Community engagement is the extent to which individuals take responsibility for addressing civic issues and improving the life of their community. Participating in electoral and political processes, such as voting, campaigning, attending rallies and protests, contacting officials or serving on local boards, is one aspect of community engagement. Broader community engagement includes affiliating with religious, educational, neighborhood and community organizations. Participation can take several forms, including volunteering time and making financial contributions.
Community engagement is a central value in our community's past and present. Two of our great historical leaders — Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony — worked tirelessly to extend the right to vote to all people. Clara Barton, a resident of Dansville in Livingston County, founded the American Red Cross in 1881. George Eastman is credited with helping to establish the Community Chest — the forerunner of today's United Way of Greater Rochester. And, in 1937, Al Sigl began to use his WHAM radio show to match blood donors with those in need. His "Legion of Blood Donors" was the predecessor of today's American Red Cross Blood services.
The Community Foundation works to improve the quality of life in the greater Rochester region by evaluating and addressing community issues, promoting responsible philanthropy, and connecting donors to the critical needs of the community. Created in 1972 as the Greater Rochester Community Foundation of the Genesee Valley, in these last 40 years the Foundation has granted over $293 million in our community.
Today, community engagement in our region has higher-than-average voting and volunteer participation. Area residents are generous in making financial contributions, although the average contribution level lags the state and nation.
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Photo provided by Zachary Cohn of Rochester Parkour. Banner photo provided by Annette Lein/Democrat and Chronicle Media Group.