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News Release: Village Square’s “Faith, Food, Friday” launches fifth season of programming

NEWS RELEASE

‘FAITH, FOOD, FRIDAY’ LAUCHES NEW SEASON LINEUP WITH NEW VENUES
Local clergy join The Village Square in hosting lunch series on hot topics

(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – September 14, 2015 – This Friday, September 18, a diverse group of local clergy – affectionately known as “The God Squad” – will begin its fifth year of talking about the topics your mother warned you to never discuss in polite company: politics and religion. This season, “Faith, Food, Friday” programs will be crossing thresholds, sharing food with those outside of our usual circles, and welcoming the stranger – whether we don’t know him because of color, class or politics – as a new friend. The season will include several programs focused on racial and economic divides, and will move among new locations in order to broaden accessibility and participation.

The series began in 2011 with the hope that neighbors breaking bread together could begin to heal the civic division that has so paralyzed our nation, our states and our hometowns. Four years and many meals later, everyone is still speaking to each other. People from across the community, no matter what their background, are invited to participate in these improbable conversations “for people of faith and no faith at all.”

“The God Squad” includes Dr. Bill Shiell of First Baptist Church, Rabbi Jack Romberg of Temple Israel, Pastor Darrick McGhee of Bible Based Church, Rev. Betsy Ouellette-Zierden of Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, and Fr. Tim Holeda, Parochial Vicar at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. The series is hosted by local nonprofit The Village Square, dedicated to building community across the partisan divide in order to improve the quality of the civic conversation in America. Organized in Tallahassee in 2006, The Village Square is expanding nationwide with locations in Fort Lauderdale; Sacramento, CA; and Salt Lake City, UT.

The first program this season is titled “Food, Food, Food” and will be held on Friday, September 18 from noon to 1 pm at First Baptist Church (108 W. College Avenue) with lunch available beginning at 11:30. Rev. Betsy Ouellette-Zierden of Good Samaritan United Methodist Church will moderate. From the American South to the Middle East to the African plains, in all cultures, hospitality around food is a central principle of civil society. And at The Village Square, food is considered one of the most essential elements to the effort to seek reconciliation across the partisan divide.

Other topics this season include Religious Liberty; Income Disparity, Poverty, Race and Our Children; The Hidden Wound; Police and Community; Rights of Passage: Raising our Children; and An Inconvenient Truth: End of Life Issues. The April 2016 program is currently a Wild Card, with the public invited to submit topic ideas. The location and lunch menu vary for each program and are posted online.

All Faith, Food, Friday forums are free and open to the public. Lunch is available for $8 for those who RSVP by the Tuesday ahead of the program and $10 with a late reservation or at the door. All lunches are paid cash or check at the door. Guests may also bring their own lunch. For menus, more information or to reserve your seat, go online to wiki.tothevillagesquare.org/x/BwGvAQ, call 590-6646 or email fff@tothevillagesquare.org.

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Leon County wins Eleven National Awards (and we helped)

As we work toward launching our 9th season at the Village Square in Tallahassee, we’re recapping this summer’s cool news (that happened while we were – uh – fishing). Here’s some of it:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 16, 2015

CONTACT:
Jon D. Brown, Director
Community and Media Relations
(850) 606-5300

Leon County Recognized as Model Local Government with Eleven National Awards

Recently, Leon County Government received eleven national awards recognizing outstanding county programs and services. In addition, one of these awards was designated “Best in Category” as the most outstanding program nationwide in its award category. The National Association of Counties (NACo) presented Achievement Awards to Leon County in categories ranging from Civic Education to Information Technology. NACo’s awards recognize how Leon County provides the most cost-effective, high-quality service to citizens.
“We are so proud to see our Leon County local services and programs recognized as national benchmarks for effectiveness and innovation,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Mary Ann Lindley.

    This year, the following Leon County Government programs and services received awards:

    9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance, winning best of category in Volunteer,

    Club of Honest Citizens in the category of Civic Education and Public Information,

    Community Legislative Dialogue in the category of Civic Education and Public Information,

    Domi Station, Leon County’s Startup Business Incubator in the category of Community and Economic Development,

    Leon LEADS: ‘People Focused. Performance Driven.’ in the category of County Administration and Management,

    Penny Sales Tax Public Education Effort in the category of County Administration and Management,

    Leon County Sustainable Communities Summit in the category of County Resilience: Infrastructure, Energy & Sustainability,

    Leon County Veterans Resource Center in the category of Employment and Training for County Residents,

    Procurement Connect in the category of Financial Management,

    Trailahassee.com in the category of Information Technology, and

    Leon County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Policy in the category of Personnel Management, Employee Training and Employee Benefits.

“These national awards reflect the effort and commitment of talented and dedicated County employees who actively engage our citizens on the most important challenges and opportunities facing our community,” said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long.

One award that stood out recognized Leon County’s 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance, which received highest honors as Best in Category. Through this annual program, Leon County encourages citizens to remember and honor the sacrifices of 9/11 by volunteering locally and giving back to the community. Since the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the program has consisted of a remembrance ceremony and day of service. Over the past four years, 976 volunteers have contributed over 4,400 hours of volunteer service to veterans, low-income seniors, disabled individuals and families of active-duty military personnel in the Leon County community through service projects ranging from creating “garden buckets” for growing vegetables at home to housing rehabilitation for disabled veterans.

Many of the NACo awards highlight programs, services and initiatives that have been in place for years. Such awards recognize how Leon County Government listens to citizens’ needs, anticipates challenges and engages citizens to collaboratively shape the community for future generations. One such example was the multi-year penny sales tax education effort that involved hundreds of hours of citizen input to determine infrastructure projects that County residents not only need, but want. Moreover, Leon County was nationally recognized for programs such as the Sustainable Communities Summit, Community Legislative Dialogue and the Veterans Resource Center, all of which are programs or initiatives that engage many different County departments and divisions to succeed.

These national awards recognize not only effective services, but highlight the successes of Leon County Government during the slow economic recovery. Since the Great Recession, the County has managed to reduce its budget while at the same time exceeding expectations with key infrastructure projects and citizen engagement. Leon County remains committed to strengthening what works, abandoning what does not, receiving citizen feedback, leveraging partnerships and listening to changing needs.
Founded in 1970, the annual NACo Achievement Award Program is an award series that recognizes innovative county government programs that increase services to county residents. Leon County will be recognized at NACo’s 80th Annual Conference in July in Charlotte, North Carolina.

For more information, contact Shington Lamy, Assistant to the County Administrator, at (850) 606-5300 / LamyS@LeonCountyFL.gov or Jon D. Brown, Director of Leon County Community and Media Relations, at (850) 606-5300 / cmr@LeonCountyFL.gov .



Leadership Florida: Leadership Florida honors The Village Square with the Florida Impact Award

LF logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Wendy Walker
Leadership Florida
850-521-1220 ext 103
wwalker@leadershipflorida.org

Leadership Florida® honors The Village Square
with the Florida Impact Award

Tallahassee, Fla. — On June 14, at its annual meeting in St. Petersburg, Leadership Florida presented the The Village Square Tallahassee with its 2015 Florida Impact Award, recognizing the organization’s efforts to bring together those with opposing viewpoints by using civil, respectful, fact-based discourse.

Leadership Florida established the Florida Impact Award to recognize a business or non-profit organization that has created a body of work whose impact is currently transforming the future of its region and has the potential to impact Florida as a whole. It was created to promote a heightened sense of appreciation for the possibilities available when Floridians work together as a single statewide community.

The Village Square was founded by Tallahassee leaders with differing political affiliations, but united in the belief that education and civil discourse on topics of public policy among our diverse citizenry is vitally important, particularly in a society that has become increasingly polarized. In a non-partisan fashion, The Village Square convenes discussions on matters of local, state and national importance, which create a myriad of opportunities for constructive conversations that build understanding and trust among those with disparate views.

The Village Square idea of differing perspectives leading to united goals is growing throughout the state and beyond. Already, it has “franchised” its model by establishing a Village Square in the Florida cities of St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale, as well as the out of state cities of Sacramento, Kansas City and Salt Lake City.

Leadership Florida is proud to honor The Village Square as its 2015 Florida Impact Award winner.

_____________

About Leadership Florida
For thirty-four years, Leadership Florida has developed a reputation as a builder of a stronger, diverse statewide sense of community. A respected non-partisan convener of committed individuals, Leadership Florida enhances the knowledge and leadership abilities of Florida’s leaders through educational programs and by encouraging collaborative work for the betterment of our state. Leadership Florida provides Floridians essential information and a meaningful forum for their opinions, and creates opportunities for shared experiences that are inviting, inspiring and of lasting value. Leadership Florida is a federally registered trademark.

Find Leadership Florida online at leadershipflorida.org

Village Square receives Leadership Florida award



News Release: Village Square Salt Lake City Announces Its Formation

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
May 22, 2015

Media Contact: Jacob Hess
Director
Village Square, Salt Lake City
Phone: 801.712.1346

VILLAGE SQUARE, SALT LAKE CITY ANNOUNCES ITS FORMATION
Inaugural Dinner Event, June 18th – focused on LGBT/Religious Dialogue

(SALT LAKE CITY, UT) – May 22, 2015 – Utah has recently been recognized nationally for an historic deliberation between political leaders associated with the LGBT and religious communities. Since then, some have wondered: how can the larger spirit of that event be multiplied to involve more Utah citizens in the same kind of generous, open-hearted conversations?

We are excited to announce the creation of a Salt Lake City chapter of The Village Square – a nationally known nonpartisan 501(c) 3 public educational forum dedicated to raising the quality of civic discussion on issues of local, state and national importance.
Since 2006, the Village Square has been innovating unique methods to create a “Town Hall for the 21st Century” – helping communities move beyond the polarized bickering and diatribes that often characterize these events. Senator Olympia Snow called the Village Square one of 8 national organizations to support if you’re concerned about healing the partisan divide. Village Square advisor Jonathan Haidt, professor at New York University, says the Village Square “helps open hearts, then minds by fostering the mutual recognition of everyone’s decency and sincerity.”

On Thursday, June 18th, Village Square Salt Lake City will host our inaugural event, “Reaching Across America’s Deepest Divide: Former Adversaries Tell Their Story of Coming Together to Explore Sexual Orientation-Faith Conflicts.” This dinner event, open to the public, will be held at the Salt Lake Acting Company (168 W, 500 N) – with dinner starting at 6:30 and the program beginning at 7:15. The program will be co-moderated by Jacob Hess, Director of Village Square SLC, and Jay Jacobsen, Director of Circling the Wagons.

Co-sponsored by Living Room Conversations and the Salt Lake Civil Network, this event will offer a chance to participants to ‘listen in’ to the story of members of the Reconciliation and Growth Project – a collaborative effort to deepen understanding across the LGBT/religious divide, including: Jerry Buie (Pride Counseling), Lee Beckstead & Jim Struve (The LGBTQ-Affirmative Psychotherapist Guild of Utah), Shirley Cox (Brigham Young University instructor), David Matheson (Journey into Manhood), David Pruden (Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity) and Marybeth Raynes (Crossroads Psychotherapy).

Unlike an information-based “panel discussion,” this event will prioritize relationship building and FUN – with cabaret-style tables and dessert served to punctuate the conversation. Unique mobile-phone-based methods will be used to solicit questions and prompt interaction throughout, with two civility bells held by left and right-leaning audience members.

Future events being planned in Salt Lake City include “Speed Date Your Local Leaders” and similar dinner forums exploring potential common ground on policing, climate change & religious freedom. A “Sticky Issues in Civil Society” lunch series will also begin this summer, featuring topics such as “What to Do When We Disagree on the ‘Facts’?” and “Are there Some Issues it is NOT Okay to Disagree About?” In all Village Square events, the aim will be to focus on issues of importance to Utahans about which misunderstandings exist and questions that may perhaps uniquely benefit from a creative, trans-partisan exploration.

In a time when increasing political animosities continue to be documented nationally, it is time for communities to take more proactive measures to nurture and bolster our collective capacity for productive disagreement. Like the preservation of our precious natural and environmental resources in the state, we believe this civic space in our communities also deserves careful protection – indeed, as a national heritage dating back to the colonial “village square” where a diverse people came together to explore the future of this country.

For more information or to reserve your seat, go to www.villagesquareutah.org. With limited seating, some spots are being held for journalists. With questions, contact Jacob Hess or Liz Joyner at the numbers above (between May 27 and June 5, please contact Liz).



News Release: Village Square Launches New Season “The Asteroids Club”

VILLAGE SQUARE LAUNCHES NEW SEASON “THE ASTEROIDS CLUB”
Programs to examine six American “asteroids” that threaten our future

(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – October 8, 2013 – Imagine there is a giant asteroid heading to earth, expected to destroy life as we know it. We’d stop the incessant partisan bickering and do everything within our power to deflect the asteroid, right? Like in the movies?

During its 2013-14 Dinner at the Square season, The Village Square examines six American “asteroids” headed directly at us – each a problem that will only grow bigger and harder to “deflect” the longer we ignore it. Stuck inside our feuding partisan tribes, we’ve failed to find common cause against common threats – preferring instead to argue in the public debate about whose asteroid is real; all while the threats continue to build.

This year’s season of programming – which will also include a look at “asteroids” Florida must deal with – is a joint project of The Village Square and Dr. Jonathan Haidt of NYU’s Stern School of Business and author of “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.” The Village Square’s unique model of civic engagement continues to draw national attention, recently named by Senator Olympia Snowe as one of eight organizations in America seeking to grow political common ground (the only one hometown-based).

The first program of the season – “American Dream Lost?” – will be held on Tuesday, October 15, 5:30 to 7:30 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church downtown. This discussion will take on the liberal “asteroid” of rising economic inequality and the conservative “asteroid” of breakdown of the family – both data-supported problems that are threatening to damage the fabric of American society. In a time of unparalleled creation of wealth, the spoils of the American dream are increasingly going to the top 1%. At the same time, the family has taken a hit – with 40% of births now occurring outside of marriage. These two trends are highly correlated and worth joint effort.

Panelists include Kay Hymowitz of New York City’s Manhattan Institute and author of “Marriage and Caste in America,” and Dr. Kathryn Tillman of the FSU Center for Demography and Population Health. Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum and Richard Albertson of Live the Life, a faith-based organization devoted to strengthening marriages and families, will also join the conversation.

In association with this program, The Village Square and the United Way of the Big Bend are partnering to host “A Virtual Experience of Life on the Edge” on Tuesday, October 22, 5:30 to 7:30 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church. This event is a unique, interactive activity that allows people to experience the day-to-day realities of those living in poverty and provides an opportunity for us to discuss how our community can work together to address the problem. Pre-register for this free event online at www.uwbb.org.

“The Asteroids Club” season will continue through the school year with other asteroids, including entitlement spending, climate change, money in politics and moral behavior. Season tickets are available through October 15. For more information, visit www.tothevillagesquare.org, call 590-6646 or email info@tothevillagesquare.org. A limited number of scholarship tickets is available. To learn more about the Asteroids Club project go to www.asteroidsclub.org.

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Village Square Expands to St. Petersburg, Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 21, 2012

THE VILLAGE SQUARE EXPANDS TO SECOND FLORIDA CITY
St. Petersburg College launches bipartisan non-profit founded by Tallahassee leaders

(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – May 21, 2012 – Tomorrow night, The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College becomes the first spinoff of Tallahassee-based nonprofit The Village Square as it hosts former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor Bob Graham.

The Village Square, founded by a group of Tallahassee leaders who enjoyed friendships despite their divergent political views, is dedicated to growing constructive, civil dialogue on matters of local, state and national importance. In its 6 years, the organization has hosted thousands of residents at over 50 programs on topics that range from Florida constitutional amendments to energy to the challenging intersection of faith and politics. The Village Square was the recipient of the highly nationally competitive Knight Community Information Challenge grant in 2009 awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to grow informed and engaged communities.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with St. Petersburg College as we grow beyond Tallahassee,” said The Village Square Board Co-chair, County Commissioner Bryan Desloge. “The College’s unique reach into their community is a great match for the neighborly spirit that has contributed to our success in Tallahassee.”

David Klement is the Executive Director of the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. He reflects on the launch, in planning for over a year: “I am honored to have the Institute chosen to be the first ‘clone’ of The Village Square Tallahassee. It is a powerful concept for raising the level of public discourse, and we are excited at the prospect of sharing it with the Pinellas County community. The success of The Village Square Tallahassee is proof that people really do want to have meaningful conversations about the pressing issues of the day in a non-partisan, non-hostile atmosphere.”

Governor Graham was chosen to kick off The Village Square in St. Petersburg because he epitomizes its spirit. He is regarded as one of the nation’s senior statesmen, respected on both sides of the political aisle for his collaborative leadership style and for his 38-year career of public service. He will speak Tuesday night on the topic of “Restoring Civics Education and Renewing Our Democracy.”

For more information about the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, go online to www.spcollege.edu/solutions or call (727) 394-6933. For more information on The Village Square, go to www.tothevillagesquare.org, or call (850) 264-8785.

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Community Foundation and Village Square Benefit from a Knight Foundation Challenge Grant

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Joy Watkins, President
Community Foundation of North Florida
(850) 222-2899 ext. 104
jwatkins@cfnf.org
www.cfnf.org

COMMUNITY FOUNDATION AND VILLAGE SQUARE BENEFIT FROM A KNIGHT FOUNDATION CHALLENGE GRANT

Tallahassee, Fla., January 13, 2010 – In a highly competitive national grant contest, the Community Foundation of North Florida is one of 24 community and place-based foundations recently selected to receive a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The grant was awarded as a part of The Knight Community Information Challenge, a five-year, $24 million initiative to help community and place-based foundations find creative ways to use new media and technology to keep residents informed and engaged.

The Community Foundation, in partnership with The Village Square, received a $72,000 challenge grant to revitalize the dialogue among the city’s diverse residents around community issues. The project entitled “We the People” will create a 21st century virtual and face-to-face public square by offering unique town hall forums in addition to constructive online engagement through a community problem-solving Wiki. The project’s aim is to renew Tallahassee’s marketplace of ideas where good solutions rise from an informed citizenship, and where abundant information can be channeled into constructive results. The grant requires a $50,000 match from our community making the total project budget $122,000.

“We thank the Knight Foundation for recognizing that access to information is essential for the quality of life in our community and for providing resources to help increase access for all citizens. Through this challenge grant contest, Knight is challenging communities across the country to respond to the changing media landscape in our communities and ensure that residents have access to information. We are pleased to be able to support Knight’s work in our community, strengthen The Village Square’s work and increase access to information for citizens in our community.” – Joy Watkins, President of the Community Foundation of North Florida.

“The Village Square is thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with the Community Foundation and the Knight Foundation. The Village Square’s mission is to encourage civil dialogue about community issues and to ensure the people of our community receive factual information about those issues. Our work is right in line with what the Knight Foundation is trying to accomplish. This grant will enhance our work by allowing us to get more information to a broader audience.” Liz Joyner, Executive Director of The Village Square.

Allen Katz co-founded The Village Square in 2006, along with Tallahassee Community College President Dr. Bill Law. “Rapid changes in the way we communicate with each other and the hyper-partisan environment nationally have left communities less able to deal with local and state issues constructively,” says Katz, a former Tallahassee City Commissioner who has been nominated by President Obama to become U.S. Ambassador to Portugal. “The best ideas in a democracy come from engaged and informed citizenship,” says Law. “This project will bring more light and less heat to problems ahead of us.”

“The social glue of communities has changed substantially over the last 40 years,” according to Joyner. “Civic clubs and service organizations used to knit us together to form a geographical community whose bond was greater than political difference. But ideology-based groups are on the rise and as a result our unique made-in-America social fabric is fraying,” says Joyner.

“We the People” will expand The Village Square programming on local and state issues through varying formats like “Dinner at the Square,” “Take-out Tuesday,” “Politics, Partisans & A Pint” and “Sunday Night Supper Club,” intentionally reviving community between people with diverse perspectives.

To compliment these face-to-face forums, the project will have an online component: A Wiki-based online problem solving tool, where neighbors can collaborate to assemble relevant facts and resources for addressing local, state and national issues. “We hope to create an online community that defies the trend toward angry likeminded groups; where people will treat each other with the same respect as they do when they see neighbors at the grocery store or at their mailbox,” says Joyner.

“This grant presents a great opportunity for our organization and our community”, says Joyner. “We have a lot of work ahead of us to raise the $50,000 match and to implement the details of the project. Our hope is that the community will rally with us to raise the matching funds and help us improve the vitality of our community by increasing access to civil and factual information in our community.”

To learn more about the project or to get involved with The Village Square, please go to www.tothevillagesquare.org or contact Liz Joyner at liz@tothevillagesquare.org or (850) 264-8785.

About the Community Foundation of North Florida
The Community Foundation of North Florida is a nonprofit public charity serving the 10 county Big Bend area by facilitating and promoting charitable giving and strengthening nonprofit organizations. The Foundation helps people give in perpetuity to their favorite charities and helps nonprofit organizations with grants, education and endowment building expertise. For more information, contact Joy Watkins, President, at jwatkins@cfnf.org or 850-222-2899 ext. 104.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

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