The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 2, 2013

Time to look for younger leadership


Daily Item

---- — Changes in law governing the distribution of revenue from charitable games of chance allowed the Sunbury Eagles 503 to become impressive community investors late in 2012.

Eagles 503 funds were behind equipping local police officers with Tasers, offering scholarships to young people, funds to expand diversity initiatives in the community and a direct charitable donation to a holiday fund for needy families.

The investments have been noticed, reported and appreciated. The money comes, however, with something less tangible that may prove to be more important over the long run.

It is an embryonic civic connection with an emerging generation of active, social and engaged citizens -- people in or approaching the family-building cycle of their lives, who want safe streets, good schools, opportunities for recreation and places to gather and build friendships and, eventually, prepare the way for those who will follow them.

As simple and natural as this seems, this cycle from one generation to the next is not happening easily throughout Pennsylvania. Our state is among a handful with the oldest populations in the country. In many of our communities, leadership, formal and informal, often falls to the remaining elders.

This can be wise, good and appropriate. It can also be familiar, comfortable and unchanging, not immediately connected to the current opportunities and challenges for all strata of the community.

When Sunbury held a series of re-imagining sessions a few years ago at the threshold of a new comprehensive plan for the city, engagement with younger citizens happened around the edges of the effort. The faces at many of the meetings and at the final unveiling of the plan were familiar and mature.

A brighter future for any place starts with inviting those who will live it to be in on the design and construction.

Perhaps Sunbury's governors and community leaders could expand this experience with the Eagles. Similar contact with other fraternal, social, civic and volunteer organizations in the city may uncover equally interested residents looking for ways to become involved on a broader scale.

As the Eagles demonstrated, generations can blend easily and well with the sponsorship of a softball team and the availability of a welcome mat.

Young folks may be a smaller percentage of Pennsylvania's population, but they are 100 percent of our future. Seeing ways to bend the curves in their direction is the best bet any community can make.