The Sweet Spot For Problem Solving

By Amy Heydluff

Over the last year 5 Healthy Towns Foundation (5HF), or people associated with 5HF, have been nosing around our communities, asking a lot of questions. The things we learned are at once heartwarming and heartbreaking. 

On the plus side, we sure love the places we live. We feel a real attachment. And we care. 

But it’s not all rosy. It never is. People are talking about inadequate healthy food options in several of our communities. Frequently we’ve been told there is a need to address mental health, loneliness and stress for folks of all ages. Transportation remains an issue facing many in our rural and semirural settings. 

How, exactly, are these issues to be tackled? Many of them are decades old needs. We’ve tried a lot of things and even moved the needle on some of them. But not well enough to say we have good answers. 

In other U.S. communities, even small or poor communities, similar problems have been solved – well, mostly solved. Honestly, such successes are rare. But their example tells us it can be done. Our Board of Directors have been reading about three such communities. Noxubee County, Mississippi; Madison County, North Carolina; and my favorite, Algoma, Wisconsin. (

There seems to be a magic mix in these communities. The mix doesn’t necessarily require a great deal of money. People trust one another. And they leave their egos at the door. 

They use all the resources on hand, wisely. They don’t just ask young people what they think, they expect them to contribute. And the youth take action. I’m struck by the contributions of the youth in every aspect of what’s changing. 

These communities don’t wait for or ask someone else to solve their problems, although many step up to help. Everyone is contributing and every idea is on the table. Somehow, they find the place where organizations’ passions overlap – the sweet spot for problem solving.

I urge everyone to follow the embedded link to read about Algoma. Or check out this video: Their issues and solutions aren’t necessarily ours, but their commitment, hard work and comradery can be.

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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