CanDo! has existed in Charlotte for close to two decades, and still, community members are sometimes unsure of what Charlotte Area Networking for Development and Opportunity is all about. On Wednesday, Oct. 25, CanDo!’s newest event, Charlotte Soup, showed exactly what the organization has always been — an instigator of ideas.
Charlotte Soup’s premise was simple — bring community members together to generate ideas for new community projects; have the participants vote on their favorites; and provide funding for the top two ideas. The simple premise created several memorable moments, exactly what current CanDo! Chair Bill Barnes was hoping could be created.
“We hoped it would be an event that brought people together for a great meal and to generate ideas that would help improve the community, and really give them a sense of ownership and buy in,” Barnes said. “I think it turned out just like we wanted it to.”
Barnes said the CanDo! board of directors was looking to capture the same level of enthusiasm and engagement that was formed during the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce’s event a year ago that brought national speaker, Peter Kageyama to Charlotte and generated several low-cost community projects.
Eight different project ideas were shared, ranging from a harvest gathering at Courthouse Square to a community field day involving a friendly competition between Charlotte High School students and downtown business owners. In the end, the top two project ideas selected were: Christmas in the Park, which received a $400 grant, and Windwalker Blowout, which received a $300 grant.
The $400 grant was generated through ticket sales to the event, and the $300 grant came courtesy of CanDo!’s mini-grant program.
“I was very excited to see our community, from residents to businesses and city government, come together for one common goal — to make our city a destination for all near and wide,” said Richard Turbin, who will head up the Windwalker Blowout event. “To feel and see this happening is heart warming.”
Several Charlotte High School students attended the event as well, many of whom served as a project spokesperson, trying to sell each group’s idea to attendees.
“I was really proud of them,” Barnes said of the CHS students, many of whom represented the school’s Key Club, and Interact. “They were actively engaged in the conversation, and to get high school kids to engage at that level, sitting at the table with many of our community leaders, says a lot about the kids and the community.”
More details for the Christmas in the Park project will be available soon, as tentative plans call for the project to take place throughout December in Bennett Park. Initial plans for the Windwalker Blowout are for an early June event.