Living Democracy

Elba's warmth makes Whitten's summer special

Randy working the swap meetLiving democracy in Elba, Alabama, has been an amazing experience for me. There are many things I'll miss such as hanging out at the Chapman household, helping at Just Folk coffeehouse, and eating at the Rabbit Hole restaurant. I will also miss the town’s pride and the sense of community people in Elba share with one another.

I admire Elba. Never have I seen a small town with such a sense of pride. Everyone here shares an emotional connection and solidarity. There is a sense of belonging here that gives the town an uncommon identity.

One example I have seen of this is when people gathered and chalk was provided. Many people use this as an opportunity to express their love for Elba through chalk art. This was amazing to me because I do not believe many cities share this phenomenon.

Another reason why I admire the people of Elba is because there is an abundance of altruistic neighbors here. It seems that everyone here wants to help you if they can. They always ask how you are doing. Even if they are only passing by, they will smile and wave. This is an awesome community practice also not typically found in many cities or towns.

In fact, the entire town has a homey feel. Anywhere you go here, you can find a friend.

Living here in Elba for 10 weeks this summer has been an amazing experience. I would like to thank everyone here for making me feel so welcome and for giving me a one of a kind experience where I was able to meet great people while gaining a greater understanding of community and civic life.

Randy hugging a kid from ElbaThe citizens of Elba are working together in productive and meaningful ways to help Elba thrive. Many people go above and beyond their call of civic duty for the benefit of the town. This is shown through hardworking organizations and groups such the Elba Parks and Recreation Department and Restoration 154.

What I found most fascinating about city leaders is how personable and involved they are.  After attending a city council meeting, I came to believe that the people of Elba trust their city leaders for good reason. The people at city hall truly care about Elba.

The Parks and Recreation Department works hard to benefit the youth in the community. While living here, I have learned about really cool programs for the youth they facilitate.

Restoration 154 is a fantastic nonprofit organization run by three everyday residents who altruistically work for the sole benefit of Elba. Restoration 154 projects include the Pea River Outdoors kayak shop and the Giving Garden, which provides food for those in need.  This summer, Restoration 154 hosted the Rockin the River Festival on the town square, which was a blast for all who attended.  Currently, they are working to restore a theater at the town square. The effectiveness of this group is admirable.

It was really cool to see a behind the scenes view of how community leaders work. I learned a lot from these organizations run by people who love and invest in their community.

Randy in front of Elba signAlong with learning about community and civic life, I also had many great experiences while living democracy in Elba. I was able to speak at a Rotary Club meeting. I met some of the most genuine people I've ever met at Rusty's Feed and Seed.  I made great friends at Just Folk coffeehouse.  I went kayaking and tubing on the Pea River. I was also able to write my name on the wall at the Rabbit Hole, which I plan to come back and see in the future.

The greatest value of my experience was meeting the amazing and inspiring people of Elba. This town is home to some of the friendliest people I have ever met, and I will truly miss them. Most importantly, I would like to thank the Chapman family who welcomed me to live in their home this summer and made this experience possible for me.

Thank you Elba!

Last Updated: July 21, 2016