Community outreach: What does it look like?

December 27, 2012
Dr. Andrew Calhoun

Dr. Andrew Calhoun

Rebuilding Our Community

Dr. Andrew Calhoun, Ed.D.

Much of our American lifestyle centers about being involved in some form of community outreach. It is reflective of what it means to help others, caring, showing compassion, being good neighbors, stewardship, religious faith and following the golden rule. Today, every aspect of our modern society is being impacted by one or more forms of outreach and in many situations is playing a vital role in keeping individuals and families alive.

In this 21st Century many organizations, educational institutions, businesses, military, agencies, and faith based institutions are actively engaged in doing some kind of outreach. Regardless of the size of the city, township, village, community or neighborhood, community outreach is occurring. In addition, billions of dollars are spent annually, both from public and private sources to provide these kinds of programs, events and activities.

Making a difference

Outreach is interwoven into the social fabric of American life and is defined as “the act or process of reaching out.” In modern terms it has a much broader meaning and includes an activity to provide services to populations who might not otherwise have access to those services. In another sense, it means going beyond oneself to see how to help others, filling a need and increasing the awareness.

Today, numerous nonprofits, churches, businesses, and nongovernmental organizations are filling in the gaps of in government services. Outreach activities fall into one of four categories including those that are undertaken in homes (i.e., home health care), public and targeting of individuals (i.e., free medical clinics), public or private targeting of organizations (i.e., foundational giving) and mobile or satellite (i.e., meals on wheels). Additionally, numerous agencies and initiatives focus on youth, homelessness, health care, shelters, foster care, food banks, feeding kitchens, crime prevention, and job training centers, and reentry for those incarcerated.

But true outreach goes beyond addressing merely surface needs…but also looks at the root causes; it is built around collaboration with those on the grass root level to maximize impact. In addition, various methods are used to get the word out about these programs including advertising, leaflets, newsletters, churches, libraries, markets, and word of mouth.

A brave new world

The development and implementation of community outreach programs continues in the 21st Century to be reflective of what any good society does in taking care of its citizens. It’s a way to help those who are falling through the cracks to find a place to stay, a hot meal, employment opportunity, clothing and someone to share their stories. Outreach can provide a way for so many to find their way in a complex world and to figure it out. It’s a way for those who have made it to begin giving back and to help others less fortunate. It’s a way for a nation to demonstrate to the world that charity begins at home and then spreads aboard.

Truly noteworthy outreach programs are designed to last and to be a supplement to existing services. They are designed, staffed and funded to get into those areas and communities that are out of the main stream of society. The critical questions as we go forward include: Are we doing enough? Why is there so much need? What is the measurable impact? What are the real costs? Have we fallen in meeting our obligations or is this an indicator of a breakdown of a good society? Remember, “You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.”

For feedback you can contact Dr. Calhoun at email: andrewiiicalhoun@, Facebook, twitter: AC53, http://whatdoesitlooklike. or 414-571-5015.