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Ask not what your community can do for you

Purpose, passion and getting involved

Last week I helped plan a welcome event in my hometown of Watford city. On a Friday afternoon, before a home High School Football game, nearly 600 people came through the doors of our community center. And the purpose wasn’t to shop or be convinced of anything, but to show them what our community has to offer and ways to get involved.

Over 70 volunteer organizations, houses of worship, non-profits, clubs and businesses set up their tables to shake hands and visit. One business gave away hot dogs and brats, another coffee, there was candy and balloons and games for the kids. It was sort of like a Facebook group, but instead of emojies and LOLs, we got to show our actual, smiling faces and use our actual hands to high five.

And for that reason alone it was a successful event. Because if you haven’t noticed, this part of the state, it just keeps growing. Watford City welcomed close to 200 kindergartners this year and is experiencing the largest school growth in history. I’m sure our neighboring communities can say the same. And those kids are bringing their parents, of course, and with them comes background stories and a history of lives lived somewhere more familiar to them where mom coached soccer, dad was on a bowling league, the oldest took piano lessons and the youngest taekwondo. And at least once a week in the summer they spent suppertime with their favorite neighbors.

And that’s what makes a community. It’s not the buildings we exist in or the streets we walk down, it’s the bodies and minds in motion that create experiences and relationships with one another so that we feel connected.

“Ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community.” It’s a motto I learned to appreciate more when I moved back to a community that was changing quickly and bursting at the seams. Suddenly it became very apparent the type of man, woman and mind power it takes to accommodate needs, execute ideas and create experiences for our neighborhood. In a boomtown you learn quickly the difference between living and quality of life and what it takes to get there.

Looking back now, I remember ways my parents showed us the difference. As a kid, I followed along as my dad put up panels and coordinated volunteers for a local youth rodeo, helped roll up microphone cords after an event where he provided the sound system and heard his voice over the Main Street loud speaker as he announced a parade

I pressed the play button on the CD player while my mom taught dance classes, I hung out late after school while she wrapped up musical practice with the High School kids, I helped her pack up our outgrown clothing to donate to a local thrift store and witnessed both of my parents, countless times, give of their time, money and possessions to a cause or for the greater good.

I didn’t realize it then, but of course, my parents were giving me an example of how the world works. And through their eyes I saw it meant getting involved in it and taking responsibility. And so I have to smile a bit as I load up my own young children so they can be with me while I help plan an activity at the nursing home, set up a free art table at an event or, just like dad, pack up my sound system.

This month’s issue is on passion and purpose. Inside these pages you’ll find stories and tips on how to help your children make the discovery within them selves so that they can go confidently into the world and use that passion to help make their community a better place.

Which makes the world a better place.

And, as parents, isn’t that all we want for our children?

Written by Jessie Veeder


Jessie is a singer/songwriter/writer and statewide columnist living on her family’s ranch near Watford City with her husband and daughter. She blogs at . Reach her at (


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