Summit Seeks To Foster Building Of A Compassionate Community

Aug 21, 2017

Pensacola Habitat for Humanity wants to engage area residents in a discussion of issues that will lead to a more compassionate community at their Third Annual Community Summit. “Building Community: Enhancing Our Sense of “We” will be held this Wednesday at the Sanders Beach-Corrine Jones Resource Center.

The 2017 Community Summit is being presented in partnership with Race and Reconciliation, UWF Inclusion Spotlight and a Pensacola Interfaith Initiative; groups that already have started a series of conversations focusing on compassion and acceptance.

“People who are discussing how to reach across what might be seen as barriers or walls of division among our community, among our society; how to overcome those barriers,” said Tim Evans, executive director of Habitat for Humanity. He hopes the summit will be a catalyst for moving those smaller conversations into a broader community-wide dialogue.

“Developing within all of our neighbors, a sense of us working together, a sense of “we” and utilizing that as a position of strength to do what is sometimes the hard work of moving this community forward.”

Much of the discussion will center on what it takes to develop what’s referred to as a compassionate community.

“A compassionate community is one that recognizes that we are all people,” Evans said. “They’re some real common things that we share, a common concern for good things for our kids, a good future, a healthy lifestyle and a healthy environment to live. And those types of things that we all share allow us to have this sense that we can come together and help one another out of a compassionate background.”

Someone who knows a lot about the subject is the summit’s keynote speaker Caren Goldman. Goldman is executive director and co-founder of Compassionate St. Augustine, the first city in Florida to achieve the designation in 2013.

“The work that has to be done is that you have to be able to have a place, have a table, if you will, where all are welcome to be able to bring their thoughts, observations, ideas, and especially their passions to the table,” Goldman said.

The work of Compassionate St. Augustine has resulted in the formation of a number of initiatives that focus on community needs and strive to meet their mission to inspire. These initiatives include “Compassionate Women” and “Compassion in Action,” which is a group of citizens that seeks monthly speakers on issues related to criminal justice and prison reform.

Panelists and participants from Habitat's 2016 Community Summit.
Credit Pensacola Habitat for Humanity

“These are judges. These are lawyers. These are advocates from throughout the state who bring a  new understanding of what’s happening with mass incarceration in the state of Florida and the new Jim Crow, if you will, to an audience that would never necessarily have paid much attention to it in the past,” said Goldman.

As residents of Pensacola explore whether to begin the process of becoming a compassionate community, she says the greatest benefit will come from the journey and actually practicing compassion via the Golden Rule.

“Not just be a teaching, but how is it that you really put it into practice as we try to solve the problems in a community such as racism, and homelessness, and incarceration and food deserts, and all types of things that affect communities like St. Augustine and Pensacola."

Goldman will be joined at the summit by her husband, Rev. Ted Voorhees, who’s vicar of St. Cyprians Episcopal Church and the partnering founder of Compassionate St. Augustine.

The event will also feature a panel of local speakers. They include Rabbi Joel Fleekop of Temple Beth-El; Dr. Karen Barber, Director of Federal Programs for the Santa Rosa School District; and Dr. Keya Wiggins, Licensed Psychologist and Certified Group Psychotherapist, who also works as an Instructor and Psychologist at the University of West Florida.

Executive Director Tim Evans says Habitat for Humanity changed the format for this summit to make it a bit more participatory.

“We will be doing work by table,” said Evans. “Some table talk, table discussion as well as some reporting back to get the input from the community to begin, not just the discussion, but the thoughts and the response and to begin getting some traction behind this.”

The event will be held at the Sanders Beach-Corrine Jones Resource Center, 913 S "I" St., this Wednesday from 1:00-4:00 p.m., with registration beginning at noon. More details and online registration available at pensacolahabit.org.