Some like to talk about “the good old days” when Freeport had lots of manufacturers and downtown shops and prosperity. And, those days were in fact good. But we are here in almost-2019 and need to look to the future. And that is about hope.
I’m new to town, but I’ve seen many, many instances of caring generosity in this community.
I watched as Dean Wright at FACC called out on social media for more food pantry supplies, and they just rolled in.
I watched as the Community Foundation gave away grants to many worthy programs in town.
I watched as this community raised $50,000 for FHN’s behavioral health system, which was increased by an additional $100,000 by another donor.
Honestly, my favorite one so far has been the 100 Women Who Care group. This group of women (it’s only women right now, but I invite the men to form a similar group) get together once per quarter, vote on a cause to donate to and each gives $100 toward that cause. They have raised nearly $200,000 in three years of meeting. Impressive.
I’ve also observed a very dedicated group of people who are working on change. Long before I got here, those activities were occurring. As I looked through the many group efforts — the binders on the shelves — over time, I am impressed at the dedication of Freeport’s citizens to improvement. And hope.
The Greater Freeport Partnership was formed out of the combination of the economic development organization, the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Freeport organization and the Convention & Visitors Bureau. This effort has been all about efficiency of vision and resources. All of those organizations really had the same purpose, which was to advance Freeport and Stephenson County. And, the Partnership intends to continue that work.
The Partnership going forward will be working in two very broad areas: promotion of Stephenson County and business support.
On promotion of Stephenson County, we will be telling the world how great it is to live, work and play here. And, it is. As a newcomer, I am thoroughly wow-ed by my new place.
The outdoor activities here are tremendous — have you seen our public parks?
The small towns have many gems, like Riddott’s Corner, Route 73 Brew & Chew and Rafters. Notice that I mentioned food places. I’m still getting around to the rest of the county treasures.
Another really interesting thing in Stephenson County is its history. Of course, you all know about the Lincoln-Douglas Debate that produced the Freeport Doctrine. I confess I had to Google that one, as my high school history is a little fuzzy. But I love that we have live re-enactments and events surrounding this.
Did you know that women have very much influenced our history as well? Rumor has it that Tutty Baker’s wife Elizabeth named the town of Freeport. And the Freeport Women’s Club raised money and placed the Lincoln-Douglas Square monument, dedicated by President Roosevelt. Don’t forget about Jane Addams, Stephenson County’s own Nobel Peace Prize Winner. And, now, of course, Mayor Miller—our first female mayor of Freeport.
And, I just finally made it to the Stephenson County Historical Society this past weekend. A really great collection of stories there. And, newly opened is the world’s largest collection of arcade toys — many of them manufactured right here. This is very cool!
It’s also a great place to live. Real estate prices are very reasonable, our schools are good and it is a safe place. I’m very impressed by the Freeport Police Department’s efforts to both improve safety and to communicate with the citizens. I attend some of the ward meetings and each meeting includes a “beat” police officer talking to the attendees about crime and safety issues.
Also, if you have a longing for a “big city,” we are within 1.5 hours of Madison, 2 hours from Chicago and only 90 minutes from the biggest international airport in the Midwest. How’s that for convenient?
Please remember that you are the best ambassadors. Being positive and happy about your town will attract others. If you need something to brag about, ask us — we have many examples.
In my next column, I’ll talk more about the business support function of the Partnership. Until then, have a lovely holiday season!
Originally published in the Journal Standard.