As in a 1930s Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland movie, a small group of people can just “start-up” in a local barn or an abandoned office building, small manufacturing plant, or vacant Main Street store. This starter mentality and dynamics may have something to do with community size. During the final project seminar of our Emerging and Senior Sage leader interviewers, it was widely acknowledged that Nevada County is “not so large that you can’t get things done, and not so small that you can’t get things done.” “Small is big,” and even a slight bit of isolation seems to generate a significant level of arts activity. This is undoubtedly true of other areas of community life.
Many Senior Sage leaders are engaged in some form of governance, such as the chambers of commerce or nonprofit boards. In most instances, their involvements seem to be driven by a commitment to environmental, fiscal, or cultural sustainability. Senior Sage leaders are not so much interested in controlling their community as they are in expanding effective discourse; for example, how to get more disadvantaged people involved in community governance, how to nourish cultural life, how to create conditions for new businesses to flourish and strengthen the economy. While the term “island” doesn’t get used or discussed very often, the Senior Sage leaders of Grass Valley and Nevada City recognize that they live in “an island” community. And as with all such communities, the islanders have to do most everything themselves without much help coming from the outside.
Western Nevada County has a large number of nonprofit social welfare agencies—ranging from Habitat for Humanity to Women of Worth, from agencies that address the needs of babies to food co-ops, from service to people with drug habits to those who are homeless and those who have been abused. These agencies depend on the volunteer work done by Senior Sage leaders and others in the community who “give from their heart,” expecting and receiving no financial compensation.1K Club