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Vital Connections On Air Episode 4: ReGen

Vital Connections On Air Episode 4 features ReGen, a grassroots organization located on Minnesota’s Iron Range. This group of motivated millennials help young newcomers, and those who are “young at heart,” develop social roots on the range. Social roots are the connections that make a community feel like home to its residents.   More important, they inspire you to make the community stronger.

Char Conger, Jessalyn Sabin, and Desiree Yourczek arrived in the Iron Range for different reasons. Char was relocated for work but ended up staying. Jessalyn and Desiree grew up on the Range, left for school, and then returned. What ties their stories together is that each of them wanted to build relationships when they arrived on the Range—to  connect with other community members.

Scholars refer to the connections that we make as social capital. Social capital is gaining more attention, because  it is critical to the health and vitality of communities. Social capital is made up of bonding networks and bridging networks.

Bonding networks refer to strong connections built among people who have similar backgrounds and everyday experiences, such as family, friends, and neighbors.  Bridging networks refer to weaker connections among people with diverse backgrounds, such as members of organizations, or associations outside a person’s inner circle. Although both types of networks are necessary, bridging networks help people meet bigger challenges and take advantage of opportunities. Social roots grow from these networks.

ReGen, and other groups and organizations like them are addressing  a need that has always existed in communities—our emotional need to create a life beyond work.  Millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1995, place a higher value on work-life balance. Ben Winchester suggests it is necessary to show millennials the entire community— not just production or office areas—to get them to live and work in your community. Groups such as ReGen are an asset to businesses and communities because they build the necessary connections to recruit and retain the next generation of citizens and employees.   

Showing people what you love about your area, sharing its history and story, and connecting them with other newcomers is a powerful way to strengthen a community. Helping others to put down social roots impacts their personal narrative as well as the narrative shared about your community. It can also help you explore your own narrative. For Char Conger, becoming involved and learning about the region changed how she viewed her life on the Range. Char decided “to be the person that I’ve been in other communities.”  She became involved in organizations, she attended community gatherings.  She became an iron ranger.

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