|Program:||Lee County Pulling Together, Fort Myers, FL|
|Contact(s):||Ann T. Estlund, Coordinator: (941) 335-2981|
|Purpose:|| To eliminate local segregation and racism and promote racial justice through community dialogue |
Lee County Pulling Together (LCPT) was created in response to a January 1997 article in Population Today magazine. The magazine, quoting a University of Michigan study of living patterns indicated by the 1990 U.S. Census Bureau, named the greater Fort Myers area the most segregated in the South. Within days concerned members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers established an ad hoc committee to explore what the community could do to reduce racial division. The committee chose its name to connote the gathering of diverse cultures and the meshing of established community programs to foster increased racial harmony.
LCPT held two coalition-building workshops among diverse community leaders, and selected eight highly regarded citizens from government, religion, education and private business as its steering committee. A racially mixed group of about 40 volunteers became the LCPT's Working Council. With this group's enthusiastic support and generous in-kind contributions, LCPT began preparing to involve citizens in small group dialogues on race relations. By September, the group had trained 60 facilitators and enrolled 340 people from racially mixed backgrounds in 29 public discussion groups.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
One year after LCPT had been established, more than 600 people had joined this process, each participating in five weekly two-hour discussions. LCPT groups also have spawned dozens of creative ideas for improving race relations, from organizing a mixed-race softball team and a community chorus to studying ways to facilitate better minority representation in county government. Eight action councils--government, media, education, economics, research, special events, community awareness and strengthening LCPT-- have been formed and are meeting to develop additional opportunities for creating productive interracial and inclusive efforts that will improve race relations in the greater Fort Myers area.
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