, that incivility in the community has a cost,” Havener said.

She said with increasing technology, conversations with others are becoming more impersonal. Bullying has also become a concern.

“You can be very cruel and hateful if you don’t have to look them in the face,” Havener said. “That’s sad, and children need to know how hurtful it is.”

The committee has also created a YouTube site, where people are being invited to come into the library and tell about how an act of kindness has changed their lives. She said there have been five or six people so far who have shared their stories.

“It’s small things that you don’t think are a big deal that can make a huge deal in someone’s life,” she said.

So far, the initiative has been funded through private donations, but she said the steering committee hopes to seek out some grants and community sponsors in the future. The goal is to make it a sustainable project.

If people have questions they can contact Havener at 377-4355.

Choose Civility events

  • Oct. 6: Blessing of the animals, 10 a.m., Central Park
  • Oct. 11: Community candlelight vigil, 6:30 p.m., New Denmark Park
  • Oct. 15: Film “Daddy and Papa,” 7 p.m., Riverland Community College
  • Oct. 28: Walk for Campaign 4 Kindness, 1 p.m., Freeborn County Fairgrounds
  • Oct. 30: The Power of the Word: Deliberate Civility and Speak Out, 8:30 a.m. to noon, TBD