"We're Better Together - Owatonna Community Engagement Series," is a series of meeting with our neighbors from all over Owatonna to have meaningful conversations to make our city welcoming, safe, and supportive for all. Last night was the second in the three-part series. The first one was "Who are we as a community?" held on June 12th. The second one was "Who do we want to be?", that was held just yesterday evening, September 10th. The third will be held on November 21st, as announced last night and the topic is, "Moving forward together."

These meetings are about "building bridges and fostering trust between community members" according to the media release we received here at KRFO. The facilitator was Bukata Hayes of the Greater Mankato Diversity Council, and these meetings are sponsored and supported by Owatonna Forward, United Way of Steele County, Owatonna Human Rights Commission, and Owatonna Public Schools. The meeting was held at the Owatonna Middle School.

Full disclosure, I went to the meeting last night to observe, see what it was all about, and someone mentioned free food. I took my daughter with me, telling her we can go and listen, and again, free food! Last night was about more than food, although that was a common theme, sharing a meal.

I saw several of our community leaders, the Mayor, business owners, the school district members, United Way of Steele County, and members of the Owatonna Police Department in attendance. From the Chief of Police on down, and they were not just observers, they were taking part in the conversations.

I quickly went from observer to participant in these conversations, some of which were hard to engage in, because we are being open and honest about our feelings, and how we can make Owatonna, and the surrounding area, more open and accepting to all. The topic last night, "Who do we want to be?" brought all sorts of ideas and opinions to the table. Most poignant were the youth who stood up and shared what was discussed at their tables. My daughter shared with me, after the meeting, that her tablemates were asking her questions as a youth in the community.

What started out as a way to satisfy my curiosity about what was going on, became a very enlightening evening out. I would highly recommend that any and all who can go, go to the last meeting in the series on November 21st. I believe we all want the same things in our community, safety, a welcoming vibe, and openness.


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