Russell Stall is executive director of Greenville Forward. Greenville Forward’s mission is to enhance the quality of life for greater Greenville by engaging all citizens in continually updating, promoting and facilitating a community vision for 2025 and beyond.
Thanks to way too much time spent browsing Facebook, I know what people are grateful for during this holiday season. Actually, I probably know more than I would like.
Inspired by the gratitude posts that are filling up my newsfeed, I have put together my own list. My friends’ posts talk about their appreciation for family, their health and, of course, great food. People really love food. But while I’m grateful for what we eat, during this holiday season, I am most grateful for the special place where we live.
I am grateful for Greenville, a community with a rich history that is always looking for opportunities to write the next and better chapter. I am grateful for a community unafraid to take the lead in creating a better quality of life for its residents. Most of all I’m grateful for the people of Greenville. Greenvillians have made creating a list like this easy. Here are just a few things that make me thankful that I live in Greenville County.
The Gardening Movement
Community gardens are popping up everywhere – at Greenville churches, in neighborhoods, and at schools; quickly replacing the front porches of old and becoming gathering places for neighbors to reconnect. Greenville Forward’s Gardening for Good program has over 80 gardens in its network, creating access to healthy foods and building a new sense of community wherever they are located. We’re excited about the local gardening movement because we see firsthand how a garden can reinvigorate neighborhoods, improve the health of residents and neighborhoods, and transform Greenville through gardening.
I am constantly impressed with our young people who are writing the next chapter for Greenville. I am amazed with their energy and enthusiasm. Greenville Forward’s Headstrong program, a voice for young people, has joined efforts with Greenville County School District’s Inter-High Council – a group of student council representatives – to develop young leadership, and to build and inspire the leaders of our future. These students have a contagious energy that is great for Greenville.
Business along the Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail is exploding, Travelers Rest and the other cities are rocking, and it seems like there’s a new development going up daily in downtown Greenville. I’m thankful that not only does Greenville continue to grow as an international mecca for business, but also that we understand the impact economic growth has on our livability and quality of life. We welcome startups and new business models, such as NEXT and the Iron Yard, and I’m excited to see what the next year brings for them.
Spirit of Giving and Volunteerism
Greenville is one of the most giving communities in the country, and we give significantly more than the rest of the country. Giving is part of who we are, and we are grateful for the many Greenvillians who volunteer their time, talents and money to make this community a better place. Greenville Forward has the honor of spotlighting some of these volunteers once a year with the Heroes Next Door Awards, and every year it’s difficult to choose just three “Heroes” out of the pool of nominations.
Creativity and The Arts
The Greenville community continues to support the arts and because of their support, there’s always something to do and see in Greenville. Artisphere just received a record number of applicants for next year’s festival, and it’s hard to find a show at a Greenville theater that is not sold out. The Metropolitan Arts Council’s Open Studios breaks attendance records every year. The Pendleton Arts District is becoming the cool place to hang out. The arts continue to be the soul of the community, and more and more artists are being welcomed into the mix.
Food Trucks and the Foodie Movement
My stomach is grateful for food trucks. Greenville’s growing culinary scene means some great choices for dining out in this town, but the arrival of the food truck scene created a whole new and fun way to enjoy food, and demonstrates how the community can come together to change local policy.
A generation ago, Mayor Max Heller was known for his talent in creating community conversation. In that spirit, we continue to inspire dialogue to make Greenville better. This community is best when it brings together different perspectives and opinions to create change. I see it every month during our Momentum Dialogue Series where we invite the community to discuss topics such as bullying, climbing the income ladder, and inclusion in the classroom. The room is always full and people are willing to sit at the table to talk and listen. And for that I am grateful.
Thank you, Greenville, for giving me so many reasons to be grateful. Thank you for letting us be a small part of it.