Cortez Heart and Soul grant planning underway

Cortez Heart and Soul community grant planning underway

Driven by a new project coordinator, the Cortez Heart and Soul Community Planning initiative is underway, and will be seeking feedback from locals about what they think about their community.

Former Montezuma Land Conservancy co-director Nina Williams has been hired to coordinate the project, events and communications, as well as acting as a liaison to the foundation.

“My job is to facilitate this process,” she said. “To facilitate the community advisory team to develop the vision and goals for this project.”

Cortez was one of five communities in the nation awarded a $100,000 Heart and Soul grant from the Orton Family Foundation. The funds and project are aimed at getting residents more involved in shaping the future of their community.

While a revised city land-use code has been suggested as a goal of the project, officials hope the project will be a catalyst for other initiatives and ongoing involvement from locals.

The Community Advisory Team will design the project and tailor it specifically for Cortez.

“I think the Community Advisory Team is ultimately interested in working towards a community where people feel their opinions and their beliefs matter,” Williams said.

Community members of all ages and backgrounds are still being sought to participate on the team, but those who just want to share their thoughts and stories are welcome too.

“We really want people from all walks of life in this community,” she said. “From all sorts of diverse backgrounds and circumstances and places, whoever they are, to come forward and talk to us.”

There are currently no limitations to who participates in the project, anyone who has a vested interest in the Cortez community is welcome.

Participants of the initiative will be out at public events asking locals what they like about their community, what they would change and what they would like to see it become.

The initiative will also be seeking out the stories of individual Cortezians.

“There’s a lot of ways that people can tell us that,” Williams said. “For some people it might be one or two words written down on a piece of paper. For others, it might be for some people to come and tell us about their life experiences here. Some folks might like to draw a picture.”

The Orton Family Foundation seeks to help members of small communities find out what matters to them most, and use that to create stronger communities and stronger local economies, said John Barstow, director of communications for the foundation.

He said the foundation is not attempting to bring outside influence to the community, but to empower locals, who know their community best.

“We are not an agenda-driven organization,” he said. “We want to make this project as open and inclusive as possible.”

Williams agrees, adding area youth are particularly sought for the process.

“My goal is to help coordinate a process that helps the people of Cortez and the surrounding communities really define their character that they want this community to embrace and become,” she said.