Focus groups work towards bettering the K.I. Sawyer community

K.I. SAWYER, Mich. (WLUC) - Residents, business leaders and non-profit executives met on Thursday in an effort to better the K.I. Sawyer community.

"Community work happens in the community, from the community. Listening to the people that live and work in that community is vitality important," says Community Foundation of Marquette County CEO Gail Anthony. "So, finding out what their needs are, what their challenges are, what their hopes and dreams are."

The Community Foundation of Marquette County held the event in partnership with the Poverty Solutions group from the University of Michigan.

The first session was for businesses, non-profits and other organizations to voice their opinions on how to make the community better.

"That's really how you get things done in a community, is you talk to each other and you work together and you find out that common goal and you work together to achieve that," says Anthony.

Once their session was over, they were encouraged to choose an topic talked about to give time to help better.

Some of those topics included housing, food, transportation, and recreation.

The second session was for residents. They were asked five questions to provoke conversation on things that can be fixed, and how to go about doing it.

A discussion dinner was held later on to bridge the two groups, and encourage open conversation and networking.

The idea is collective action - people wanting to make changes to the community should do so through group effort.

"So the way we find out what's important to a community is to ask them. So that's what this is all about," says Anthony.

"This was absolutely a very productive forum, we need this sort of community involvement activities," says Jim Beran, owner and president of Joshua One Seven Enterprises.

Beran manages 150 rental properties in the area, and came to hear how others think housing can be more accommodating.

"In a many cases there's been efforts made by a lot of different people but they're somewhat disjointed, so bringing community leaders together like this for this organization and this community is fantastic," says Beran. "It gives us a plan and a focus."

A similar project was run in Ishpeming with positive results. Anthony plans to bring this project to eight more Marquette County communities in the future.